V-A-C-A-TION…in the summer sun!  That song always comes to mind at least once when I do go on vacation.

I recently returned from a family vacation and I’m exhausted.  What’s that, you say?  You can relate?  You’ve been there too?

Our great trip to the Grand Canyon in 2004.
Our great trip to the Grand Canyon in 2004.

Isn’t it sad that as Americans our few vacations are usually packed with go-go-go, itineraries and non-stop activities that leave us more drained than recharged?

Merriam-Webster defines vacation as a respite or a time of respite from something or a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation.  I was amazed to see that the first known use of the word was in the 14th century.  Really?  During the Middle Ages in the 1300s, people were taking vacations?  Ah, that’s a whole other post.

What I wanted to point out is that vacations are meant to be relaxing, however, it seems most Americans really don’t know how to relax on vacation, and yet we are described by other countries as lazy and fat.

Trip to Grand Canyon with an unplanned stop in a Wild West town. ~ 2004
Trip to Grand Canyon with an unplanned stop in a Wild West town. ~ 2004

According to the U.S. Travel Association, employees rarely use all the time allotted to them for vacation, nearly 5 days a year.  Forty-one percent of Americans don’t take their paid time off. On those days, you’re paying your employer to be at work!

Why do we not use the time?  Most workers cite the mess that awaits them upon their return.  As a former teacher for over a decade, I can relate.  Of course, I took my ‘vacation’ in the summer, but for ‘mental health days’ or doctor visits, I would take hours to plan for a substitute in my absence and it was a true headache.

I have found in the newspaper business, it’s just as much of a headache, only worse, because there’s no substitute for you.  In that case, you have to work extra hard before you leave and/or your co-workers have to work extra to make up for your absence.

Some might feel no one can do your job if you leave or that they’re indispensable? Or worse, do you worry that if you take a break, no one will think you really are worth keeping?

These feelings that lead to not taking a vacation at all is called a “Work Martyr Complex.”  It often costs workers their health, well-being and relationships.

I’ve often heard people say that when in the twilight years of their lives, no one is wishing they had spent more time at the office.  Instead, most regrets would seem to involve relationships with people, and possibly time spent with others.

I’m blessed to have a husband that puts priority on “time away”. Not all of these I call vacations, but we have had many “mini-vacations” for birthdays, anniversaries, and trips during the summer.  I have great memories of the Grand Canyon and a Wild West town in Arizona, along with breathtaking views in Sedona, Arizona.

I’ve been to Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis, multiple visits to cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains and too many state parks to mention.

Our trip to Boston, I think this was 2010.
Our trip to Boston, I think this was 2010.

Because of great friends and family (and their generous rent-free rooms) we have had the chance to visit Boston, MA, with a side trip to Salem, MA, Orlando, Florida and a quick getaway to Watauga Lake in Butler, TN, which I’ve bet you’ve never heard of, and most recently, New York City.

The times that we didn’t sightsee ourselves to death have been the best.  One of our favorite memories is going to Ft. Morgan, Alabama on the Gulf of Mexico as a family.  That was truly relaxing because we did nothing but go to the beach and back to the condo.

As I’m reminiscing, I realize that it sounds like we have tons of money, however, it’s just the opposite.  Without really consciously doing so, we have made time away important in our lives, and hopefully a good example for our kids.  While work is worthwhile, so is play and rest, and neither require huge budgets.

Our most recent trip to NYC.
Our most recent trip to NYC.

What are your best vacation memories?

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