The Vacation Blues
There are way too many things I don’t do well. So I won’t make a list. But if I did, one thing that would be near the top would be vacationing. A well known christian author once told me he writes books based on the things he doesn’t do well in the attempt to help others avoid his pain. In that same spirit and because we are in the heart of the vacation season now, here are some things I have learned the hard way that could help make your vacation better. I will categorize these according to the four dimensions that shape our lives: mental, physical, spiritual and relational.
Adjust Your Expectations (Mental)
Poor Vacay! Every year we load our impossible expectations upon our slender shoulders. You cannot reverse the cumulative effect of fifty weeks of work stress, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, neglected devotions and relational dysfunction in a week or two. It’s mathematically impossible.
However, we can take a break from our routine in order to consider the changes we must make over the next year to live better. You certainly will not enter vacation exhausted then leave rested. But you can leave resolved to make the needed changes that will impact your daily life over the next year. Life change seldom happens on vacation. Life change mostly happens after vacation.
Play Hard, Sleep Harder (Physical)
Disregard what I am about to write next if your work is physical in nature. You’ll need advice from someone else who has a real job. But if you work with your head, or like me, with your heart, then physical activity is an important part of taking a break. Climb a mountain, ride a bike, surf a wave, ski a mogul or hike a trail. Be active. This will refresh your head and your heart. Which is required if you are going to rest your body.
Don’t stay up late. My parents were right when they told me, “nothing good happens after 10 at night”. This is especially true on vacation. Try to get to bed at the time you should retire when you have to work the next day. Then, sleep until you feel rested and are ready to get out of bed.
Deep not Wide (Spiritual)
Having a big reading list on vacation can be a real drag. Instead, I have found it far more restful to pick a meaningful passage of Scripture or an impactful chapter of a devotional book and go deep. Read it repeatedly. Consider the central truth from every angle you can think of throughout your time off. You will be freed from the pressure that comes from falling behind. You will also learn that going deep with one truth is more fruitful than scratching the surface of a hundred.
The More the Merrier (Relational)
This last tip is only for those who take family vacations. Use the other weeks of the year to build up individual relationships. Take a vacation from date night. Instead, use this time to be and talk together as a family. It’s really helpful, particularly as a husband and father, to listen to your family share their thoughts about where the family is and where they think they are headed. I love to ask my wife and my kids, regardless of age, “where do you think we will be in 10 years?”. The answers are sometimes hilarious but always insightful. Also, we play the good/bad game for the past year: “what is the worst thing and best thing that happened to you since our last vacation?” These questions lead to longer and deeper talks. We laugh together, sometimes cry together and grow to love each other more.