Vacations need preparations inside and out

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

I took the photo four years ago, but it still inspires me.

Obvious to any casual observer, yet filled with mystery, the picture captures the essence of summer vacations.

I never met the photo’s subject, a refined but undoubtedly playful woman. When she wasn’t looking, I had snapped the picture. Her confidence and countenance intrigued me, almost as much as her one-of-a-kind outfit.

I discovered this mystery woman during the final leg of our seven-day Disney cruise, at our Caribbean cookout on Castaway Cay. I parked my wheelchair on the accessible trolley and enjoyed a short ride to the festivities.

Along the way, a bride and groom sped by on their private trolley still garbed in their formal attire. Families gathered around classic Disney statues for photo opportunities. And pirates of the Caribbean welcomed kids of all ages.

Life was easy, comfortable and quietly entertaining — the perfect vacation for me.

When we arrived at the cookout pavilion, folks bustled around the grounds, reserving picnic tables with their belongings or searching for the buffets.

Then I spied my mystery friend.

Perched on the outer edge of a vacant picnic table bench, the white-haired woman propped her back on the table while peering out onto the sandy beach. The hubbub of the pavilion behind her offered no distraction. This woman was oblivious, lost in the magic of the shoreline.

I wondered what she was thinking — but I was fascinated by what she was wearing.

A pleasingly plump grandmotherly type, she wore a bright aqua straw hat adorned with fuchsia and purple silk flowers artfully wrapped around the hatband. Her white, freshly permed hair puffed out like soft cotton balls under the brim, hinting of a disheveled but well-coiffed style.

Citrus greens and more purple joined the aqua theme on her loud Hawaiian-print blouse. Complementary capri pants finished the look, but not before her white sneakers revealed my favorite coordinate — perky aqua socks, the exact color of her flowered hat.

This woman came prepared to vacation. Both her outfit and her steadfast focus on the shoreline showed me a style and substance worthy of imitation.

I’m convinced successful vacations don’t just happen. We need to prepare, as my aqua-clad friend did, both inside and out.

On the outside, beyond the travel and accommodation logistics, the more time we spend planning our promising adventures, the more satisfied we may be that we have indeed vacationed.

My mystery friend dressed for her success. She prepared to vacation and had the coordinated outfit to prove it.

Yet, successful vacations go beyond our luggage contents. We need to prepare ourselves on the inside, too, to receive our vacation.

We need to relax.

More importantly, we need to know how we relax.

Whether it is high intensity workouts, spa treatments, shopping, sleeping in, sunning, unplugging to anything electronic or simply staring at a distant shoreline, everyone needs to discover how they relax and strive to include it in their vacation.

As a manicurist once told me, “You must be prepared to receive the hand massage.” Only when the hands are relaxed, I learned, can the massage be effective.

Perhaps Webster can help us refocus with his simple definition of vacation as “an extended period of rest from routine.”

We can achieve that without packing a thing.