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SLICES OF LIFE: Getting away from it all — in seven easy steps

It starts as a slight twinkle in the eye, nothing more than a spark of an idea, the beginning of grand plans. Vacation: It's more than a word. It's a destination.

It starts as a slight twinkle in the eye, nothing more than a spark of an idea, the beginning of grand plans. Vacation: It’s more than a word. It’s a destination.

The typical vacation lasts about a week, but the trip itself is frequently a multi-stage event. Stage one involves planning and can go on for months - years even. Where to go? By land or by sea? What to do? Which attractions are most attractive? How many frequent flyer miles? Who gets to ride shotgun? The options and ideas are just the beginning of the fun. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s anticipation.

The planning stage continues until roughly the day before the start of your seven days off the grid, when stage two - or imminent planning - begins. Imminent planning, sometimes called packing, is more complicated than throwing a few pairs of shorts and T-shirts into a suitcase, although the guys I live with don’t agree. Packing is a multi-faceted feat involving geometry, the art of clothing compression, knowledge of the color wheel and counting underwear. During the packing stage, one must predict mood, terrain and weather patterns for the entire week so that clothing choices not only fit into the suitcase (length times width times height), but also fit the vibe and mojo of any given vacation day. And we haven’t even touched on accessories. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s calculations.

The packing stage could go on and on (and on), were it not for stage three - leaving. Like packing, leaving can be an elaborate and arduous process involving turning off lights, unplugging the coffee maker, closing windows, flushing toilets and cramming five overstuffed suitcases into the trunk of a mid-sized car. Leaving is often a déjà vu-like experience as you remember something you forgot and need to turn around and return home to grab said item before leaving again. Sometimes the déjà repeats itself, much to the chagrin of my husband, who never forgets his purse or sunglasses and is always ready to leave when it is time to leave - and not a second later. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s embarkation.

Stage four - traveling - varies in length, but is always more harmonious if everyone has a window seat. Sitting in the middle - of a car, airplane, train or bus - is no one’s first (or second) choice, especially if you are the family dog. Traveling is typically accompanied by phrases such as, “Are we there yet?” and “I have to go… real bad.” Especially during a rush hour traffic jam just outside Atlanta. Time ticks slowly. You can’t wait to get there! But first, you must follow the map. Mile by mile by mile. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s navigation.

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Traveling is followed by stage five - arriving. Upon arrival, you possess a stockpile of seven languid and unhurried days of fun and frolic. This totals 168 hours and on day one that number feels vast. You have many plans for the many things you plan to do during this immense, long seven-day stretch. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s expectations.

And, without warning, you enter stage six as day one morphs into day four and you are wondering how the time sped by. Then you blink your eyes and it is the last day of your vacation. Where did the week go? You dot aloe lotion on your sunburnt shoulders and, with a long, heavy vacation sigh take out your suitcase and begin to fill it so you will be able to hit the road first thing in the morning. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s realization.

The final stage, number seven, involves the inevitable return trip home. While en route, your creative juices start flowing. It starts as a slight twinkle in the eye, nothing more than a spark of an idea for a new grand vacation destination - next time. And stage one, the planning process, begins anew. Vacation: it’s more than a word. It’s inspiration.

I, for one, can’t wait to be inspired again - the sooner the better.

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