1. n. an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.
2. n. the action of leaving something one previously occupied.
The second definition just means “leaving,” without specific reference to reason or purpose… As to the first, there are many different forms of recreation, which may or may not require extended travel.
Somehow, during the early 1990s, we talked ourselves into the time share mode of vacationing. The scheme works like this: you find a place you like to visit, with activities you like to do, and you buy a small share of a condominium at a resort near that location. The purchase qualifies as a second home for tax purposes, so the interest bite isn’t quite so bad, and you own a tiny portion of [supposedly] prime real estate. And, you get to use the property at designated times of the year, commensurate with the share you own. Disregarding the purchase price, which is promoted as an “investment,” the cost of the vacation in an apartment with full kitchen, laundry, etc. and access to beach, tennis, pool, and proximity to other amenities such as golf and skiing (in season) is little more than or even less than a stay in a cramped and dark motel room nearby — provided, of course, that you use all the time allotted to you and that the property retains resale value.
Other than the fact that the amenities desirable to us, namely nice scenery and good places to ride our bicycle and hike, interesting shops, etc., make the venue less exclusive than the golfing, boating, skiing, etc., that attract most other resort guests, our activities are exploratory, not conducive to repeat visits year after year, regardless of the season.
Not long after committing to this life-long enforced vacation plan, we found ourselves in jobs that
- didn’t have a lot of vacation time (as a troubleshooter and “cleaner” I tended, in the 1990s, to change jobs every year and a half, on average), and
- didn’t offer time off when we could schedule vacation, i.e., when not teaching night school, which was the other reason we became interested in the floating exchange system, besides the spirit of adventure: we could possibly coordinate our calendars, provided there was a vacancy in a place we wanted to visit at the time we desired.
The first reason made it difficult to use up the backlog of vacation credits, as we also needed time off to visit relatives, of which there were too many to have them visit us at the time share, and which option was impractical for a lot of reasons, such as wrong time of year for school vacations, travel cost, etc.
But, as often happened, I had jobs where I could telecommute from home, or, as it turned out, from anywhere with a phone connection (later, Internet connection). Judy, with a more stable job, usually, had more vacation time accrued, but, due to commuting time, had little time for hobbies. Later, she was also self-employed, and vacation was a time to do her own sewing, weaving, and hand work, or portable projects for customers (we once pieced a guild raffle quilt at a time share condo, and were asked by the management to limit use of the sewing machine, as it vibrated the building).
We did have an option to get around the fixed vacation times, too: for a few hundred dollars more a year, in membership fees and “exchange” fees, we could use our vacation credit to go to other comparable resorts instead of our own, if desired. Which we did, for a number of years, a scheme that also allowed us to gain more vacation days by traveling exclusively in the “off season,” i.e., between the skiing and golfing/boating seasons, which are the best times for cycling and hiking, anyway. The operative term being “comparable,” which means that all the other resorts have boating, skiing, and golfing as primary attractions, as well.
So, early on, we started using our resort time as a working vacation, hauling computers, sewing machines, looms, fax machines, and cell phones off to the resorts, spending part of the day working and the rest of the day exploring on foot or wheel. This, then, has been our recreational plan for over 20 years. And, the “24x7x365″ work mentality has carried through even on non-resort outings, carrying on remote Internet work while traveling, from coffee shops, motels, and campgrounds, and even sometimes phone consultations pulled over at a freeway exchange or shopping center parking lot, or, on the bike, standing in the middle of a country road in the rain.
Now, in semi-retirement, with only a few clients in maintenance mode and some volunteer work, one would expect we would be free at last to have a “normal” vacation. Well, old habits are hard to break. On our most recent trip, back to the original time share condo that we actually own a piece of, we loaded the car with our computers and looms, knitting needles, and balls of yarn. This time, though, the objective was, on the fiber side, perfecting new skills and making items for relatives, and the computer efforts aimed at also learning and perfecting new skills, and working on blog items.
This past week’s effort was aimed at setting up an experimental compute cluster, using the popular Raspberry Pi single-board tiny Linux computers. We have a collection of them at home, pressed into service as Internet gateway, network services, and print server, respectively, but had acquired a couple more to experiment with home automation controls and sensors. These, we wired up at the resort as a local area network, connected to the Internet via the resort WiFi, and using dnsmasq and IP forwarding to route our other computers to the Internet. Setting up a compute cluster also involves sharing storage resources, so we were busy installing packages for the services needed, such as NFS (Network File System) for disk sharing and PostgreSQL for a database server, with the intention of building a distributed software application server that is extensible by adding more low-cost nodes to the system. Fortunately, it was the slow season, with few other tenants in residence, so our bandwidth hogging went unnoticed, and the service was nearly as fast as at home.
This isn’t the first time we’ve wired up a router while on vacation — some resorts still charge for Internet, and only allow one or two devices on one account, so it is convenient to connect your own router and switch and run everyone’s personal devices off one login account. In Canada, some hotels and resorts have wired Internet rather than WiFi, so having a router is the only way to share the connection among devices. Almost all systems now have two network interfaces, ethernet and WiFi, so it is easy to make one device a router and connect the rest to it, either through the wired switch from one WiFi connection or reverse the flow (where there is a wired connection) to make the router a WiFi access point.
So it goes: you can take the system administrator out of the data center, but you can’t take the data center out of the sysadmin. Because a lot of hotel WiFi systems have little or no security, we also use a web proxy server located in our home office–also on a Raspberry Pi and accessed through an encrypted “tunnel”–to browse sites that are also not secure. This also hides our location from the Internet, so we don’t get a flood of local ads. The home network gateway also provides access to a webcam to keep track of the house while we are gone.
As much as we take home with us just to have a different view out the window, the other side of time share vacationing is that we need to take time to visit relatives and time to explore and travel on our own, bicycle touring while we still can. And, as retired folks, our income has declined (and, thanks to the 21st century economy and banking practices, so has our retirement nest egg: we started out with nothing, and have very little of it left), leaving little discretionary income for unnecessary travel. So, we’ve put the “fixed base” time share condo up for sale. Never mind that it wasn’t a good investment: the current selling prices for our units are somewhat less than the real estate fees, and sales are slow, so we won’t get anything out of it, and after 20 years of declining value, our effective nightly cost has been much higher than we should be willing to pay, but we will cut the monthly maintenance fee expense.
We have a membership/owner share in another time share club that doesn’t involve ownership in a specific unit of a specific resort, but provides access to use any of their facilities, so we will still be able to enjoy condo vacationing (actually, obligated to go periodically, as the annual allocations expire within two years if not used). The old type of time sharing a fixed location doesn’t quite work for us anymore, if it ever did, and it certainly doesn’t work for our children: none of them or even their extended families want to take on the responsibility, so we are letting it go–if it will sell. We had listed it once before, for two years, unsuccessfully, prior to converting it to the floating exchange program. If it doesn’t sell this year, well,we will be back, toting bicycle, computers,looms, yarn, and whatever else we need to enjoy living at home away from home.