Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Vacation or just time away from work?

My family and I just returned from nearly a week of traveling that I suppose is technically referred to as a vacation. A quick check of the Merriam-Webster online dictionary tells me that a vacation is “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel”. Maybe my personal definition of vacation is a little different. I like to do as little as possible on a vacation. No thinking, no schedules, minimal planning, and a lot of relaxing. I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my time away from work, compare it to the technical definition of a vacation, and see if it was truly a vacation.

I know I was away from work. I’m pretty sure I even let my co-workers know that I wouldn’t be there for about a week. (I’ll find out for sure when I get back to work tomorrow morning.) I may not have done the best job of not thinking or talking about work, but at least physically being away from it was a start. My wife had a little tougher time leaving work behind as she is always a full-time mother, with another full-time job (that she did leave behind for a week), and a personal business that she’s always active in. My girls were away from school (or daycare for the younger one), but my older daughter couldn’t stop talking about starting kindergarten in a few weeks…so I think it’s a toss-up on whether or not she left school behind.

As far as travel is concerned, we definitely got that one covered. Anyone who has ever traveled with kids in the 3-5 year old range can tell you that any time spent in the car longer than 30 minutes can be classified as a journey. I do have to say that my girls have proven to be excellent traveling companions (even with the extra potty breaks and occasional bickering). They were put through the ringer when we made the trip from Minnesota to Texas and back (twice - within a month of each other) earlier this year. I think that prepared them for this trip. You would think that traveling from Minnesota to Wisconsin and back this past week would have been a lot easier, but I am not so sure. On a really long haul trip, you have two traveling periods (there and back) with a longer period of “vacationing” in the middle. This week's trip was drive for 6-7 hours. Spend the night. Drive an hour. Attend a wedding. Drive an hour. Attend a reception. Drive an hour. Stay the night. Drive a couple hours. Spend the day… I think you get the picture. I was expecting to hear a lot of complaining from my girls about having to get back into the car to drive again when they were just starting to have fun again outside of the car….but there was very little of that. And because of that, I am extremely grateful. Traveling may be a struggle at times, but you still have the fun of seeing the country and having adventures. (I will have to post about the adventures from our Texas trips some other time….there were too many “adventures” and “excitement” on that trip for my liking.)

Then there is that whole “relaxing” part of the definition. I think this part snuck in there without announcing itself. It may have felt like we were always on the move and not getting to spend much quality time with family and friends, but looking back, that wasn’t the case. We got to spend time with family from all over the country (most of which we haven’t seen in a year or more). The kids got to play with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We even managed to spend part of a day at the Milwaukee zoo as a family. That was a joy as it brought back memories for my wife who grew up there (in Milwaukee, not the zoo) and for my girls who had never been to a zoo before. They are now chomping at the bit to go back again. Their initial fear of going to the zoo (they thought we’d be walking in among the wild animals) was replaced by excitement and then maybe a little sadness (because we couldn’t pet the bears and lions).  Relaxing is what you make of it. I use to think relaxing had to involve being on the lake with a fishing rod in my hand or sitting on a beach with a book and a beverage. I am now learning to appreciate the simple act of visiting with friends and family as a great form of relaxation.

I may still feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation, but it was worth every minute. I also can’t complain too much as I will have a “stay-cation” coming up pretty soon anyway. I won’t expand on the concept of a stay-cation today, but I have grown to love them as well. For now, I think I will just re-define my own personal definition of what a vacation is to me: Taking time away from my normal daily activities to spend time with, and better appreciate, the people and blessings in my life. Until next time...