Remember if you can back to your elementary school days for a moment and the end of the school year just as summer arrived. It seemed like the summer vacation would last a very long time and if your parents were like mine, there were weekend camping trips, maybe even one major driving trip. Then there were the days of just hanging out at home, playing with the kids in your area, and the days were long and happy.
Fast forward now to your present experience working for an organization where there’s been a shift in your schedule; you might get 2 weeks off work a year when you first start working, or maybe you’ve been there long enough to up that total to 4 or 5 weeks if you’ve been with a company long enough. Unless you are a politician or a teacher, you’ve no longer got the entire summer off to do your thing.
I don’t know if it’s because the number of weeks we have off as adults is so much reduced from the 8 or 9 weeks we had off as kids, but there seems to be this need to, ‘do something’ with those precious holidays. It can go like this at the office just before you take off:
“So what are you doing on your holidays?”
“Maybe a little camping”
“No like are you DOING anything?”
Does this kind of conversation imply that the person asking doesn’t really validate the experience of camping as some kind of legitimate and good use of vacation time? Well maybe. I think though it’s important to realize that because we are all different people who experience joy in our lives differently, it is only natural that we also find pleasure and fulfillment in different ways when it comes to unstructured time apart from our working lives. No matter our choices, each is equally a valid use of our time that brings pleasure and meaning to us in how we choose to use it.
In my own case, a two-week vacation starts this weekend. The plans my wife and I have are to turn our vehicle north, and pull our tent trailer behind us. Where are we going? North. Neither of us knows exactly where we will end up. On this trip, no reservations have been made, no advance sites have been ear-marked as must-sees, and no timetable established other than being back in time to return to work on July 8. We will drive when we want, perhaps to a new location every single day. We might stay a day or two in one place, take that interesting looking road to the left for a bit, hike a trail or two, camp by a river, take in a drive-in, make some local purchases in some nearby country store, or end up having a picnic by a waterfall. Who knows?
We might check in with the neighbours looking after our plants and grass cutting here and there, but we won’t stress about it much. If we do, we do. If the weather is sunny and warm, we’ll swim and enjoy the heat. If it’s cooler than we suspect, we’ll have fires at night and throw on a hoodie. If it rains, we’ll head on in to a small town and window shop and pick up some butter tarts and check out some pottery or museum. At a campground, you can just lie and listen to the rain on the roof, have an afternoon nap if it pleases you, read a book or two, play some table games, and strum the guitar.
Another thing that will change is a break from technology. The GPS in the car will be handy, but I suspect we won’t be checking work emails, electronic bills can wait until we return, and I’ll catch up on sports scores with local radio stations that will come in and out of reception.
No what we’re looking forward to is feeding chipmunks peanuts in a shell, perhaps right out of our hands and because I’m the braver of us, right out of my mouth. Hang a peanut between your lips, lie down flat on the ground and get that little guy to take it right out of your mouth – and get it recorded on camera or video. I’m always on the look-out for moose, deer, bears, herons, beavers, eagles, turtles and just about anything out of the ordinary.
But here’s the thing. I not running away from work because I love what I do and so does my wife. What we are doing is looking forward to our vacation. It’s a balance between working and personal time. A chance to get immersed in something relaxing, fun, different from the norm, and for me personally, a chance to rekindle my inner spirit. It’s like filling up my reservoir and finding some connection to whatever pulls me back to rocks, rivers and water.
The years I’ve not got to camp always seem somewhat to me as if something is missing. Fortunately we get away almost every year for a time. Whatever you personally do with your vacation, I wish you well and hope it brings you joy and happiness.