It was the summer that I turned 16. My mother, stepfather, brother, sister and I piled into our antique 1936 Plymouth and began a cross-country journey from Georgia to California. I wasn't particularly fond of my parents at that age. Like most teens, I was sure they wanted to ruin my life. They put way too many restrictions on me and, I thought, not enough restrictions on my younger siblings, who were ages nine and seven.
Those two lived to make my life miserable. It was only fitting, then, that about halfway through the trip somewhere in the middle of the desert I was reclining on the middle seat when my little sister announced that her tummy hurt. Without warning and before anyone could respond, she leaned forward and threw up all over me. Soon after expelling whatever it was that had failed her, she reported that she felt much better.
Years later, when I was five months pregnant with my second child, my husband and I took a road trip to the Smoky Mountains for a weekend getaway with two other families. We had all pitched in to rent a cabin for the weekend, and we were excited about getting a little rest and relaxation.
On Saturday night we decided to venture into town to do some sightseeing. The weather was cold, but none of us thought about checking the forecast before leaving. Without a care in the world, we took off for our tour as the sun and the mercury both took a dip. Before we even reached our destination, the flurries had begun to fall, and by the time we were ready to head back to the cabin, the flurries had become full-fledged snowdrifts.
It took us twice as long to get back, and upon our return we discovered that in order to reach the cabin we would have to drive up a now iced-over incline. We made an attempt to get up the hill, but the wheels started spinning and the van started sliding backward, heading straight for the ditch.
So why begin an article about vacations with stories of failed attempts at joyous journeys? Should these trips-gone-bad make you abandon vacations and stay home? Certainly not. Anyone who has ever planned a vacation knows that unexpected incidents are the norm, but detours and roadblocks often look much better from our rearview mirrors.
Besides, considering the mental, physical and emotional fatigue that we endure in our daily lives, it’s no wonder we need a break every once in a while. According to the 2006 U.S. Census, 53 percent of married couples both work outside of the home and 64 percent of them have children. So from traffic jams to jam-packed grocery aisles, from irritating supervisors to irritable preschoolers, life piles on us until our bodies and minds demand a rest.
The need for vacationing may seem obvious, but you might want to include these elements when planning your vacation.
1. A change of scenery. I recently visited a beautiful beach resort and was struck immediately by the vivid colors. There were warm peach-colored buildings encircled by cool blue water and bright white sand. The greenery of tropical foliage complemented the brown mountains. The sound of the ocean lulled me to sleep at night, and the orange-yellow sun soothed me by day. When the trip was over and I returned to miles of black concrete and red brick set against the backdrop of charred grass and flowerless gardens, I was acutely aware of the power of aesthetics. Being surrounded by beauty had lifted my spirits. I felt light and carefree, relaxed and optimistic. The change of scenery had made all the difference.
2. Rest and relaxation. In the devotional book Fit Forever edited by Kay Kuzma, Kim Allan Johnson advises us about our basic need for rest. He says,we need to balance input and output. Our ability to produce depends to a large extent on the time we take to renew. Hours spent replenishing ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually are just as important, just as valuable, as the time we actually spend working. Certainly this is what a vacation is all about—rest. It's a shifting of gears. It’s sleeping in and not keeping track of time. When God created the world in six days and then reserved the Sabbath for us, He also modeled the behavior that we should exhibit at the end of every week. By ceasing activity for a time, we can heed His invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
3. Reconnecting with family and friends. With our fast-paced lives it’s easy to become disconnected. When we and our family or close friends live in different cities, it’s especially difficult to stay in touch. Vacations can provide opportunities for renewing those relationships. If possible, plan a vacation with family and/or friends, even those who live in the same city. Splitting the cost of rental cars and hotels can make an expensive trip more affordable. Many attractions offer group discounts, and there’s just nothing like the added fun and camaraderie that develop from those memorable group trips.
4. For the memories. Group getaways, family vacations and trips of any kind have the potential to be a pain. Anytime we leave the safety and comfort of home, there’s a chance that something could go wrong. But God has given us a world to enjoy, and it’s full of people to love. Meeting new people or getting better acquainted with old friends, even enduring those less-than-perfect individuals in our own families, are all character-building opportunities that we shouldn't miss.
Eventually, I recovered from the horror of my sister’s vomit, and today we all laugh about it. That trip is a snapshot of a happier time when we were all together as a family. Now the family unit is broken, and we are scattered far and wide, yet the memory of that awful cross-country trek will always bind us together.
And on that cold night in the Smokies, our husbands, slipping and sliding on the ice, managed to maneuver the minivan out of danger as the women inside shouted orders or exclaimed dismay. Later, safe and warm in our cozy cabin, we each took turns thanking God and telling our own version of the night’s events. Of course, in hindsight, the whole thing seemed rather funny.
Vacations create life lessons, life experiences, laughter and memories that you just can't put a price on.