I broke almost all of my regular vacation rules this month. Our two-and-a-half-week trip to the Pacific Northwest was lovely. But it seemed to be the antithesis to our typical vacation philosophy. We stayed busy! We covered a lot of ground and crammed a lot of activities into every day. It was almost like we couldn’t sit still.
Well, all right. It wasn’t like there was no downtime. We did get some naps and slow starts to our days. Our family enjoyed some delicious, slowly-savored meals, and we watched some television in the evenings. But those times of relaxation were the exception, not the rule. And that’s very different from what we typically prioritize for our vacation times. I was far more sleep-deprived than sleep-saturated. I hardly did any reading. There were even a couple of days when I didn’t even have time to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle. Mountains and prairies… Cities and national parks… Hot and dry climates, as well as cool, misty climates… We did it all in one two-and-a-half-week stretch.
But why?!? What were we thinking? How did we suddenly shift vacation philosophy and go from restful to restless (the picture above provides a word picture, showing me decked out in full hiking regalia — including hiking boots, hiking socks, hiking pants, hiking shirt, hiking hat, two watches, a backpack, sunglasses, and a headlamp). Why did we travel to the farthest driving destination in the country (along with so many other Americans, it seems)?
The obvious answer seems to be COVID-19. The pandemic took away so many things over the preceding fifteen months. We kept ourselves on a short leash, holed up in our houses, off the streets. Trying to be conscientious citizens and good neighbors. We limited our activities for longer than we ever expected we’d have to.
Consequently, this year’s summer vacation provided an opportunity for us to be active, to go far. We basically decided to go and see the Pacific Ocean because it’s there! We don’t want to take “everyday opportunities” for granted. And with vaccination providing a new level of freedom from anxiety about catching the virus or transmitting the virus, it just seemed like the time was right.
I’ve come to wonder if maybe our true vacation philosophy isn’t about restfulness, or reading, or napping, or whatever. Maybe it’s about providing a complement to the rest of our lives. In a normal year, we have so many activities that it just feels nice to lay low on vacation. But in a pandemic year, we’ve been so limited that it feels like a better balance to get out and do something. Or a couple dozen things.
So, in the process of breaking vacation rules — it seems like I may have uncovered our deeper vacation philosophy. I’ve come to believe that a vacation is meant to provide balance and a breath of fresh air to one’s life, not necessarily to prioritize one particular set of settings or circumstances. What do you think of that distinction? Does it sound plausible? Are you experiencing similar dynamics in your summer recreation, after five seasons of abnormality? I’m curious to see how we’re all going to keep learning and growing from these experiences.