Breaking news: legendary travel writer decides to travel “just because”

As my ragtag little group of Twitter followers already know, I am leaving in less than a week for a five week trip through Thailand and Burma. I am not taking this trip for an assignment or for research. This trip is what I believe normal humans refer to as a ‘vacation’.

It has been over three years since I took a trip just because. At some indeterminate point in early 2005, I ceased being an aspiring travel writer and transformed into a genuine travel writer. Rather than my travels being ostensibly for me – though travelogued in nauseating detail, partly for the writing exercise and partly in the hopes that the notes would later come in handy for paying work – my travels started being all about a current or possible future paid writing gig. The added weight of responsibility irreversibly changed the way I travel and I’ve been a neurotic, productivity-obsessed, relaxation-deficient ball of travel partner annoyance ever since.

Then a strange thing happened recently. After over a year of praying to Buddha for a break from the ceaseless deluge of paying work that I had wished so hard upon myself, the break finally appeared in the form of the US economic meltdown. There was no project waiting for me when I turned in my latest LP manuscript. Three possible gigs fell through and I’ve been sitting here flogging an ill-timed book proposal intended for increasingly nervous and budget-conscious publishers ever since.

I eventually realized that I had two choices: I could stay here and continue to create non-paying work to fill my days, forlornly wondering when I might get paid again, or I could take an impulsive, extravagant trip – while forlornly wondering when I might get paid again. After much peer pressure, I chose the latter. At least in this case I’ll be warm and eating great food.

I freely admit that I’m very rusty at Traveling Just Because, not that I was ever very skilled at it in the first place. Even before I was travel writing for a living, my impulse to be more or less constantly on the go, maximizing every minute while traveling, earned me the moniker ‘Vacation Nazi’. Resisting the urge to spin my upcoming trip into paying work is giving me indigestion. Worse still, the effort that it’s going to take to not blog about and post photos of my every move may actually cause me to faint. I’m really not sure I’m up to that. How about a compromise? I’ll blog in vague detail? Post pictures, but not label them? Can I do that? Who am I talking to? Man, I need a vacation.

Anyhoo, apart from the stout support network that I’m going to need to relax a bit, I wanted to just call attention to the fact that I’ll be posting lazily, or not at all, starting next week and continuing through the holidays. Or I’ll break down and post constantly. It could go either way.

That said, if this trip through Burma ends up being even half a poignant as last time, you should expect all kinds of pictures and commentary upon my return, so there’s that to look forward to.

In the meantime, I’m going to direct you to my Bangkok travelogue of 2005. It is unabashedly long – no astoundingly long. It was largely written in a state of exhaustion and distraction, so there are typos galore. But, if I may say so, it’s an informational and entertaining read that will effectively fill two or three of your lunch breaks.

Now, I must start my ludicrously meticulous preparations for relaxation.