When I take a trip I usually go for five days. I may stretch the trip to a week but I don't leave the house longer than that. A week long trip abroad reduces to five-and-a-half days net at the destination.
A few years ago, I went to Berlin. I went twice, once in January for a week and then in June again for a week. Last summer I went to Rome. I went for a week early in July and then for another week early in August. When I say this, my friends almost invariably ask me why I make two separate trips instead of one extended trip; they ask this question even before asking how Rome was or how Berlin was. To think of it, it is peculiar; I double the revenue for the airline to whom I owe no favor, and I double the time spent in flight. But the practice comes natural to me.
I have four good reasons for keeping my trips short.
First, I like traveling light. On a week-long trip, I can travel especially light with only one smallest carry-on luggage on wheels, like those that airline attendants tote along, an overnighter probably. I manage with it summer or winter, a little more tightly packed in winter (selecting silk rather than woolen garments for the wardrobe because they pack tighter). Without check-in luggage, I exit promptly on arriving at the airport without bothering to wait by the conveyor belt, and I also avoid the risk of loss or misplacement of the luggage, a cause for anxiety I can happily do without. Burdened with just one small and light luggage, it's so much easier schlepping it around, as I have to do travelling alone, to airline desks, shops, and restaurants. This is a special convenience when I have to go to the restroom, and the toilet stall which is not always designed large enough for more than one luggag besides the user of the facility. Carrying one light luggage is a boost, too, when I have to lift it up to the overhead compartment and down.
Secondly, whereas I pack light, I pack in a lot on any of my trips. On my first trip to Rome, for example, I managed to cover in 5-1/2 days 9 museums, 10 churches, and 4 evening performance events. So, after five days, I get saturated and require too much effort to keep up the pace. Some may think I am out of my mind. A trip is not for relaxation so far as I am concerned, however; it is more like an intensive workshop. If I want to sit and relax, I can do that at home, and I do. I pay good money to experience whatever the place has to offer that I can't at home. So, I pack in. Then, thirdly, after saturating myself on one trip, I come home and then give myself time to sort out what I saw and experienced and plan the details of the second trip much more rationally and efficiently. Then go on the second trip. On the second trip, I waste less time and pack in still more. A month between the trips works out just fine.
These three reasons are probably rationalizations. My real, true reason for limiting my trips to a week concerns my kitty Qif. I can leave her at home to care for herself up to five days without asking a neighbor or a friend to come and feed her. She normally gets a fifth of a tiny can of canned food -- Fancy Feast Savory Salmon Feast -- twice a day, supplemented ny Hill's Science Diet dried food. In my absence she gets only dried food but an ample supply of it; and she gets water in the self-feeding water dish. While I am away, she is of course free to watch television and fool around with my computer, although she would sleep 20 hours a day anyway. She can surely survive longer but for her psychological equilibrium I don't like to be away from home longer than a week. Her predecessor Mif, a honey-colored tabby, was neurotic and after three or four days she would start showing withdrawal symptoms. Qif, by contrast, is sanguine by nature and psychologically more resilient, as she amply proves to be. She is always as frisky as ever on my return home. She may do quite well possibly even longer than a week; but I wouldn't dare put her to the test. On a trip to closer places I manage to return after five days.
So, typically, I spend four days in my New York apartment and three in my house in Swarthmore, occasionally extending four days to five. Why don't I take her with me, some friends say. Well, every cat lover knows that cats don't like going on trips. Qif is totally homebound.
T. Kaori Kitao, 09.22.03