Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorable Vacations

Okay, I admit it. I just don't understand people who claim they "can't afford to take a vacation." Unless you are self-employed or working for an employer who doesn't offer paid vacation days, there is no reason not to take some time off.

Or do people mean that they can't afford what the travel industry deems as a vacation? You know what I mean: the ads that imply that if you don't take your kids to Disneyland/Disney World/whatever you are almost guilty of child abuse or that you can only relax if you go to Hawaii/Jamaica/Mexico or on a cruise.

Yes, it is nice to be waited on. To have someone else make the bed and entertain the children. On the other hand, we have taken the kids to Disneyland (and Disney World) and what I remember mostly is the stress and the meltdowns (we were guilty of trying to do it all in too little time).

The best vacations, the ones the kids really remember and still talk about?


They got to wear old clothes. They got to get dirty. They got to fish and swim in creeks or lakes. They got to ride bikes and burn marshmallows. They got to watch yellowjacket wasps eat a dead golden mantle ground squirrel over the course of a week. They got to play with Play-Doh (not in the tent, though). They got to play outside in the rain.

We explored ghost towns and volcanoes, visited small local museums that looked like everyone just cleaned out their attics, fed the fish at hatcheries, watched the festivities at "pioneer day" celebrations, and explored lava caves. They kissed banana slugs.

And I let them.

Why? Because my parents decided to go camping one summer, 50 years ago, instead of staying home. My parents were city folks and Bro#1 was in diapers--cotton ones, since disposables were expensive and didn't work well. But my siblings and I survived. More importantly, so did our parents. We went camping almost every summer after that.

The other option is a "staycation." We explore our local parks and beaches. Rent (or borrow from the library or exchange with friends) DVDs and make popcorn for a family movie night. Stargaze in the backyard. Make Christmas presents. Learn a new hobby or craft or practice an old one. Let the kids cook. Visit local historical sites (you know, the ones you pass every day on the way to work and you think that maybe, someday, you'll visit). Play games with the kids like Sorry! or Monopoly or Go Fish.

Unplug the phone and the computer. Tell work you're unavailable, that you won't have cell phone service or Internet access. Forget about meetings for a week.

It's about rediscovering my family. And myself.

I can't afford not to take vacation!