My husband has always been happy to stay at a Motel 8. He wasn’t particular about which hotel I picked as long as it was affordable and didn’t have bed bugs. I, on the other hand, while not exactly a Prima Donna, confess to being a touch of the Princess and the Pea. (Or more like the Russian Girl and a Breadcrumb.)
I like to be comfortable, which sounds obvious but I’ve been told I have high standards in obtaining said comfort. I do extensive preliminary research to find a hotel. I want at minimum to rest my weary, over-researched head in a comfortable bed in a safe (preferably hip) neighborhood, ideally with a down pillow and black-out shades. Thin wool brown blankets from 1978, tucked tightly into bed corners are not acceptable. I don’t require L’Occitane bathroom products, but I like a shower without a rust ring around the drain. I don’t care about a hotel swimming pool, fitness center, meeting space, or which overpriced restaurant they feature in the lobby.
I have a love/hate relationship with Yelp and TripAdvisor; I am lured by the reviews and desperately want them to adequately guide me but I equally don’t believe them. I am convinced there is a conspiracy behind some of these reviews. Also the scouring through empty oysters to find pearls translates to a cliche metaphor and a BIG TIME SUCK.
But I do my diligent research and since many of our trips involve multiple cities, I go through this exhausting self-inflicted torture for every stop. (Sometimes ten.)
My husband is a “you-know-who-you-married!” artist and the world exists as a perpetual model for him to capture on film. He becomes an owl, spinning in every direction, the camera up to his face because every angle is another opportunity to immortalize a moment. I can’t accuse him of not being in the now; on the contrary, he lives his life 24/7 in the now. I inspire to be more like him in the being in the now – but I have more fun in the now when I know what the plan is for the later. I can enjoy spending two hours around one city square as long as I know the day will also entail seeing all the other city squares.
Also, I like to feel the pulse of a city and want to walk with the flow, feeling the energy and moving along with it. Often I want to GO and he wants to stop every second (or three) because the world is so fucking photogenic all around us – and I GET IT! I see it too – I want a picture of every flower on that goddammed bush too but sometimes it’s about not taking the photos for posterity, but just blowing with the wind, following the sunny side of the street (or the green lights) and being completely present with the person next to you.
My husband says the camera helps him remember it all rather than distract him from being in the now or from being with me. Sometimes I guiltily feel like I am competing with a camera and it’s a contest I’d never win.
Some history. When we first started vacationing together, I worked a corporate job and our holidays abroad were a much-awaited escape for me. I needed to squeeze every minute of relaxation out of the few days I had off. My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) used his vacation time to work because he was in the midst of a travel photography project. Anywhere we went would be an opportunity to capture another city.
“This is what I do,” he would remind me. “This is who I am.” I loved him and admired him and what else could I do? I did always get 100% of his time after the sun went down. Except for that one time with the light paintings in Maine…
We argued a lot during those early pre-children trips. I would get resentful that he had all the time in the world with his freelance schedule so he could relax and sleep when he got home but I had to go back to the grind. In hindsight and with maturity, I can see my frustration and resentment were equally inflamed by my own insecurities and dissatisfaction with my own career. Eventually, when I no longer reported to the corporate job, I didn’t value those traveling minutes as much. Also, he funded our trips which evolved to family photographic expeditions rather than vacations. Our trips became work-focused but I was getting the bonus of seeing more of the world so my perspective slightly shifted over time and my voice got quieter (not really).
I often wonder what exactly it is I want. Is it a vacation alone so I could dictate how every single minute is spent? Is it a vacation with my husband without the kids and no camera? How cruel of me; it is like bringing my daughter on a sleepover without her precious lifelong lovey. How would she sleep? How can you put a photographer in a beautiful place and not expect him to explode because he wants to take pictures?
I’ve suggested separate vacations as a solution since our trips with kids don’t give us much romantic bonding anyway. “But I want to go with you,” he’ll refute. “Besides, you would be so jealous the whole time if I went alone.”
I silently agree. Even after eleven years, my overactive imagination would force me to doubt his spotless monogamous record and create imaginary scenarios about a lonely evening in a country western bar with a Neil Diamond sound alike and an all-too-willing wannabe model…