Time Off for Good Behavior
From Alexandra, at Ombailamos:
I am a big fan of vacations.
Pinckney Island, South Carolina
I'd been working full time for, I think, close to twelve years before I got to take a vacation worthy of the name. I mean, a week - or more - off work to do nothing but what I wanted. Enough time to actually go somewhere more than a two-hour drive from home, and stay there long enough to enjoy it.
The first one I can really remember was my engagement trip - a road trip to Napa and back. It was totally not ruined by the fact that I was recovering from flu and coughing hard enough to separate a rib. Prior to that, the only times I'd been off work more than a week was between jobs.
Not the same thing!
Since our marriage, Mr. P and I have taken several extremely enjoyable vacations. They weren't extravagant, and we haven't yet left North America. But man! It's good to get away from work. In the few years we haven't, for whatever reason, been comfortable taking the time, we really felt the lack of that time away.
Due to uncertain work situations, we didn't take a week off in 2010. In 2009, we spent a week in Sedona - which was awesome, in November. 2008 was a big year with a weeklong trip to Cocoa Beach, and another to the Olympic Peninsula.
I really should go through my scrapbooks to get the order right for the preceding years, but we've been to Calaveras County twice, Sonoma once, and Mexico twice. We had a terrific two-week honeymoon that included a week on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our wish list includes Vancouver Island, Portland OR, Lake or Mendocino counties here in California, the Santa Ynez Valley area ... . This fall, we're headed back up into the Sierra for a week, and next spring we'll go to North Carolina for a week. I'm hoping we can get across an ocean in 2014.
I consider these vacations an essential component of our quality of life. We live in a loud, polluted, nonstop city and as you'll have noticed, our destinations are mostly not cities. We like to be able to get outside and walk among the trees (or on the beach), maybe do a little rock-hopping or rafting.
A change of environment can make an enormous difference to mental and physical health. New scenery, new weather, new elevations - even new trees - can all conspire to stimulate and revive the mind and body. Most people find being near moving water to be invigorating, and most people find spending time in a forest or meadow to be relaxing.
The best vacation, to me, is one that offers a variety of environments within easy travel of a central point. I want access to activities I don't normally get to do, and to spaces free of people.
Hetch Hetchy, California
There was one moment, up in Angels Camp, California, that remains particularly vivid in my memory. We were out for a walk in the morning, on a trail crossing an empty meadow to an historical site. I heard Canada geese calling and looked up to follow a vee of them, probably on their way from one pond to the next. They were less than forty feet off the ground and moving fast. A few minutes later I heard wings, and looked up to see a straggler, working hard to catch up with the others. He (or she) didn't call, and was flying lower, so I could literally hear the passage of feathers through the air.
You can't hear that in Los Angeles. Or anywhere with traffic.
Canoeing the French Broad River, North Carolina
A lot of people don't have the option of taking a proper vacation. I'd encourage everyone, though, to look close to where you are and find the most different environment from where you usually spend your time. Look an hour or two away and find some environment - preferably green, with trees and water - and find out when you can get there just to be quiet for a few hours.
It's kind of like restarting your computer, or running some utilities. Being quiet in nature gives your brain a chance to clear the cache, empty the trash, and defrag. Sometimes you don't even need to be quiet: an afternoon at a noisy beach or park might push the re-set button.
There's just two things a "vacation" absolutely needs, in my opinion, and they are both negatives: no sitting in traffic; and no TV during the day. If all you're going to do is what you normally do at home, don't kid yourself that you're on vacation! Do something different. And take a breath. Take that moment to stand still and let the wind wash over you and let the noise of life abate. You'll be surprised what you can hear.