When we're back home after a trip, Carol and I head off in different directions: she to the laundry room to wash even the clean clothes she's returned with ("bedbugs like to hitch a ride in suitcases.:"), and I to the couch to unpack from the trip a little differently.
I first try to get the measure of whether I behaved as a tourist or a traveler. Tourists rush about cramming as much activity as they can into their two-week vacation before rushing back home exhausted, complaining they need a vacation from their vacation. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was "off" about this last trip of ours, until I was able to reconstruct it in touristy terms. We went to Europe in the rush of its tourist season. Every place we went had some sort of a self-imposed deadline, as we were due in Heidelberg for a wedding in the middle of it. There was this drive to see as much as we could, yet not stray too far from a day's travel from Heidelberg. Time and place did open up after the wedding, but by then the rhythm and pace of the trip seemed to have been set. We rushed home even sooner than we had planned. Carol noted my blogs of the trip lacked the usual purposelessness, with none of the charmingly pointless observations of our two earlier trips together, as well as my previous solo journeys. Not to put too fine a point on it, the trip carried the same unease for me that perplexed Gregor Samsa when he awoke to find himself turned into an insect.
It's one thing to take a trip with no other objective in mind than to waste one's time. To me this is what sets the traveler apart from the tourist. Compared to the local population, busily engaged in the productive activities of daily life, the tourists gets annoyingly in their way with their own set of productive needs (especially those of the local population involved in tourism), but the traveler remains a bum, taking up unneeded space on a non-descript park bench, nothing more than a vagrant studying a tram or metro map.
Once home again this time, we rested up from our vacation and vowed not to go on one again. We've carved out three weeks for a Britrail tour of Great Britain in mid-October, with an option to pick up a rental car and visit the towns and villages the trains can't get to for an additional couple of weeks - if the mood (and weather and food) so strikes us. Otherwise we pack it in after three weeks, and come home and throw darts at a world map to see where to next.
We're already getting excited over the irresolution of it all, although were not so sure what six weeks of fish and chips is going to do to our digestive systems. (Though we are quite certain what kippers and haggis will do to them. Also, from what I can gather, Welsh rarebit doesn't have any meat in it.) It may be our first foray into what the British are perhaps capable of doing to pizza (pizza with fried egg, Scottish pizza with kipper and haggis) that will send us both packing early.