The first thing I saw after I cleared immigration in Houston the morning of April 24, 2011 was an advertisement for the now-defunct Continental Airlines. No one says 'I take too many vacations,' it read.
I laughed. Haggard, delirious and sunburned a bright, lobster red from the beaches of Rio, I certainly could have uttered those words after two months in South America, which closely followed five weeks in Southeast Asia, which had even more closely followed nearly a year traveling across three continents and almost 20 countries.
I was under the same sort of impression when I left Bangkok nearly four weeks ago. I've had enough, I thought. I'm crying 'uncle.' I couldn't imagine longing to travel again, although I knew I eventually would.
To be sure, the longing is already as firmly planted in me as the winter chill in the air and soil of central Texas.
The irony of my predicament -- and, I would imagine, the predicament many long-term travelers who pay their own way into the nomadic lifestyle -- is that I don't travel for months at a time because I have endless supplies of money and nothing better to do with it.
I travel for months at a time because, quite frankly, I can't financially reconcile dropping $1,000+ on a plane ticket for a trip that lasts only a week or two.
The good news is that my increasing prominence as a travel blogger has afforded me opportunities to "travel for free," in the form of what are colloquially known as "press trips." The bad news is the unwritten rule of press trips: That you must write positive reviews of the destinations you visit, even if they're terrible.
And they often are, which says nothing of the fact that your days are usually planned out from sunrise to sunset. Free travel, like most "free" things in life, is not actually free.
First world problem, right?
Speaking of which, I remember going to happy hour with my friend Andrew, after I returned from six weeks in Australia this past March. Andrew is a self-proclaimed trust fund kid.
"It isn't always as easy a life as you would think," he quipped, as he spooned foie gras onto a round of lightly-toasted baguette.
At the time I wanted to punch him, and not just because I watched every single one of the PETA videos about how the nasty goose liver purée is made back when I was vegan.
But today, as I bitch and moan about a "dilemma" for which both alternatives are equally desirable, I feel like a trust fund kid, even if I funded my own proverbial trust.
The question, it seems, is not whether one can take too many vacations, or even whether I, Robert Schrader, take too many vacations.
It's more fundamental: Am I really torn between having an awesome, ordinary life and a slightly more awesome, slightly more extraordinary one? And, more importantly, to what extent has the more awesome, extraordinary of these two lives perverted my perception of the less awesome, more ordinary one?
Please tell me I'm not alone in feeling like such a douchebag.