Every year about this time, I start asking the same question of coworkers and friends, acquaintances and strangers: Do you have a vacation planned for this summer? Most people say “yes” if they are taking a trip to Europe, or even to Cleveland for a family reunion. Camping treks with family, college tours with their high school children, even casino trips with old friends all elicit a “yes.” Sometimes, people even say “yes” if they are taking the week off to work on a home project.
American vacations usually mean taking our busy lives on the road for a week.
Those are the vacations I usually take, too. One year, I took off several days to paint the entire inside of my home. And since I have friends and family scattered around the country, I usually book flights, pack suitcases, and go live their lives with them for the week. It’s true that I am away from work, and sometimes I even have a chance to sleep in or get a pedicure. But am I resting? Am I pulling back from the pace and connectedness of normal life?
Those questions had me wondering about my idea of “vacation” last summer.
I woke up one morning in June and the sun was shining and my dog wanted to go out and I had this sense that I was late for something. Then I remembered: I’m on vacation! I decided kind of last minute to take the week off, mostly because things at work had been stressful, and I was so, well, tired. In the few days between deciding and actually taking the time off, I thought of a hundred things I could do. I searched for day trips I could take to art museums or monasteries or bed and breakfasts in quaint little towns. I thought about inviting friends to do a last minute camping trip or planning a brief spiritual retreat.
As the days flew by, though, the planning was making me more tired than my work was, and eventually, I decided that for one week, I wasn’t going to plan anything: no plan, no plane tickets, and definitely no projects. On Friday when I left work, I wasn’t even sure what I would do that evening. Later in the week, I did finally start arranging here and there with friends for dinner or for coffee. Since they weren’t on vacation, they didn’t have the luxury of no schedule. But mostly, for a whole week, I lowered the bar, turned off the alarm, and disconnected from the pace of constant contact.
When the week was over, life went back to normal. And I was ready for it.
Though in the future I will still take trips and visit family, I hope last year’s vacation will be a new tradition. Here are a few things I learned:
- When I am worn out by life, it doesn’t necessarily mean I need to make a big change or rearrange my priorities. Sometimes, I just need a break.
- Since that week last summer, I have tried to mimic the restfulness of that week in smaller chunks of time – like for an afternoon. I think this goes a long way in helping me deal with the day to day stresses of life.
- And most importantly, a true break from even the most fulfilling work helps me appreciate it more in the long run.
How about you? What are your vacations like? Do your vacations energize you for work? Or does work seem like a break after a hectic vacation? We want to hear your vacation stories for a High Calling Community Writing Project: a favorite trip to the beach, the summer you needed a vacation and couldn’t take one, or the week you spent playing in the backyard with the kids. Whether your stories are funny or heartbreaking, nostalgic or philosophical, we want to hear what you think about vacations.
Write a post on your blog or a public note on your Facebook account, and link up back here by June 4. We’ll come by and read all of your posts, leaving a comment to let you know we were there. Then, on June 14, High Calling Managing Editor Deidra Riggs will be writing a wrap-up post over on The High Calling, highlighting a few of your stories, and connecting us back to the whole list of posts, just in time for a little summer reading!