This is the time of year that we typically start discussing next year’s vacation plans. Brainstorming locations we might want to visit. Establishing priorities (do we want to relax or do we want an adventure?) As we begin these discussions it strikes me how much my thoughts on vacation have changed in the last few years. To preface this I will note that as a 15-year employee of my company I get a generous (by American standards) four weeks of vacation every year. I’m lucky that I have the luxury of fretting over how to spend all those days off.
Like most families, we have done the Great Big Trips that leave us exhausted when we return home. A tour of the Southwest one year. Disney World another. Last year we spent a week in Cape Cod. Those trips were fun and adventurous but far from restful. The cliched remark was true in that we came home needing another vacation to recover. To be honest, these are the kinds of vacations that I feel myself wanting to avoid as I get older.
On the other side of the spectrum we have done R&R trips that definitely recharged the batteries. We have taken three trips to an undisclosed island in the middle of New Hampshire. There we spent our time swimming, reading, napping and eating. Rinse and repeat for seven days. We come home from those trips in a very ‘zen’ state and our only complaint was that our re-entry into the real world was somewhat tarnished by the flight home, two airports, long layover, baggage claim, etc.
We have also done stay-cations. I once spent our entire Spring Break painting. Not one room, but four. And I replaced the lights in all our bathrooms. And built a custom frame for one of the mirrors in our house. On top of all this we saw movies and ate out every night and I couldn’t wait to go back to work the following week. Again, we failed in the R&R department.
This year was a departure for me. While my wife and kids went on a couple of week-long trips, plus summer camp, I stayed home. I just wasn’t feeling the itch to travel and I had plenty of stuff to do. So I took some of my vacation time while everyone was away and dubbed it my ‘mini sabbatical’. There was a mountain of writing to do on a big project. In addition, there were daily naps, long walks with the dogs, Seasons 3 and 4 of Game of Thrones and a couple of movie rentals. It turned out to be the right kind of balance for me with work and rest sharing equal billing.
What I also discovered is that if you can arrange for your vacation days to coincide with holidays, your vacation time seems to last forever. I have taken days off in every calendar month of the year and I still have enough time left to take two 12-day stretches around Thanksgiving and Christmas (both augmented by holidays and weekends). To be sure, this isn’t always possible. According to one recent article, Americans gave up $52.4 billion in vacation time last year, mostly because they are worried they will be seen as slackers. This really bites and if you don’t work in a corporate culture that supports their employees in taking earned time off, consider finding a new employer.
Next year we want to take a big trip. Maybe to Canada. Or an RV trip through the midwest. Or maybe renting a condo on Mackinaw Island. But that’s only five vacation days. The other fifteen seem well spent on another sabbatical. I’m considering two full weeks. How will I spend it? I’m not really sure. I like staying close to home but when I’m there it’s impossible for me to completely decompress. I love the idea of sitting on my ass for a week my brain just won’t let me. I need to be doing something productive at least part of the time.
So the question for the readers, as we head into the weekend is this: What does your perfect vacation look like? Do you prefer an adventure or some well-earned R&R?
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. You can also find him on Facebook. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.
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