Summer vacation

Take a break. You've earned it.

Last year, like many people, we had a couple of trips planned that we canceled due to the pandemic. Traveling is one of my favorite pastimes, and I’ve been eager for the restrictions to begin to lift so that we could begin to travel once again. Thanks to vaccines and updated guidelines from the CDC, it looks like we can safely begin to plan to travel again in earnest.

I love to travel. Traveling broadens your worldview, expanding your understanding of culture and your definition of home. You experience different people, different foods, different climates and different ways of life. There’s wonderful disorientation about being in an unfamiliar place, having to figure out how the roads work and finding the local gems, experiencing the special wonder that comes with trying something completely new.

I also love to vacation. Vacationing sometimes is used synonymously with “travel,” and they do often go hand in hand. But, vacationing is more of a mindset, while traveling is an action. Traveling is a privilege we can’t all afford, but vacationing is a state of mind we can each choose, even if only for a day. 

When we vacation, we sever ties with responsibilities and we open our eyes to the fun, incredible things around us. Vacationing reminds us that we’re meant to enjoy life and that our worth isn’t synonymous with our productivity.

A couple of weeks ago, my family took a vacation without leaving town. While our children were on spring break, we took a couple of nights at a local hotel. That weekend we shut down any work we typically do on the weekends and we swam, we ate out for every meal at some of the awesome local restaurants here in town, we slept in (as much as three small kids ever let you), and we visited the Richland Carrousel Park, a treasure we infrequently take in. 

While we were enjoying the time as a family, I remembered a friend messaging me following her first vacation with children. She realized, for the first time, that vacations with children are dramatically different than vacations before children. 

She was disappointed, having banked on the time away as being restorative. When you vacation with kids, you’re not taking a vacation from being a parent. In fact, the younger your kids, the more challenging it is to be away from home with them. There’s more gear, more things to break, lack of baby-proofing and disrupted schedules. Truthfully, vacationing with young kids can be somewhat stressful with the wrong expectation.

I think there are three types of vacations parents can, and should, consider taking. The first is the family vacation, a time to intentionally connect, create memories and share experiences with your family. If you’re a parent, you’re the cruise director on this trip. You’re on, and it probably will be more work than relaxation, so have that expectation, but it will also be way more fun than your normal, day-to-day life.

The second type of vacation is a getaway for you and your spouse or partner. This is a time to relax, to enjoy each other and rest. A time to do the sorts of things that you can’t do with the kids around, to stay up late and sleep in, to indulge and enjoy each other. 

If you have children, it can be a real challenge to make this sort of getaway happen, because it requires prioritizing your budget and coordinating childcare, but your family will reap the benefits of your investment in your relationship, so don’t talk yourself out of this one.

The third type of vacation is a personal retreat. This is the one I don’t see enough people take advantage of, but is hugely restorative. This solo time away is about reconnecting with yourself, processing things that you’ve been avoiding, resting and indulging in things that you alone enjoy. 

When you give yourself the gift of a retreat, you come back with a filled vessel, ready to pour into those around you. I know so many parents who lose track of their own interests and preferences over the years of raising children. There’s nothing like a personal retreat to quiet the voices of those who need something from you, in order to reconnect with your own quiet voice.

If you have the means to travel, do it. But, you don’t have to travel to embrace the idea of a vacation, and you’ll be glad you did.

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.