After two months of frequent weekend trips, I recently found myself remembering the week-long vacation our family enjoyed two summers ago. It was a precious week of memory-making moments. Today I’m reminding myself of why a vacation is worth the effort.
Wisps of grey-white fog lay low over rolling fields of golden wildflowers, and I watch the sun ascend crimson through the haze. I take a moment to breathe in the promise of what lies ahead. A week at a cabin in the woods with my husband, parents, 9-month-old Caleb, and 4-year-old Bekah feels like work right now, but I know I’ll be grateful when we arrive. I also trust I’ll be refreshed when we return. I cling to these hopes and begin the daunting task of packing food for seven days in the woods.
Vacation requires sacrifice. Sometimes I wonder if the sacrifice is worth it, but the work required seldom disappoints. Darrell shuffles to arrange someone to cover him at work, and he works long overtime hours for two weeks before the trip. I make countless lists, checking and rechecking what we’ll need for our excursion. Then there’s the task of finding someone to feed the pets and the detailed instruction notes. Attempting not to leave the house in complete shambles while somehow remembering 786 items for everyone in the family is enough to put the steadiest of women into a full blown panic attack. We find ourselves asking, “Is it even worth it?”
I contend that vacation is well worth the effort and sacrifice required. We live in a society of overworked, stressed out, exhausted individuals. Productivity is highly praised, and rest is spurned. Prioritizing vacation time breaks the cultural expectations that leave us weary and burnt out. Prioritizing vacation opens us to quiet encounters with the love of God, meaningful encounters with friends and family, and a renewed sense of wonder in our lives. Let’s examine these reasons, and more, as we contemplate the reality of making vacation a priority:
Reestablishing a rhythm of restful living
God designed the human body to require rest. The simple fact that doctors recommend eight hours of sleep per night indicates that rest is essential. The person who follows doctor’s orders will sleep away approximately one-third of his life. Our requirement for physical rest is a reminder of our need for mental, emotional, and spiritual rest as well. Jesus extends this invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
We need to be intentional about incorporating rest into our lives. Planning a vacation is one way to establish rest by removing ourselves from the rigors of work, extensive social schedules, volunteer activities, and home maintenance. When we set aside time to rest for a vacation, we are reminded to reestablish this rhythm in our daily lives as well. We are refreshed by the rest that comes when we step away from our routines, and we are prone want more. Stepping away from daily life allows us to assess priorities and eliminate the parts of our lives that are leaving us weary, replacing those parts with restful priorities.
Interrupting the routine offers fresh perspective
Sitting with my kids along a creek in the wilderness opens my eyes to beauty I don’t notice in my daily life. It slows me down. It invites me to ponder my decision-making and assess my goals for my personal and professional life. I have space to reflect on my use of time, the relationships in my life, and my relationship with God.
Regardless of where we spend our vacation time, changing the routine of life forces us to reflect on whether life as we know it is working well, where adjustments might be helpful, and how to better prioritize our time.
Windows of time for deep communication without distraction
Whether vacationing with a spouse, the entire family, or friends, vacation offers windows of time for deep connection. Campfires, lingering over coffee, hours relaxing on the beach or in the pool, hikes through the forest, and hours in the car are all opportunities to talk and share. Some of the best conversations with my husband took place on a 36-hour road trip across the country. Quiet space allows us to reveal parts of our lives we might not otherwise consider sharing.
My daughter is most likely to share what’s really on her heart when we’re both relaxed and enjoying a time of peace and rest. She shares her fears and worries with me most often when we take long walks, away from technology, friends, and the listening ears of her brother. Vacation offers countless opportunities for these interactions.
Authentic community is established
When we embark on a vacation, we open ourselves to simply “do life” with others. Whether it’s a spa vacation with girlfriends, a golf trip with the guys, a big beach vacation with the entire family, or a weekend on the lake with a spouse and kids, vacation positions us to need each other. It also positions us to sacrifice for each other. Eating an hour earlier than usual, because Aunt Carol gets hungry at five o’clock, heading the grocery store with your five best friends, and figuring out a schedule for the shower all force us into community. Living in community, planning together, and sacrificing for each other molds us into the image of Christ, who willingly left the throne of heaven to walk among us.
Experiencing the wonder of new things together is deeply unifying
Gazing at a picturesque mountain lake, exploring a museum, experiencing the thrill of a rollercoaster, or kayaking down a lazy river with a loved one unifies us. Experiencing the wonder of a sunrise on the beach or the luxury of a picnic beside a waterfall creates memories that last a lifetime. When we take time to experience new things with our loved ones, we open the door to relational growth, and we grow closer to one another. A relationship that is growing dry is often revitalized by the joy of experiencing new things together. A vacation is an ideal opportunity to step out of the normal realm of daily living and experience new sounds, sights, and adventures.
Opportunities for doing nothing
The most refreshing moment of a recent vacation to a mountain lake was the realization that I was sitting on the shore with nothing to do but wait for my hair to dry. The sun soaked into my skin with a warmth that breathed life into my weary body. I closed my eyes and embraced the quiet moment of doing absolutely nothing. Vacation time is a beautiful opportunity to pursue deeper relationships, pursue God, and simply rest in his affection. When we’re not forced to ponder the next project at the office, the next issue on the home front, or the next item on the to-do list, we open ourselves to simply rest in the affection of God, doing nothing at all.
The week in the woods with my family proved to be among the most revitalizing times in my life as a mom with young children. We made memories, connected with each other, and I connected with God in a way that was deeply life-giving. It was well worth the sacrifice.