Remembering how to relax

The view

I’ll be honest, I never fully understood the concept of a vacation.

I mean, why would you pay to do nothing and sit on some beach somewhere? It just seemed like a waste of time.

I think this skewed stance came from the fact that I’m habitually unable to fully relax. For the past few years at least, I’ve found it counterproductive to do nothing when I could be doing something. My job puts me in front of a computer screen for 8-10 hours and keeps me up late, and though I like movies, it’s very rare that I can actually sit still long enough to watch one. There’s always something to write, something to read, somewhere to run.

Say hello to my little friendThat’s where my vacation to Cozumel, Mexico, comes in.

Historically, I don’t travel much. I hadn’t been out of the country since a lackluster class trip to Canada my senior year of high school, where I spent much of the time attempting to locate a New York Post to read about the Knicks’ playoff sweep of the Hornets. (This was a few weeks before that damn P.J. Brown flipped Charlie Ward.)

My last legitimate vacation was a little over three years ago, a week spent in Las Vegas. I ran a marathon during that one, which was pretty awesome, but didn’t make for the most relaxing trip.

So when my girlfriend said she hadn’t had a legit beach vacation in seven years and wanted to go somewhere for her law school spring break, I figured it was time for me to give it a try.

She suggested Cozumel, essentially an island-wide resort. I checked online — it was nothing like mainland Mexico, where you constantly have to look over your shoulder for Danny Trejo lookalikes complete with machetes. I acquired a passport, two bathing suits and a copious amount of SPF 1 Million sunblock, she took care of everything else, and I was ready to go.

AhoyI neglected to realize that we had planned the trip to coincide exactly with the first three days of the NCAA Tournament. But I was determined to stick to my predetermined modus operandi: No internet, no phone and minimal television — which actually wouldn’t be hard, since I didn’t bring a laptop and didn’t want roaming charges.


The room we got was flawless, about 30 feet from the beach with a Jacuzzi on the deck. There were also iguanas hanging out right outside our room, which I got a kick out of.

The food in Mexico was right up my alley — lots of fish, fresh fruits and salsa, and I was reminded how much I enjoy guacamole. One night for dinner, we embarked on a "Pirate lobster cruise," and the only disappointment there was that none of the swarthy makeshift pirates challenged me to a sword fight.

We also went downtown to do some shopping. Most of the stores were similar; they all had some guy outside offering free tequila and beer, presumably to get us drunk so we’d buy more stuff. I’m not a big drinker, but some woman in one of the stores poured me shots of a tequila named Orendain that tasted like caramel and was absolutely incredible. Their sales tactic worked: We bought two Mayan masks and a Don Quixote statue carved out of fishbone.

ShadyI think the best part about being on vacation is the freedom to simply do what makes you happy. My leg was feeling pretty good, so I went for a couple of long runs down the beach. At one point, I stumbled across a ridiculously opulent mansion right on the beach that had to belong to either Jay-Z, a CEO or a Mexican drug lord. If it was the last one, he luckily didn’t notice when I cut across his patio.

Except for pretty much every shop selling Rey Misterio masks, there wasn’t much of a sports presence on the island, which was just what the doctor ordered. In a much different experience for me, I watched perhaps a combined 30 minutes of the first three days of the Tournament — I didn’t even know Kyrie Irving had returned until I was back in New Jersey on Sunday — only turning it on to periodically catch up on some scores.

ESPN2 simulcast the American CBS feed, with what sounded like Mexican soccer announcers screaming over the visuals, and I was pretty sure the ticker scroll down below was reporting that Miguel Cabrera had four hits in three at-bats. The whole thing was pretty surreal.

The best(At one point during Kentucky-Princeton, I was brushing my teeth in the other room when I heard someone yell, "Terrence Jones: LEVANTE LOS MANOOOOOOS!" Alarmed, I ran to the television, and Jones had hit a run-of-the-mill three-pointer.)

The thing is, I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything. Those first few days of the Tournament are crazy, but as I’ve said, the parity of the college game has taken away the lasting value of individual moments and dampened the impact of its vaunted upsets and buzzer-beaters. Though I watched the whole thing last year, I can’t really remember anything off the top of my head that happened in the first round. (Kansas-Northern Iowa was the second round.)

And as I suspected, it was quite refreshing not to have anyone forcing on me how good/bad their brackets were turning out.


Hands-down, the best part of the vacation for me was simply sitting on the beach and reading while listening to the ocean. I made it through Paul Beatty’s Tuff and Slumberland — highly recommended — and got back in touch with that long-buried part of me that remembers how good it can be to simply relax.

NecessaryAt night, I’d walk out to the beach under the stars and watch the waves roll up on the shore, thinking how far away I was from the overstimulated world I had left behind temporarily.

I’m not going to lie, there were times during the week when I did wonder what the “Twitterverse” was saying about the Tournament, or even simply who was winning the games. But my craving for information was definitively overridden by a rare opportunity to get away from everything I usually can’t possibly get away from.

Being forced to shut off my phone and leave my laptop at home was an absolute revelation to me. It’s so important to simply disconnect everything and allow your psyche to heal itself. It was almost a form of detox. I’d never been able to relate to the guy lounging next to me, reading Mitch Albom’s "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" without irony, but I get it now.

I feel like myself for the first time since probably last summer. Unlike after most of my vacations, I’m actually eager to get back to work, and I’m refreshed and ready to do some stuff here at SportsAngle.

Possibly best of all, I finally got it through my head that simply doing nothing — is actually doing something of great significance. That should be enough to hold me for a while.

But if I mysteriously disappear without a trace during the first week of the NCAA Tournament next year, it shouldn’t be a shock.



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