Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Was the Last Time You Had a True Vacation?

This weekend begins Thanksgiving break for me, and for many. Some friends from church are in Hawaii for the week, posting beautiful pictures on Facebook of themselves festooned with leis smiling in front of a backdrop of sea and sunset. My sister is just heading home from a week with her husband in Disney World, with photos of luscious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners displayed on Facebook as well. A colleague and his wife are off to Paris. Another friend is back from a trek to Thailand and Myanmar.

Me? I'm staying right here.

I'm trying to remember the last time I had a true vacation. What counts as a vacation can be disputed, of course, but I'm thinking of a trip, just for the sake of a trip, taken with friends or family, where the point of the whole thing is adventure, relaxation, or just plain fun. I think my last vacation, defined in that way, may have been a trip we took as a family to Vienna during Thanksgiving week of 2006; we had Thanksgiving dinner on a day outing to Bratislava, Slovakia. I also had a long weekend in New York City four years ago with Christopher and his then-girlfriend to celebrate his 21st birthday, as he decided he needed to have his first legal drink at the Waldorf Astoria sitting next to Cole Porter's piano, and so that's what we did.

I've had tons of other trips, of course. I took Gregory and his then-girlfriend to California to look at colleges. I taught a children's literature course for a week in Taiwan in 2009. I attended a children's literature conference summer before last in China, with plenty of sightseeing included. I fly nearly once a month somewhere or other. This fall I did a school visit in Missouri and a whole week of school visits in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I also caught up with dear friends from my University of Maryland days. I have upcoming conference trips to Chicago and San Diego. I get around.

But all my trips involve work as well as play. They are trips with a purpose, not trips just because. I'm trying to decide if this is bad or good. On the one hand, there is something to be said for turning off the work part of our selves once in a while; that's why God commands us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. A true vacation turns off the work part of our selves for weeks at a time. But there's also something to be said for integrating work with the rest of our lives. A trip has an extra little fillip of excitement for me if I can also give a talk, or do some book research, or even just stop into a bookstore and see if they have my books. In the end, I think I prefer mixing work and play.

This is good, as my upcoming retirement from my university position means that I'll have a lot less money for pure play. Work AND play will have to be the order of the day. Right this minute, I think that's okay.

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