Take a vacation? What’s that look like?
Usually my blog posts are about business operations or management, but how about the health of the business owner? Maybe my story will give you some healthy ideas (if the reflections section is too lengthy for you, move on to the next section).
I have repeatedly faced the challenge of determining my own definition of VACATION. After all, needs, desires and lifestyles change quite a few times as the decades unfold.
REFLECTION: When I was in my 20s, a vacation usually meant returning home to be with my family. These trips usually involved a holiday or they focused on special projects at my parents’ home.
Only once did I take a genuine vacation … a complete get-away from work, computers, meetings, deadlines, commuting and routine, and away from family. A group of friends and I went to Hawaii, a place that had a completely different culture and climate from what my Seattle home provided. Sure, I had also enjoyed occasional, cheap weekend getaways to Vegas (for sunshine rather than gaming), but Hawaii was a complete mental, physical and emotional recovery vacation.
In my 30s, paychecks were kinder to my budget than in my 20s, and I yearned for vacations that didn’t involve family reunions, yet were shared with loved ones. So, my vacations began being getaways with family and friends. My cousin and I enjoyed a B&B vacation to see coastal Maine and New Hampshire, and a tour of Boston. On another trip, I went with my Mother and our dear friends to Europe for a month. Yet another vacation focused on visiting friends and family in Washington, while showing my new husband some of my former hang-outs.
In hindsight, the overall memories of those trips involve the sharing of time with dear people and the enjoyment of making new memories we’d carry for the rest of life.
With a young marriage at a mid-life timeframe, my husband and I took a cruise with friends. We also began RVing with friends and family, and we mixed in some mini continued honeymoon trips. We escaped to new places, such as North Carolina, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, New England, New York, and even out to Colorado.
Our RV vacations allowed us to travel with other RVers, yet still stay in our own private “homes.” Each couple could lounge about comfortably, yet plan group outings for sightseeing, dinner and dancing. Returning to our RVs, we could gather around the campfire, or we could be in our own homes doing whatever it is that newly married people do.
RVing meant having our home with us on the road. With our pets, our own food, and our relaxation and comfort tools (books, movies, etc.), we could take in new scenery as we watched the setting sun, perhaps over a lake, across a river, behind mountains, or beyond the farm fields.
These vacations broke up our routine of too many hours of work, and they provided for the two of us to not only create new memories but to also better define whether our lives were on the path we wanted to stay on. We both knew that necessary adjustments to life’s path is easier to see when you remove yourself a bit and look around long enough to see, hear, smell and feel with a fresh spirit.
Once, when bad weather interrupted our Iowa plans, we created an impromptu vacation to a lake in Minnesota, and from there we continued on to visit friends in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin leg was pre-planned; we were looking to buy vacant land on which to build for retirement near our friends. While we didn’t buy land on that trip, that healthy time away from our routine, on an extended vacation, with dear friends, eventually led to our purchase of an RV park (a dream of his since he was in elementary school). From our friend’s farmhouse porch, in the shade on a summer afternoon, new light shined and led us onto a new path.
Reflecting on these memories makes me smile; always has, always will. Little did we know the value of our precious memories!
Long after my husband died, I wanted to take an RV trip to Wisconsin and then into and across several provinces and over to the Maritimes. The provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland were dreams since I was 6 years old when I first heard those names mentioned in first grade. Sadly, as I planned the dream trip, I realized I didn’t know how to vacation alone and without destinations that included family and friends! I had no idea what I wanted to do on a trip … this trip or any trip. Some ideas came to me:
- See historical places? I was raised by a history buff, so most of my childhood vacations were walking back into history, sometimes running from one castle to a monastery or a famed bridge. The memories are a blur. I have an appreciation for history, but I’m not convinced history is to be my primary focus today. I wanted to live more in the moment!
- Go to amusement parks and fun attractions? My last visit to Disneyland was when I was 31, and I was with a large group of adult friends. It was a blast! Would it be fun alone?
- Base my itinerary on some local events or concerts? Naw.
- Eat my way across? I’ve heard of some who say, “I’m going to eat ice cream in every state” or “I’m going to have BBQ in every county of my state.” Well, I wasn’t convinced this was my goal.
- Stay in one place and just collapse? Heck, I could do that at home!
HOW TO VACATION? I pulled a book from my shelf, 8 Wonders of Kansas! Guidebook. In it, my friend and author Marci Penner shared insight that was gained from a state-wide contest by the Kansas Sampler Foundation. This contest raised awareness of the natural and man-made beauty and value that’s found all across Kansas.
This inspired my new definition of VACATION: keep these eight categories in mind: cuisine, geography, architecture, commerce, art, customs, history, and people.
If I couldn’t travel with friends and family, I would and could travel and:
- Enjoy one fine local meal each day (usually my main meal, since my RV’s kitchen could easily provide my breakfast and snacks, saving me not only on my budget but also on my caloric intake!).
- Appreciate the geography of our gorgeous planet. From the ocean-front beaches or cliffs to boats in the streams and lakes, vistas across the fertile fields and over tree-covered mountains, developed suburban and urban centers, and all of the majesty that’s included … wildflowers, birds, ducks, geese, horses, cattle and even the random skunk (a bit harder to appreciate).
- Let my eyes dance as I study the architecture! Yes! I really enjoy looking at buildings of different eras and styles. While I have some favorites, and have seen some that baffled me, I appreciate the variety that’s out there.
- While I’d recently chosen to downsize my possessions, I knew I could and would support local commerce. I made purchases at local farmers markets, wineries, grocery stores, and even veterinary clinics (I was traveling with my 2 cats). I even had to have my RV serviced from time to time on this lengthy journey. Aside from all of that, I was also eating at restaurants and staying at campgrounds.
- See the art. I’m not an art collector, and I know so little about art techniques, history, movements and such, yet I wanted to be open to being exposed to some of it. Probably not much, but some. I most appreciated the felt and woolens, coming home with nice additions for my downsized home.
- The local customs category on my trip was quite diverse. Here’s just a minor example. Highway signs in Canada are in French and English, and are sometimes in French, English and Gaelic, and are sometimes in English and Gaelic. Another: as an RVer, I quickly realized I needed to recalculate the height of my RV since overhead clearance signs are in meters rather than feet! Beyond that, as you can likely imagine, seeing so many provinces (and states) with such diverse history, there were countless more customs to learn and enjoy.
- I confessed that I have seen many historical places in my lifetime but, rest assured, I didn’t overlook history on this trip. I just didn’t run from one historical place to the next, and I didn’t try to get a history degree while I was there.
- Last but not least, people. As it turns out, people are everywhere! It was a pleasure to learn of some who paved the way in years gone by, and a joy to visit with some who are here today. No, I didn’t meet any prime ministers, inventors, or celebrities, but I enjoyed the unique individuals who crossed my path. And what many of them don’t know is this. As a car would head toward me from where I was going, I’d offer a prayer for that person. All prayers were vague (safety, healing, comfort, etc.), but I believe all of them were heard by the One who knew what to do with it.
- So you see, I added a ninth category: my spiritual connection. Well, actually, that was blended into all of the aforementioned eight.
ISN’T THAT TOO MUCH TO DO ON VACATION? How in the world was I going to achieve all of this? While some of it was done as I held the steering wheel, I also had a goal that I’d frequently find a place to sit and just take in the local scene, the aromas, the architecture in view, the people walking by, and so forth. Sometimes it was a park bench, sometimes a sidewalk café’s table, and occasionally it was the driver’s seat while I watched the rain pour down.
HOW DID IT TURN OUT? While I didn’t plunge too deeply into any one of the categories (well, perhaps the cuisine!), I ended up creating a marvelous vacation experience for myself. My eyes, ears, mind, soul and heart were delighted! Physical, emotional and spiritual energy flowed beautifully!
AND NOW? Well, I sense that my memories have faded a bit. Before the end of that RV trip I dove into another all-consuming career move, which also led to yet others. Ultimately, I haven’t taken my own medicine in proper portions: balance your life between faith, family, friends and career to maintain physical, emotional and spiritual peace. But now I realize that it’s time to change that!
Recently, I set out to swallow my medicine and make adjustments. First, I needed a vacation. Then I panicked. What would I like to do? Slowly, ideas came to me, but they weren’t realistic with my budget or time commitments. So I asked others, and that’s when I realized just how differently people define VACATION.
Some plan visits with their family and friends based on dance competitions, marathons or fishing tournaments. Well, I see many friends and family around my very frequent and quite extensive business trips, which are usually to quite amazing vacation destinations (but never with a vacation agenda). Did I want that? Or something else?
Then a friend reminded me of my Canadian vacation, and those 8 categories came flooding back! I may not have a husband or children but I have worked very hard, and work is not supposed to just pay our bills! Work is to provide for a healthy lifestyle, which includes some off-duty fun. Hmmmm.
I believe it’s time to go to some incredibly scenic places and search for those park benches again!
Thank you for reading my blog post.