Ever take a vicarious vacation? Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley shares his in this week's column.
Do you enjoy experiencing something through someone else’s eyes?
It probably depends what the experience is. If it’s something like skydiving I’d probably be the first to say, “Tell me all about it after you land.” My response would no doubt be quite different if given the chance to see first-hand somewhere I’d always dreamed of visiting or do something I’d always thought might be exciting to try.
This past week I found myself experiencing a vacation vicariously through the eyes of my wife, Nancy.
For the past four years Nancy’s parents, Don and Glenda, have very generously rented a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that was large enough to accommodate their four children and their families. Twice Myrtle Beach, S.C., was the destination. Once we all traveled to Nags Head, N.C.
Thinking that everyone might be tired of cool ocean breezes and white sand, not to mention the two-day drive out and back, this year it was decided we would all congregate for a week in the Great Smoky Mountains, specifically, Gatlinburg, Tenn.
My passing up the vacation is not because I wasn’t invited. In fact, I think a factor in Nancy’s folks picking those picturesque mountains was because they had me in mind.
My full-time employer, the Hannibal Courier-Post, and part-time summer employer, the Hannibal Cavemen, both gave me a thumbs up to take the week off.
However, a few weeks before the departure date my level of responsibility with the Cavemen was suddenly elevated. I was given statistical duties that it was quickly apparent not just any orangutang could swing in off Warren Barrett Drive and perform with only a few days training. And with the Cavemen scheduled to play three home games last week, I knew my departure would leave the team in a serious pinch.
There was no arm twisting by the Cavemen to stay or undue tail tugging by my bride to go. After mulling the situation over I decided to stay.
It was not the first time I’d missed a family vacation because of work considerations. Three years ago, I passed on an early August trip to South Carolina in order to stay and umpire in the Monroe City softball tournament. And as fate would have it the tournament was rained out.
While disappointed I wouldn’t be accompanying her on the vacation, Nancy understood my reasons for staying behind. And since it wasn’t an, “If I don’t go, nobody goes,” situation, she continued making preparations for the trip that she, our daughter, Anna, and son, Caleb, would be taking together.
Virtually every day last week I received a call from Nancy, updating me on what she had seen and experienced that day. On days when I was told about Gatlinburg’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and the cost of parking, it made me feel I wasn’t missing out on too terribly much. It also made me feel better to learn the sunrises and sunsets weren’t particularly memorable because of the haze and/or fog that frequently hangs over the mountains.
But then there were days when I heard tales of exploring caves, looking out over scenic mountain vistas and walking behind a waterfall that left me wishing I wasn’t vacationing vicariously.
Because one of my goals had I gone was to photograph a bear in the wild, my most agonizing moment was when Nancy shared of seeing a momma bear and three cubs from fairly close range.
My big wildlife moment last week? It came Friday night as I walked from Clemens Field to the paper when what I thought was a huge rat bolted ahead of me. I chose not to tell Nancy about it, sensing my chance encounter with a medium-sized possum wouldn’t be something she’d want to experience vicariously.