I did not expect my vacation to be quite so…well, vacation-y.
To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that once you become a parent, “vacation” has a different meaning. Pre-children, “vacation” meant “go away from home and have fun.” Once you have children, in the early years “vacation” comes to mean “go away from home and do all the same things you do at home only with the additional challenge of being in unfamiliar surroundings.” It’s this reality that inspires a friend of my sister to call a vacation with children a “fake-ation.”
And that reality lasts for a while. Traveling with babies, diapers, baby food (whether jarred or homemade), feedings (whether breast or bottle), nap schedules, exposure to all-new germs… I actually have a friend who commented when her children were still under the age of 5, “Vacation? Why would I want to do that?”
But it changes. Vacations become easy again. Kids grow old enough to adjust to new routines and different surroundings. They even appreciate the novelty of seeing and doing new things.
And even though my family reached that point a while ago – as long as Holly remembers her blankie and Tim packs his stuffed elephant and his stuffed frog, it’s all good – I still wasn’t prepared to have quite so much fun on last week’s vacation as I did.
I had sneaky hopes, of course. I hoped I’d get to do more reading than I’ve managed to fit in most of this summer. Take a break from several ongoing work projects. Avoid the three-meals-a-day menu planning that seems to be required of me this summer. Fit in some long walks or maybe even bike rides.
All of those seemed to me like factors of a good vacation. But what ended up defining my vacation surprised me. I woke each morning with a sense that I had nothing immediate to worry about. The day ahead was free.
Sure, we had tentative plans as we traveled through western New York and Pennsylvania: ideas for recreation, sightseeing, time with friends. But still, no worries and no stress. No deadlines, no meetings, no household tasks, no appointments, no errands. I woke each morning feeling as if the whole day was wide-open for pleasure and adventure, and it was the most vacation-y feeling I’ve ever known while on a vacation.
And once I put my finger on that single factor – the lack of anxiety at the beginning of each day – as the defining characteristic of my vacation mood, I started thinking about ways to bring it home.
I can’t get away from all my work or social obligations or household tasks at home, nor would I want to. I like having work assignments to complete and a household to run. I like being part of a community and having friends. I don’t want to get away from all of it.
But I want to learn to prioritize better and not fill up my schedule so cavalierly with so many items I end up regretting having agreed to do.
I don’t have an exact answer to how to sustain the vacation mood while I’m home, but I think it might have to do with being more discerning, even a little more selfish. More discretionary about how I spend my time.
It was a vacation from my blog, as well, and the relief that came from escaping from that five-days-a-week commitment made me rethink that area of my life as well.
My blog is two years old this week: I wrote the first entry on August 28, 2009, and with almost no exceptions, I’ve posted every Monday through Friday ever since, with usually two weeks off each year, one for the Christmas holidays and one for summer travel.
It’s too much. My blog has become yet another onerous commitment, and being away from it made me realize I needed to back off. I put too much pressure on myself to come up with something mildly interesting to say in a public forum every day.
Cutting back to three entries a week (and, if at all possible, shorter ones) is an easy to change to make. Ultimately, no one but me really cares how often I blog (or whether I blog at all).
The other changes the vacation inspired me to contemplate won’t be as easy to make. Less volunteer work? A more relaxed attitude toward housework? A more discriminating approach to accepting writing assignments? Those possibilities all have their downsides. But the change to my blog is a start, and maybe in using this change as a symbolic way to extend the vacation mood, I’ll learn to work some of the others in as well.