Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just Gotta Get Away?...

Today, among the many other topics that come up in conversation during a typical day at Dr. No's, the subject of vacations arose. I am aware that my view of vacations is in the minority (of course, I'm nevertheless convinced I'm right!...), but I think the whole concept of vacations is greatly overrated.

The popular view is that a vacation is a sort of necessity in order to restore oneself; I frequently hear people lamenting "I haven't had a vacation in ---- (insert period of months or years)" as if it's some sign of deprivation. I don't agree with the view at all; the idea that one must have prolonged periods of time away from work ignores the fact that most of us have periods away from work on a regular basis... even if it's just a day or two here or a day or two there.

While vacation's root is "vacate," as in "to leave unoccupied," I also find contradictory this idea that one can only rest and relax by expending a great deal of time and money to go somewhere away from home for a prolonged period of time. I'm not saying that travel is bad per se, but that the idea that travel is a prerequisite for vacation is ill-considered; more often than not, the travel that's associated with vacations is hectic, costly, stress-inducing, and not particularly relaxing.

Equally odd to me is the idea that time spent away from home (where most of us have surroundd us with things we enjoy, and have access to more entertainment and amusement than anyone would have ever dreamed of a couple of decades ago) is somehow of higher quality than time spent at home. Yes, there can be an enjoyment in seeing other places--but there is also a significant amount of inconvenience as well.

Many who lament the lack of a vacation actually are lamenting the fact that, when they had time off, they didn't use it in the way that they would like to use it to qualify as a vacation. Somehow, the very concept of "vacation" seems to mandate that it can only be valid if spent in specific ways and/or in specific places.

We constantly enjoy brief vacations--moments or hours or days--when we are able to get away from the things we don't enjoy and focus on the things we do. Those moments qualify as vacation after vacation so long as we recognize them as such; instead, we too often wish away all of those relaxing moments by begrudging the fact that they're not spent doing something else. We "go without the meat, and curse the bread," to borrow from Edwin Arlington Robinson, not realizing that there is much to be enjoyed in our lives as they exist right now.

I know that my parents weren't the only ones who chided me as a chld for "wishing my life away" when in September I'd start wishing that Christmas was here. I didn't fully see it then, but I do now--in creating the idea that only Christmas was celebratory enough, I overlooked a thousand daily pleasures that I might have appreciated were I focused on those moments and not on the illusory concept of happiness that I had associated only with Christmas.

Too often, our fervent wish for vacations leads us to overlook the myriad of opportunities that we have every day to "get away from it all"...

1 comment:

JaniceG said...

Certainly many people try to cram too much into their vacation days and end up more exhausted/frustrated than if they had just stayed at home during their time off. At the same time, I think you're underestimating a key attraction in traveling: someone else does all the everyday chores such as grocery shopping, cooking, making the bed, washing the towels, and so on. It's a lot harder, if not impossible, to escape those realities if you stay at home. Plus, of course, the larger benefits of seeing new places and being exposed to new cultures.