How do we holiday?
November 22, 2014 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend and I are at a crossroads after 6 years. He's in Chicago and I just left to move to San Francisco. After several months apart not speaking much, we plan to spend our December holiday making some big together-or-not decisions. He'll fly to SF and after that we have 10 days and around $2000 between us for a trip. Where would you suggest we focus our resources for a holiday? Tahoe? Yoga retreat? Bicycle trip? Surf School? Bit of a wide open question but all suggestions and specific recommendations welcome!

A few more details:

- I don't have a car so rental costs would need to be considered
- We're in our mid 30's and fit but not athletic
- We'll need wifi access for at least a few days to check in on work
- He owns new camping equipment that could potentially be brought over on the plane
- He's an avid urban cyclist
- Neither of us have surfed but think it sounds fun

We are looking to narrow down our options and really have no idea where to go just yet as the San Francisco area is totally new for us. Thanks for the help!
posted by gillianr to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like there's at least a chance that you'd decide not to stay together? In my experience, break-up vacations really suck. In your shoes, I'd probably want to keep the plans flexible (fully refundable), stay in SF while you work out your future, and then do something fun if things go well. If you decide to break up, it might be worth hanging onto your travel budget so that you can travel separately at a later date.
posted by salvia at 10:50 PM on November 22, 2014 [21 favorites]

Yeah... seconding Salvia. Spending much money on a together-vacation sounds like avoidance at best, a disaster-in-the-making at worst. Stay inexpensive and close to home... there are better uses for that money once you know what direction the future is going.
posted by stormyteal at 11:05 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some of your ideas - surf school, bicycling - sound like fun vacations but not really the best for assessing a relationship, because they would involve spending a lot of time focused on an athletic activity which makes talking difficult, rather than interacting with each other. I think renting a car and doing a road trip might be a good option - there are lots of terrific things in easy striking distance of San Francisco (Sonoma/Napa wine country, redwood forests in Humboldt County for hiking), and if things end up not so happily you can turn back any time without having to change a plane ticket or ditch a yoga retreat halfway through.
posted by unsub at 11:15 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge (you may even be able to take public transit?) but feeling gloriously far away is the Marin Headlands offering a bounty of self-directed exploration, a lighthouse, hikes, beaches, ruined WW2 gun batteries, an arts center... all within close distance of each other. Stay in the hostel housed in old officer's quarters within the park. Comfy and historic, very quiet when I was there. Really it's more of a weekend trip, but you will have lots of space and time for yourselves to talk about things, have picnics, look at sweeping vistas, as well as bail out early if needed.

If you decide to go further afield, here is an AskMe round-up of various interesting towns and interesting spots in Northern CA (not necessarily based on activities), many "hidden" gems.

I am partial to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast areas, get on to rent someplace off the beaten path, see some Redwoods, wine taste, go hiking, go to the beach... Occidental is a great little town with good beer and food (don't miss brunch at Howard's Cafe).
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:26 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]
posted by hortense at 11:40 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, I was just looking and airbnb has more/cheaper options in the Russian River area at large than VRBO.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:40 PM on November 22, 2014

Why not stay in SF? There is so much to do there (walking the city, hiking on the cliffs near the ocean, Golden Gate Bridge, biking, movies, theater etc. etc.) and might be good to show him your town. Camping this time of year could be a very wet and cold experience - but perhaps a good test of the relationship...but you could go to the hot springs around Napa or do a walking trip between wineries in Sonoma (just map it out on google maps).
posted by Toddles at 5:34 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You do not want to learn to surf in the Pacific in winter. The water is near freezing and you'd need a bunch of expensive equipment not to die of hypothermia.

Tahoe is dodgy if there's snow. It's beautiful, but 50 is a nightmare requiring chains to get to if there's snow or ice.

I think planning a vacation is a terrible idea. You know that you're probably going to break up, if you haven't been communicating much since your move and he's not been trying to get a job in San Francisco, this isn't working out.

He can save his money and you yours. Just agree to break up on the phone and then use the money you would have used to vacation, to treat yourself to a super-deluxe spa day.

Face it, for 6 years it was good, now it's over. You've made a great leap in moving on with your life, don't open old wounds by doing this.

Why put yourself and him to expense and hassle just because it's been 6 years that you were together? It's the sunk cost fallacy at work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Speaking from experience, having those discussions (and worse, deciding to split up) while staying in a tent in the winter is pure misery. Get a hotel room or rent an RV or go to Baja and stay in a palapa, but not in a tent and especially not in a tent in the rain.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:43 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why not stay in SF and play tourist there? This lets you rent a car and road trip to the redwoods and stuff like that, too. And, importantly, it saves you money and makes it easier to go your separate ways if you do break up.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:52 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

And similar to the tent issue, if you travel somewhere either take two vehicles or have an easy way to travel back separately -- just like being stuck in a tent, being captive to a shared vehicle is not a fun and relaxing way to spend the aftermath of a Serious Relationship Discussion.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2014

You've already broken up. It's just not "official" whatever that means to you. If he wanted to be there with you, he'd have found a way before six months. Save your money.
posted by inturnaround at 7:08 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stay in the hostel housed in old officer's quarters within the park.

The asphyxiating experience of driving up to and checking into this huge, empty, windswept hostel on a gloomy, moonlit night drove me to a full-on panic attack. I can't imagine any place to better set the mood for a breakup. Just saying!
posted by thejoshu at 8:32 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'll play devil's advocate: many years ago, my first wife and I were on the verge of divorce - but we spent a week in the Virgin Islands hanging out and learning to SCUBA dive - and we both had a great time. We ended up getting a divorce. I'm just saying: whether or not such an expedition is a good idea or not largely depends on the specific people and circumstances.

Also: it might be out of your budget, but I'd recommend learning to SCUBA dive someplace warm with clear water to anyone.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know that area that well but I do know what works for me for Vacationing In Fraught Circumstances and it is a place like a spa or an inn where there is:

- food there - saves a lot of arguing about where/when/what to eat
- activities right there or very close in case one or both of you Need To Move Around Right Now or get away from each other
- beautiful common areas like a living room with a fireplace and tea, so that one might take a journal or a book down to a place that is not the shared bedroom and have a read/write/draw/breath
posted by warriorqueen at 10:51 AM on November 23, 2014

Tahoe? Yoga retreat? Bicycle trip? Surf School?

Pick an activity you've both always enjoyed doing together. We can't help with that, based on the information in your question.

If there's no obvious choice, then it looks like nothing's left of your six-year whatever-it-was.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:59 AM on November 23, 2014

I've been thinking about your post, gillianr. Literally everyone has awesome suggestions. On one hand, I'm a big fan of you two exploring SF and the Bay Area together with time to just relax together, hang out with new friends, and a few daytrips in the mix. On the other hand, there's something to be said about going on a trip together as long as it's a place the two of you really want to go. If you two stay together, it's a interesting memory to add to the collection; if you break up, then at least you had the chance to explore some place new.

When I think back to long-distance relationships that didn't last, my only regret is that we didn't do more traveling while we had the chance, i.e. that we spent the majority of time being lovey-dovey at home versus seeing Liverpool or Dorset, England, in one instance. If you were wanting a staycation, I'd say go for it. However, it sounds like you'd really like a little trip so I say "Bon Voyage!"

And, for some unsolicited advice, I have to respectfully disagree with those who have said that your relationship is totally over and, therefore, to skip the trip together. Yes, you two have taken a serious break but such a giant move is a big step and an understandable reason for taking time off emotionally, too. You two have been together for six years, are clearly both realistic about a shared future being a possibility rather than a definite, and know the rest of the details that we don't. Along those lines, I'm with doctor tough love here: I've had a few pre-, mid-, or post-break up trips and don't regret ANY of them; in fact, I was so glad for the chance to share the last few memories and find closure or at least more clarity. I wish you luck in your decision and hope that it's a pleasant experience for you and your partner, wherever you go and whatever the circumstances.
posted by smorgasbord at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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