I love the sense of immediacy in the present-tense narration. Has the narrator had any time to reflect on the past, or are these moments more candid slices of vacation-related stress exactly as they’re happening?
Thanks. I’m kind of on a present tense kick at the moment, which feels like a very dweebish thing to admit. It can be tough to sit down and read sometimes, and that immediacy you’re referring to helps me with that. It just feels good. Also, it’s not actually clear to me I can actually write any other way. In terms of the other thing, I’d say what we’re dealing with here is more or less candid slices. To the extent that there’s any reflection, it would only be the kind of real-time contextualization that removing yourself from your day-to-day can offer to your life. Like a kind of geographical osmosis or something. I imagine that’s at least fairly universal—I start feeling that shit on the plane.
Would the narrator rather stay home entirely, or would you say these are just the wrong vacations for them? Where, or even when, do you think the narrator would rather be in these moments?
I don’t think they’d prefer not to go—or that they’re even having a terrible time. It’s just one of those life things where you’re like, “Well, elements of this appear to be going in a kind of direction I was not expecting.” I fucking love going to new places, but more often than not, that first day is just total dogshit and I don’t know why. There’s just like this adjustment period that starts once I arrive at a place, and I find I usually hit my stride somewhere around twenty-four to forty-eight hours before we’re leaving to go back home.
Can you share a little about a good, or bad, or neutral vacation of your own?
Yeah, I mean this piece is basically a lot of that. With its share of exaggerations and outright fibs. But that’s the thing, even with a “bad” vacation you at the very least end up with a pretty good story, outside of something fairly traumatic happening or whatever. My girlfriend and I went to New York this past year and spent most of our time fighting and sneezing on each other. We went to Norway the year before to visit her brother and his girlfriend, and I almost killed us in a small fishing boat. As it turns out, you can hit the gym as often as you like and still be quite easily outrowed by even a normal-sized Norwegian woman. Looking back, I cherish all these experiences but at the time it was definitely like, “This is a fucking disaster.”
There are a lot of moments of stress, anxiety, and illness in this piece. Do you identify at all with the narrator in dealing with these things in your own travels?
Absolutely. I’ve never had a vacation where I felt like I wasn’t doing it wrong, somehow. I’ve generally been a non-planner for most of my life and am only now reaching that point in adulthood where you realize you can’t just wing stuff all the time and have it work out. Plus, I’ve just had so many trips that ended with a million tiny regrets about things I did or didn’t do. So now I’ve just gone overboard in the other direction and recently started creating these obnoxious little vacation itineraries. They’ll have stuff like, “6-8pm: Dinner at that place” or “1-4pm: Relaxation/Movie.” Just real dumb shit. My sister loathes it. But to be honest, it does help, and for someone as inherently disorganized and truly lazy as myself, the effort at a kind of hyper-organized ideal ultimately just kind of averages everything out in the end.
After that final day at the airport, where do you think their relationship is headed? Does she cough into the narrator’s mouth and say “Yes?” Or, does she just cough into their mouth and make them sick?
I’d say they stay together. I like that moment because I feel like moments devoid of romance are themselves often uniquely romantic. Like, I grew up not too far from these places that people would say have no culture, but really, we all sort of understand that that is, in fact, a very real and clear and distinct culture. And in many ways, it can be just as charming and meaningful and significant, if not more so. In my own life, my favorite moments with my girlfriend, family, friends—nothing I’ve truly cared about has ever been without some sort of minor indentation. It’s proof of concept that we’re not all in some gormless tech bro’s optimized simulation or something. It’s what makes it fun.