Things I Thought Were Simple: Vacation

I learned a thing or two while on my 4-day weekend vacay last month. Things I tried to dedicate individual blog posts to, but in reality I’m still mulling them over myself, and don’t have developed thoughts on them yet.

  • It’s hard to say no.

Con culture is pure, unadulterated celebration of capitalism at its core. You pay to get into a space where almost everything costs money. People on the hall floor scramble for a piece of your weekend budget that hasn’t already been reserved for this collectible or that actor’s signed photo. A lot of these vendors are independent artists, running their business on the weekends or the wee hours of the morning out of a small corner of their bedroom or living room. Some of them are much more talented at being artists than businesspeople, and vice versa. Whichever one they are, though, they do want your patronage. And they’ll throw free stuff at you–business cards, bookmarks, fliers, stickers, buttons–to get it. The savvy businesspeople are easier to say no to, but the artists are much harder, especially since I know exactly how difficult it is to make a living doing art. Saying “no thanks” to a business card is often a hard blow, especially if its a slow day for them. The big shots are hard to deny for a different reason, though: they tend to be aggressive. My partner and I were cornered and heckled by a panelist as we were filing out of a conference room one day, who was trying to get us to take several copies of his oversized bookmark. We were unsuccessful at trying to get only one.

  • Fast food isn’t and never will be ZW. And you will be eating fast food at least once.

As much as I would have liked, we just didn’t have the time, energy, or money to eat at a sit-down restaurant with proper glasses and flatware for every meal. I had my spork, napkin, and stainless travel mug, but sandwiches were wrapped in paper, soup came in a waxed paper cup, and chips were bagged. It was unavoidable and a good lesson in not feeling guilty. I’ve got no time for garbage guilt, and in the end, the emotion doesn’t accomplish anything productive on its own.

  • Don’t expect your fellow vacationers to bend over backwards to your lifestyle, but don’t hesitate to engage them about it.

I was very surprised at how many conversations I wound up having about going ZW over the weekend, and how open to talking about the conundrum of waste and plastic and recycling and what there is to do about it. I was very easily able to frame my lifestyle switch as an experiment (a lifelong one, of course) during which I was learning a helluva lot, and people were more than interested. I discovered that more people than you’d think are also concerned about the same things that caused me to make the switch, but the normal person has no idea what to do about it because it feels like such an enormous problem; which, granted, it is, and if anyone tells you they’ve got the solution, exercise extreme skepticism. I likely didn’t plant any political seeds (and you cannot make your environmentalism apolitical– it just doesn’t work), but I hopefully planted a few that would leave the door open for further learning down the road. It was easy to talk about recycling and the resin code. It was easy to talk about how toxic materials are in almost everything we take for granted. Most other things that have an ideological bent rather than a purely scientific one could easily be framed in terms of unknowns. I personally know what I think should be done about overconsumption and the dilemma of peak natural resources, but engaging folks who view themselves as being apolitical works best when I say that I “don’t know” what the best approaches would be to take, and ask them what their ideas and knowledge on the subject are. It’s interesting to me to have found out that everyone I’ve talked to think that something needs to give, though. That’s a good sign.