Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How Not to Write on Vacation

by Hilde Garcia

Easier said than done.  I had wanted to write about many things such as lofty ideas and writing styles, or how to speak to your agent while revising your novel.  On our family’s first road trip, I’m thrilled at the prospect of traveling the country via car and posting prophetic thoughts.  I also planned to finish the next draft of my manuscript to send to my agent.

Everything went wrong outside the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey.

First of all, beware of snacks your kids are fed by well meaning grandparents and friends of the family while on vacation.  Mixed with milk, it makes for a nasty combination.

“Hey kids, look there is the line that divides New York and New Jersey underwater.”

“Oooh,” kids chime.

“Mommy can I have some milk?”

“Sure,” I say.  It’s the first hour of our roadtrip and all is well.  We’ve had a great week with the grandparents who served as amazing tour guides.  New York City survived our motley crew.  I’ve opened up my laptop and I’m ready to write.

“Look, kids, we are in New Jersey,” says Daddy.  We take the sign that says 1-78.

“Mommy, I don’t feel good,” says my son.

Before I have a chance to turn around, I hear the oh so familiar sound of vomit being projected all over the back seat, his clothing and the new and nicely packed car activities.

“Crap!”  Yep, I said it in three languages.  I yelled at my son.  I swear to the moon.  I am pissed and thankful that my computer didn’t get slimed.  My husband is mad at my swearing and because I yelled at our kid.

Then I remember throwing up in the same place, at the same age, many years ago when I lived in New Jersey.  It must be genetic.

“Oh, sorry, dear and sorry sweetie,” I say, close to tears from the smell and from being such a bad mom.  But I was looking forward to finally sit down and write after a fun filled week of madness.  Instead, it’s clean up on aisle six.

I call my in laws who are following us for this first leg of our journey and signal them to pull over to the most run down gas station I have ever seen somewhere off of Exit 14 in Jersey City. 

“Ok, battle stations.  Mom, you get Sam and hose him down in the bathroom.  Here are new clothes for him.” 

I ask my daughter to sit and color and not move as I open her window.  My husband grabs a hose and starts on the toys, art supplies and bottle caps.  My son had collected quite a few of them, compliments of the drink fest from my husband, his brother and their friends.  I break out the wet ones and begin disinfecting the car, the floor, the seats.  My husband is attacking the car seat cover within an inch of its life. 

After about 30 minutes, we are de slimed and ready to hit the road.  When my son says, “Can I have more milk?”  There is a resounding NO from 2 adults and his sister.  Before we get on the road, I secure all slimed clothing in a zip lock bag.  Yes, I am prepared and tell my son that the paper bag in front of him is not for his car, but in case he needs to hurl again.

“Hurl?”  My sons says.

Both my husband and I laugh.  I’m in no mood to write.  I’m trying to get over the smell and the clean up and there is no alcohol to help.

We spent the next day in Virginia Beach.  I meant to write that night too, but my best friend’s husband showed me the most exquisite collection of coins dating back to Alexander the Great and muskets from Revolutionary days and well there was no writing.

“So honey, aren’t you going to write?”  I’m in the car, counting mile markers on the way to Charlotte.  I consult an old road map- on purpose- no GPS for us on this trip.  We went old school and decided to just find our way without electronics.

“Sure,” I take out my laptop and set myself up in the front seat while the kids watch a movie.  But I shut my eyes against a nasty sun glare and the hours of no sleep finally catch up to me.  And well, there was more snoring than writing.

My husband nudges me awake.  “What about your self imposed deadline with your agent, dear,” he grins.

“Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’ll do it when we get to Charlotte.”  Right.  I wipe some drool.

But there are other obstacles in Charlotte, North Carolina which make it impossible to stay on task.  There was sushi to eat.  Cake to savor.  Wii to play.  Wine to sip.  No writing, yet again. 

The post ideas got out of my head, the keyboard does not entice me, but an entire bag of starburst did as we traveled to Tampa.  I’m sneaking them while the kids watched their movie.  I mean, what kind of a role model would I be if my kids see me eat candy for breakfast?

I played baseball trivia, set up the kids with their activities and movies, feed everyone, monitor pee breaks and consult a map.  No time to write.  I will do it in Tampa.

In Tampa, drinking ensues, visit old friends, many hours in the pool and it isn’ t advisable to write with a laptop near the water.  I do start a letter to a friend that has been three years over due.  Seriously, they live in England and don’t have internet, so I’m determined to get them that letter.  I only have twins, they have triplets.  Certainly, I should be able to write a measly letter?

We arrive in Miami and drink margaritas on the beach for a week. 

I return to sunny CA and unpack us, get us settled, get kids in camp, catch up on paperwork, emails, calls and all that jazz and two months later, finally have time to write a post about writing while on vacation.

I highly advise against writing on vacation.  It can be hazardous to your vacationing.  But, then again, throw up outside the Holland Tunnel makes for good Middle grade fodder, doesn’t it?  And, no, I haven’t finished the letter to my English friends.

Happy trails.  May your iPad always be safe.

And may you always find time to write.


  1. I would be hurling in the car if I tried to read or write. I used to bring my computer on vacation but now I'm trying not to and just use my phone to check e-mail and a few blogs. It made it feel more like a vacation.

  2. My childhood summer vacations consisted of picking weeds in the backyard.
    Red Thumb

  3. I admire your fortitude in even TRYING to write one vacation.

  4. It would be very hard to turn down those angel faces having all that fun. Which means no more sleep for you Mommy!

    What a memorable post Hilde!

  5. I will tell you that I stole one whole day while in NYC and sent the kids packing with grandparents and hid in the basement and finished revising a whole chunk of my book. My goal had been to incorporate all the edits from my fellow Inkers, but that of course, did not happen, until I got home and recovered. And the research aspect (drinking with Cuban family members) enhanced the rewrite!

  6. How reminiscent is this of car trips with my kids! Great reading here.

    I do take the netbook on trips, hole up in the backseat and manage to get a reasonable amount done. Problem is that when I'm driving again, my mind seems to wander to that pesky manuscript waiting for me back there instead of concentrating on the road where it belongs!

  7. What adorable twins, regardless of the mishap in the backseat! I just came back from a week in New York City where I'd planned to do some writing too. I guess that was unrealistic. It was hopeless! Now I'm way behind.
    Maybe travel should really be all about gathering inspiration to save for when you get back home.


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