I leave Guinea in two months. I am very much looking forward to this, but at the same time whenever I imagine getting on that plane it never feels quite real. Regardless, it is going to happen and I need to get ready for it.
One of the more pleasant things I need to get ready for is home leave: a Congressionally-mandated 4-week-minimum break between tours for the purpose of reacquainting American diplomats with the country they spend their careers representing. Legend has it that a congressman was inspired to implement this policy after encountering FSOs with British accents at our embassy in London. “Going native” is an occupational hazard our employer wishes to avoid, and if they choose to combat it with a month of paid vacation every 2-3 years I for one will not complain.
Some of this time I will put to humdrum practical use: going to the dentist, taking the cat to the vet, buying sweaters and a raincoat for Ireland, that sort of thing. I plan to spend a lot of it just hanging around with family and friends I don’t get to see very often, doing nothing in particular. But there’s also time for some travel in there, and there are so many awesome things in the US of A I haven’t seen yet. I haven’t been to Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon, or many other gorgeous national parks. I haven’t been to Hawaii, except the airport, which doesn’t count. I’ve never been to New England. I could go spend some time in California wine country. I could do an Old South road trip. I could take a cruise to Alaska. That’s a whole career’s worth of home leave ideas right there.
This time around I’m doing Yellowstone, and a spa weekend with a friend at a resort near Austin.I thought about maybe also going to the USVI to finally learn to scuba dive, but that’s a lot of travel for just a few weeks. (And Ireland isn’t really known as a scuba destination anyway.) I can’t wait to get back. I love that my job gives me the chance to go places most people never go, do things most people never do, and see things most people never see. But at the same time, there’s no place like home.