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Getting Away From All

By Sarah A. Rodriguez

So I'm at the American Airlines counter at Logan, glaring at the man behind the computer, who glares back at me. It's 6 a.m. and I have slept for approximately one and a half hours. Behind me are three screaming babies, two barking German shepherds and a Spanish-speaking group of people with twenty gigantic cardboard boxes, to name the loudest occupants of the line.

Finally, Mr. Congeniality behind the computer snaps at me, "Ma'am, I don't see a reservation for you going to McAllen, Texas this morning. I do, however, seem to have two reservations for you going to San Francisco this afternoon." He looks at the screen again and smiles. "We've also just sent your bags to Midland, Texas."

Traveling is not exactly my forte.

But as spring break approaches and the desire to get as far away from Cambridge as possible begins pulsing through my blood with more intensity than usual, I'm prepared to face the trauma of traveling once again. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

In less than a week, most of the student body will be let loose on the world in a desperate nine day attempt to flee Harvard. Some people will be drunk beyond belief in some tropical paradise. Some will be jetting through Europe on a whirlwind trip. Some will be fighting for the remote at home. Some will be puttering around the dorms, finishing up thesis work of enjoying having the common room all to themselves. But regardless of where we go or what we do, we all share one intention: to seek some solace from the stress that invades our daily lives.

Unfortunately, most of us will apply our less than charming Harvardian habits to our vacations. Try as we might to do everything we want to during the break, everything will not always go as planned. Most of us will return happy but exhausted (and possibly hung over), jealous that everyone else's trip was more fun and exotic than ours. A good number of us will also head into vacation with that usual chip on our shoulders, feeling that we deserve the best time possible and that we will strive to any extent to get it.

But now that we've identified the problems with spring break, is there any way to prevent them from happening?

Of course there is. The most important thing to do from March 26 through April 4 is to be realistic. Don't expect to do all the sightseeing or shopping (or, yes, sourcebook reading) you want to do. Try anyway and enjoy what you accomplish, but resist abusing yourself for not doing it all. You’ll have more than enough time to do that during the rest of the year.

Secondly but equally important, be polite. Contrary to popular belief, the world does not revolve around Harvard students. Some people at this school chat all through lectures, leave early when guest speakers are still talking and are just generally disrespectful to everyone but themselves. It's bad enough that they act that way here; It's absolutely disgusting when they continue to act badly outside of the classrooms. Be respectful to the people you meet and the places you visit. Harvard may owe us a spring break, but the rest of the world does not.

Now you ask, can one follow these limitations and still have fun? Well, consider the best vacation I ever had:

When I was 11 years old, my family crammed nine people into one Chevy Suburban to drive from the tip of south Texas to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My mother, my aunt and my uncle often wondered why they had ever planned this trip. My sister, brother, three cousins and I lived in a constant state of euphoria. Having never been anywhere before (I still haven't been to Europe), every moment on the road and in the park was new and exciting. From discovering a great (but smelly) seaside restaurant in Mississippi, to singing loudly with the Beatles' music in the car, to running through thunderstorms to ride the good rides while the lines were short, each day was filled with rewards as well as problems. We wanted to do a lot, but we didn't care if we didn't do it all. And sure, we had our fights; but most of the time we were too deliriously happy to be out of McAllen to care about anything else.

Maybe I'm being childishly idealistic, but I do think it's possible to enjoy spring break with the wisdom of a 21-year-old and the blind enthusiasm of an 11-year-old. If, for example, you're determined to immerse yourself alone in some tiny village in England and everything goes as planned, well, good for you. If you end up missing Stonehenge because you met a cute and friendly singer in the Din and Tonics at some pub, enjoy the delightful randomness of what happened as opposed to mourning the irreversibility of what didn't. Trying to escape all that is Harvard can be fun, but isn't necessary to have a great vacation.

So enjoy your spring break, whatever you do or don't do. Relax, have fun and try to get out of the Harvard mentality for a bit.

And most importantly, send a postcard to a person you care about. No matter where you go, someone somewhere else misses you--and will be thrilled to hear from you. Sarah A. Rodriguez'99 is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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