YOU PACKED Granny and the kids off for a week at Disney World because you knew a real family vacation would mean so much to them. Never mind that you hate hot weather, crowds and jungle boat rides. Granny got carsick. Susie got heat rash and Tommy threatened to throw her to the alligators. The car air-conditioner broke.
Now, from psychologist Stephen A. Shapiro and psychiatrist Alan J. Tuckman comes good news on the vacation front: Its okay to enjoy yourself. This revolutionary message is the theme of "Time-off: A Psychological Guide to Vacations" (Anchor Books, $5.95, 102 pp.), in which Shapiro and Tuckman take a serious - sometimes a bit too serious - look at the meaning of leisure.
With its how-to (choose the best vacation . . . avoid pre-vacation frenzy and post-vacation letdown . . . have a good time without guilt, etc.) format, the book is a kind of cross of "I'm okay, You're Okay," "Passages" and the Guide Michelin. In fact the three approaches mesh most clearly in chapter two ("Knowing Who You Are"), where the authors offer a Passage-style chart on "Life Cycle and Vacation Characteristics." It reveals among other things, that at 18-22, "the activity is less important than one who shares it with." By 29-34, one is "questioning - is this the way to be," and as a consequence, vacations become "extremely significant." At 35-43, say the authors, vacations become a way of "exercising the fantasies one is not capable of expressing in daily life," or, alternatively, of "increasing cultural pursuits." At 59 and beyond, one is "mellowing and warming to others," and a vacation will reflect "decreased negativism . . . a hunger for relations with others."
Shapiro and Tuckman are at their psychotherapeutic best when presenting concrete, positively reinforcing suggestions on how to incorporate these life cycle crises into vacation plans. And planning, they stress, is the key. Know yourself, they seem to be saying over and over, know what causes you anxiety, and then sent it - or yourself - to China. Chart a "vacation log" listing what you want out your hard-earned leisure time. Why plod through musuems when what you really want to do is lie on the beach and drink beer? By the same token, why go to the beach when you sunburn easily and can't swim anyway?
Far from endorsing hedonism or rank selfishness, Shapiro and Tuckman advocate a reasoned approach to vacationing. They laud the idea of summer camp for grownups: The rigid structure of tennis camp, "sensitivity training" (do people still do that?) or seminars on Shakespeare can eliminate the time or opportunity for disappointment. On the other hand, they support as a "birthright" the idea of doing nothing for doing nothing's sake, emphasizing that "doing nothing is an integral part of self-renewal."
Not everyone needs this book. Some people don't need a psychological guide to anything; they can find self-renewal without leaving their backyards. But the self-analytical soul who returns from a vacation might peruse this undemanding volume and feel better about relaxing. Ms-Fits
Dear Gail Rubin Bereny: I am a single, working woman interested in seeing the world and meeting fascinating people. Where should I start?
By the way, I have been living under a rock for the last 30 years.
It is that sheltered, would-be globetrotter who might fare best by "MsAdventures," Bereny's "Worldwide Travelguide for Independent Women" (Chronicle Books, 280 pp., $5.95), a book the author herself describes vaguely as a "personal travel guide to more fun and less hysteria." But even our rock-dweller might have trouble with the author's uncompromisingly unliberated premise: that travel is one mad, mammoth manhunt, the ultimate opportunity to meet - better yet, snare - "your knight in shining Guccis."
Start with the beginning of your trip. Maybe you never realised the significance of airplane seat selection. An aisle seat makes it so much easier to spring up every half hour for a brisk walk or some tummy-tightening isometrics. "Besides," Bereny points out, "its a good chance to scout around for an appealing potential traveling companion."
What's this? Mr. Wonderful missed the plane? Don't despair: "Just because you start out alone, doesn't mean you have to remain alone." Bereny's caveat: "Don't listen to your Mother: Talk to strangers," to which end she even suggests masquerading as a reporter ("Ask everybody lots of questions"). "Look and be friendly and inviting," she urges. "Don't hesitate; you don't have much time."
With that she begins her longest chapter, 28 pages devoted to the all-consuming topic of Finding Your Man. Beyond the obvious ploys ("Pick a lounge chair near an attractive man at the hotel swimming pool . . . Borrow his suntan lotion and ask him to apply it to your hard-to-reach back":, Bereny has a handful of borderline original ideas. She suggests, for example, taking a lesson - "even just one" - in, say, French cooking in Paris or scuba diving in the Caribbean. She tempers this with some even more obvious advice: "You must do something you genuinely enjoy so that if you don't meet the love of your life, you'll still have a goodtime."
To Bereny's credit, she does offer some helpful suggestions on advance planning, packing and shopping, the latter coyly subtitled "Put THAT in Your String Bag!" Even this potentially useful advice, however, is sandwiched between Bereny's favorite punctuation mark, the exclamation point, and is clouded by her determination to turn every weekend jaunt into a safari. Islands in the Sun
The sunsets seem to go on forever. Palm trees sway shamelessly along powdery beaches. Locals greet the occasional (impossibly gentle) tropical rain with apologetic dismay.
And, they welcome you at the airport with free, ice-cold pineapple juice.
On the surface, at least, Hawaii is just too picture-postcard-perfect. But after that first long, wistful glance, it's hard to overlook the high-rise hotels crammed sideways along a sadly recreding Waikiki Beach. It's easy to drown in a sea of articially flavored coconut beverages, and hard to ignore the omnipresent plastic tiki gods and the almost equally plastic hula dancers, with studied smiles straight out of central casting.
The island state offers its pikake leis to big-spending tourists, who, after all, generate the bulk of the state's income. At the same time, Hawaii does not go out of its way to entertain those visitors with anything much more original than thousands of Don Ho clones.
With that in mind, Robert W. Bone, a writer for the Honolulu Advertiser, set out to write the "most comprehensive guide to Hawaii." And "The Maverick Guide to Hawaii" (Pelican Publishing Co., $6.95) comes close. Weighing in at 436 scantily illustrated pages, the book is reminiscent of the Temple Fielding school of guidebook writing, of which Bone is an alumnus. It is folksy in tone, and a lot easier to digest than the endless fruit-flavored foodstuffs served up on the islands.
Bone dwells on Oahu, the mecca for most mainland tourists. His numerous money-saving suggestions include the Navy boat that offers a free Pearl Harbor cruise Bone says is vastly superior to the commercial ($3.50 per person) tour. For the best buys in what is somewhat self-consciously called "aloha wear," Bone sends the shopper to Woolworth's or Sears.
But Oahu pales beside its sister islands. Rugged, verdant Kaui (the garden island) is where Honoluluans spend their honeymoons. Maui (the valley island) offers hikes up volcanic Mt. Haleakala or strolls along sugary Kaanapali Beach. Maui is at once the fastest growing island in the chain and the least inhibited; it was there that a resident, wearing only a cast on his injured arm, explained to a startled visitor, "On Maui, every beach is a nude beach."
Little Molokai is trading its reputation as a leper colony for the title of "friendly island." Even Lanai, the world's biggest pineapple plantation has one hotel and a nine-hole gold course. With its black-sand beaches and mountainous terrain Hawaii, known more commonly as "the big island," is Eden for the adventurer: All this and active volcano, too. Hawaii is also home to Mauna Kea, the exclusive - and expensive - Rockresort to so elegant that it has its own Oriental art collection.
Bone's book would be of greatest help to the traveler who studies his trip before taking it. But unless you're masochistic or seriously considering a vacation in Hawaii, forget it: Ocean City will never look the same.