Vacation. The word has always given me a sense of excitement and peace. For some, the word may bring feelings of stress and anxiety. Vacation is supposed to be a time, as Joseph Ratzinger says, of “relaxation, freedom and a stepping out of the everyday routine [which] is absolutely human.” As our family just completed our main vacation of the year, a vacation with the brand new dynamics of a 7-month-old child, I’d like to offer up a few points of reflection to help avoid the stress that sometimes comes with vacation.
Some main goals of vacations include sight-seeing, adventures and activities, and relaxation. Our recent vacation to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was certainly a mixture of these. I wanted to give Celia a glimpse into the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by visiting a few iconic sights, doing some hiking, and swimming—and possibly cliff-diving—into chilly Lake Superior. I also wanted to share a time of rest as a family disconnected from our devices and relaxing in the beauty of God’s creation.
While planning this first camping trip with our daughter, we put a few margins in place that would help us to prevent exhaustion and stress.
First, we rented a house for one night in the middle of our 5 days of camping. This would help us to reset, refresh, and get clean and comfortable for the last few days of camping.
Second, we refrained from filling our daily to do list. We planned enough sights to see and adventures to do, but we acknowledged that weather, timing, or how we feel may influence us to do more or less of it in a given day. I thought, for instance, that we would go to both the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls our first day. But after setting up at our gorgeous campsite right on the river we realized that, after checking out the Upper Falls, we just wanted to get back to the site make a fire, cook dinner, and relax. While most days had several potential sights to see and adventures to do, we kept just one or two main goals in mind so that we wouldn’t feel pressure to do everything.
Third, we planned at least one day of no plans—a free day. I again had some potential things to do in mind, but I kept the day a blank slate. It was helpful to create the day in whatever way we wanted to in the moment. *Bonus tip* make sure that you have both good and bad weather options for a free day—it turned out to be the only day that we had rain!
Each of these margins that we built in to our vacation helped us with a variety of potential stressors. It helped us to adjust to unexpected weather, to having more or less time than expected, to feeling overwhelmed with doing too much, and to feeling bored with not having enough to do.
With plenty of summer and fall ahead (or winter, depending on when you read this!), you may be approaching or planning a vacation right now. Take some time to acknowledge the potential stressors for your vacation. How can you prepare or build some margins to help alleviate or minimize the stress? And what are some easily achievable goals for your vacation that you can discuss with your family to help keep everyone on point and at peace during the expected and unexpected of your vacation?