Vacation from unemployment, part 1

Why take a picture when a postcard looks so much better? (courtesy of

Why take a picture when a postcard looks so much better? (courtesy of

The internet must have felt a little emptier last week, like a good friend had gone missing. It’s okay to admit it; you’re not alone. Just ask my cats, they’ll tell you, over and over, in their annoying whiny cat language. Then one of them will barf a juicy hairball on your shoe. That missing someone… me. I took the week off from blogging, job searching and everything else (including unemployment check collecting, Governor Paterson, if you’re reading this).

Wifey and I went on vacation, because that’s what normal people do in August. When the temperature creeps past 90, the humidity thickens into a yucky mess and a thunderstorm punctuates every afternoon, the average Joes and Josephines get out of town. We didn’t jet off to the Greek Isles or the South of France. Unemployment makes for leaner times; wifey only gets two weeks of vacation besides. We did visit foreign lands, where they speak another language but still wear New York Yankees hats and want to be American. Canada is still considered another country, right?

Trip planning this year was a little lax and last minute. That’s what happens sometimes, when more of the vacation planning is left to me. I tend to figure things out along the way when traveling. I once booked a room in Iceland by showing up at a hostel dragging a suitcase. It worked, providing positive reinforcement. (So I blame Iceland for my travel habits.) Wifey prefers a more preplanned and organized approach, which has admittedly led to some outstanding vacations. But her last couple months have been extremely busy. She wasn’t able to research and plan as she would’ve liked. Most of her non-sleeping and eating hours were spent working, with an occasional break to watch “Lost.” In the end, we managed to pick some destinations, arrange lodging and even find a few great restaurants. It all came together into an enjoyable trip.

Paying for it thankfully wasn’t a problem. We’ve saved a little money every month for years, partly so we can travel. I used to put it in a Ziploc bag with a couple frozen pork chops and stuff it in the back of the freezer. People the world over looked at us funny when we handed over bills that smelled of meat. But money is money is money, anywhere you go. And we never cared, being on vacation and all. Saving was much easier when both of us worked, of course. There was more money for meat and therefore more reminders to put a few bills in the freezer.

Then I discovered someplace called a bank. Maybe you’ve seen them around. They’re everywhere. And they happily set aside some of my money for me automatically, regardless of what’s for dinner. Of course they then pissed it away on ill-advised mortgages and bundled securities. What do the banks care? The government (by which I mean the taxpayers, by which I mean wifey, me and you) had them covered. Digressions aside, we had some money saved up when it came time to plan our vacation.

Wifey and I like to travel, but we try to do it on a budget. We shop around for cheap airfare. We sleep on couches and avoid super fancy hotels. We limit expensive meals. That we prefer to explore rather than hole up in a resort helps. As does having only ten vacation days each year to play with. (Who knew there was an upside to the American system of time off?) We set our sites on Montreal and Quebec City, with a stopover at La Mauricie National Park in between.

Vacationing while unemployed may seem like a luxury. It sure felt that way to me in the planning stages. What was I taking a vacation from? I didn’t have a job, and hadn’t for nine months. But unemployment isn’t the same as sitting around. It’s hard work, and the stress builds as the days, weeks and months progress. I treat my time as though I have a full-time job. And that takes a toll. Not until we were on the highway well north of the city did I come to feel I deserved to even be on vacation.

Vacation from unemployment, part 2

Vacation from unemployment, part 3

Vacation from unemployment, part 4

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  1. Tina wrote:

    Very nice Norm. I bet the time away was great for you and the Mrs. Personally, because I need that weekly unemployment check (no other income earner here) I can’t take a week even though I have the time! Worked my tail off for 15 years at the same company, get laid off, and can’t use the time to go away. What a snafu! I did take the kids away for a nice long weekend, and that was our big summer deal. It was a nice 3-day trip and I spoiled them rotten.

    I expect the cats will be leaving you more hairballs this week in retaliation for your absence! Welcome home…

    Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink
  2. Miriam wrote:

    I just discovered your delightful blog courtesy of Google, who featured it prominently at the top of a blog search page. My husband has had about the same employment luck as you, so we know all about the “vacation from unemployment”. I’ll never let him forget about he decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary by having us eat at a Roy Rogers on a New Jersey turnpike.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Norm wrote:

    My wife likes to bring up the time we stayed in a really sketchy motel in Utah instead of a AAA-approved motel, just to save $5. It was my idea, of course.

    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  4. Jon wrote:

    I had guessed that you must have gone away since there was an absence of entries. Good that you got away. So many people don’t understand that being unemployed is not the same as being on vacation. It’s the same as thinking that people who are retired are always on vacation.

    I hope that you and your wife are recharged from the trip and that your cats aren’t leaving “packages” for you due to your absence.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  5. Lia wrote:

    Great to have you back! We missed you!

    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  6. Patte wrote:

    I WAS worried about you and I’m glad you’re back home safely from the sketchy northlands. I have the next week off from the part-time job I took to keep my healthcare coverage. And I don’t feel one bit guilty about it…

    Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  7. Michelle wrote:

    I just stumbled on your blog and I love it! I am newly unemployed (almost 2 months now) and I’ve just started blogging myself. The experiences we share in this elite club of unemployment are certainly not unique! It’s great to be able to hear about how other people are dealing..

    My hubby and I have been debating a vacation for September (we always go away for our anniversary) and I wish that we’d scheduled (and paid for) this trip prior to my lay-off. It would be much easier to rationalize going if it had already been planned!

    A “laycation” as I like to call it, is certainly not a “vacation”!

    I’m glad you & your wife were able to travel and enjoy some time away!

    Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

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