Chapter 8 – Vacation Travel

Chapter 8 – Vacation Travel

February 27

The past couple of days have been almost a little mini-vacation from all of the distress of chemo. All my moving parts seem to be working well. The rash is gone, along with the tacky green dress. My arm has come to an agreement with the rest of my body to stay with me. And, in general things seem to be as normal as they will ever be until the last cycle of chemo is over.


Which got me thinking about vacations in general.

After my father retired, he and my mother bought an RV and took off to explore the world. They went to see the sights, follow the back roads and enjoy whatever experiences they came across. They would visit with old friends, and in general take it easy.

The reality is, my father would set a destination, go there, and stop. His idea was to relax, eat well, and sleep late. This proved extremely frustrating for my mother, who wanted to explore the unexpected and discover new places. She wanted to travel off the grid, find excitement in the previously unknown, and create something from nothing, as it were. But, if one did that, one ran the risk of missing my father’s preset destination. She was after the adventure, and he was after his relaxation bliss. They both called it vacation travel.

Go figure

In some ways, experiencing chemo reminds me of the two of them. Part of me just wants to have it all over and done with … just wake me up when it’s all over!  and who the hell cares what happens in between.

But my mother’s side says, “This is so interesting what is happening. The side roads are sort of scary, because there is no map, but on the journey, you will encounter some surprising and inspiring things about yourself and others. The view will be memorable, and should you make it back to the main road you will have a new appreciation for the paved surface.”

So yeah, she didn’t really say that, but her sense of adventure kicks in as I wake each day to a new form of me.

And, more and more, I feel that I am balanced against the remains of myself,

… my preconceived notions of who I am, and how I should act

… the good intentions that still surface and instill guilt when they are out of reach

… and the bright ideas that slip away as I try to nail them down.

Years ago, I read a piece about one’s memories of travel, and how the trips that involve some form of crisis are the trips one recalls most vividly. The funniest stories are those that contain an element of the absurd, and when travel is involved, the humor is pretty out there.

So, I think of this non-movable journey and all the postcards my friends send to help me and all the absurdity of being upright but not standing, and I think … Marco Polo had camels and outriders and chief cooks and bottle washers, and no maps and only a general idea of where he was going. There were no signs posted, and he didn’t speak whatever dialect he ran across, and he was in general lost at all times. But he made it in the end.

… Unless, of course he really was never really on his way to China, and only discovered it by accident. Could be … stranger things have happened.


As I was plowing my way forward on the bad trip that is chemo, I discovered that the side roads and rest stops, those unplanned and unanticipated occurrences that peppered my journey, yielded the most meaningful and memorable experiences.

… sitting and doing nothing

… creating only on a small scale

… giving up the quest for being all things to all people

… ceding control of the world around me

… blowing off my good intentions

All of these, and others, were the result of traveling off the grid. I was forced to live a different type of life entirely … to journey through my life via a different, unplanned route. It meant that

… I had to ask for help

… I needed to give up my old self image

… I no longer made a to-do list or tried to achieve any sort of goal.

… And I could no longer predict what I would be able to do from one day to the next.

Like my father before me, were I to have headed off in an oversized Motor Home on a road trip to Alaska via Illinois and Kansas City, with a return trip across Canada, I would have had it all planned, with the mileage calculated and the camp sites marked, and the estimated times all worked out in advance. I would have had maps marked to avoid heavy congestion and road construction, and routes chosen that were the most direct and efficient. AAA maps would have been my nightly reading and the 5-day weather forecast my preferred choice for listening.

No distractions, and no interruptions.

Point A to point B

No unnecessary detours and absolutely no frivolous sight-seeing.

We can do all that once we are there.

Those were his rules of the road.

However, this particular trip … my journey through Chemo-land and beyond … offered no preconceived destination. It was as if one were to set off, like Marco Polo, to discover the road to Cathay with no Google Maps, no Waze, no GPS, and no AAA road-side service.

Pretty scary for a purpose driven individual such as I. So, I felt grateful that my late Mother’s sense of adventure showed up to help with the trip.

Her Motor Home trip would have included picnics by little streams on back roads in rural Missouri on the way out of Kansas City enroute to Where-Ever-The-Hell-Looked-Interesting, USA. I felt more and more that she was urging me on and creating a new playing field for me to occupy. It was as if she were there giving me counsel about living without any focus.

I became more comfortable with the lack of planning. Having no predictable future became normal when having no future at all was a possibility. It really was as if the side roads lost the edge of danger that had made them so scary. I had learned to embrace the explorer’s life.

So, Mom, Marco Polo and I hit the road for the rest of the adventure.

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