Summertime Escapes and Escapades

Getting Away from it All, including the Eco-Guilt

Image of pink plastic inner tube and plastic duck floating in swimming pool

Yawn. Don’t mind me. I’m just back from a lovely road trip, and I’m not really back yet. I’ve always struggled with returning to routine and ordinary after a lovely vacation. As an adult, anyway. When I was a kid, I counted the days, each grueling hour, till the end of every miserable road trip with my bickering parents. They seemed to save up every grudge until we four piled into the car, cramped between train cases and ice chests, to ensure ample fodder for their nonstop fighting. While they chain smoked. Please, oh please, get me back to my house where I can slam my bedroom door on it all.

Vacationing back then meant a loss of freedom, locked in a car or motel room with my parents 24/7, no sneaking out the window at night. Nowadays, I travel for all the opposite reasons: freedom from schedule, routine and, yes, dietary strictures. I give myself free reign to indulge when I’m away, as if carbs don’t count and to-do lists vaporize on holiday.

On family trips, I relish our shared experiences, discoveries, laughs—husband I do our best to leave the nits and nagging at home. I like to think we travel together well; our twenty-something kids still volunteer to get in the car with us.

But on re-entry at trip’s end? It’s back to Adulting, ugh. I shoe horn myself back into my made-up schedule and reattach the thumb screws to extort some productivity. It all cramps my naturally lazy lifestyle, much like the eff-me pumps I used to squeeze my feet into. My perennially sandal-clad feet of today shudder to recall.

🌎 🌎 🌎

It’s my first day back from a glorious water-filled week. From floating in a vast lake to plunging my feet in the river of snowmelt waters, I got drenched. I feel refreshed and plumped like a raisin returned to its former grapeness. Something about living in a semi-arid climate makes me appreciate water in a way that the land of my childhood— a place where rain poured on my every June birthday party— never could.

I’m more of a floater than a swimmer, though, despite all those classes my parents signed me up for. Sorry, Mom. Floating gives me such relief from the constant pull of gravity on my sagging skin and belly flab. If only I could always feel as light as I do when I’m floating on my tube! Put me on a floatie with a book and I’d be there for the week, if not for (TMI alert) my bladder, hyperactive as a toddler on Mountain Dew.

The only harsh to my floating mellow, however, is the PLASTIC required to suspend my weight in the water. Whether I’m draped over a noodle or resting on a raft, all that plastic mocks my Earth-loving intentions, putting a damper on my fat-relieving fun. No, it’s not the dreaded “single-use” variety—a straw used ten minutes then tossed—but the plastic apparatuses do eventually spring a leak or disintegrate. They are not recyclable, so off to the Black Bin of Despair they go.

I’ve searched for a guilt-relieving alternative, believe me I’ve tried. I did find a recyclable natural rubber inner tube option but the $185 price tag fell slightly (utterly) outside my budget for pool toys —which, after the excesses of aforesaid vacation, currently amounts to $0.

What other sustainable choices could there be? Paper straws may not endure like plastic, but they do last long enough to sip a beverage. A paper noodle, however, would support my girth as well as that time I tried to ride a mechanical bull. As in, not a chance.

What else floats? From my geology days, I know about pumice but I don’t think my foot scrubber is going to cut it. Balsa wood boogie board perhaps? So long as it’s well sanded; I don’t want any splinters in awkward places. Or how about cork? I probably have enough secreted away in the “cookie jar” in the kitchen, but then I must consider what water-insoluble but eco-friendly glue might hold a raft of them together.

All this ruminating is, well, deflating. Eco-guilting over the plastic toys in our backyard pool won’t save the sea turtles or keep microplastics out of my beer (ew). So I vow to do what I can: keep a patch kit handy in case of leaks. Invest in the longest-lasting plastic I can afford. Appreciate what I have even more.

Excuse me now while I float away my cares on my trusty tube. Adulting can wait another day.

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  © Cheryl Leutjen