Q. I’m loaded with responsibility at work. I set aside several days for a family vacation every year but I can't forget the work I’ve left behind and enjoy travel with my family. My wife would like us to take longer vacations. She says I don’t know how to really relax and I guess she’s right. What can I do to enjoy family vacations and really relax during the time off?
A. Vacation should be a time to get away from the stresses and pressures of daily living; a time for rest, relaxation and retreat. Rest rejuvenates us physically. Relaxation helps us slow down our mental “wheel spinning” and gain calmness of mind. Retreat gives us time to go within our souls and discover who we are apart from our responsibilities and our roles. We need all three.
To accomplish your goal of having a relaxing vacation, do the following:
1. Allow extra time. Allow more time than you think you will need all along the way. If you rush your wife and children to get through each day’s activities, none of you will be relaxed.
2. Don’t try to accomplish too much in one day. Everyone will be more relaxed and enjoy the trip more if you only travel 350 miles a day or if you only plan one major activity a day rather then three. Wasting time is one of the purposes of vacations. Expect to waste time. Relish this - if you can.
3. Build enthusiasm and excitement into the trip. Listen to the needs and wishes of other family members as well as your own. Include everyone in the plans. When possible choose activities that everyone enjoys.
4. Be flexible. Though it helps to have some plans in place, too much planning leaves no room for spontaneity. You may discover activities at your destination that you were unaware of previously. Or you may have a delay or change of plans for a variety of reasons. Cultivate a calm, relaxed attitude. You can do this knowing that the main purpose of this trip is to relax and enjoy yourselves.
5. Expect some frustrations. There will be rain, road construction, bee stings, sun burn, tearful children and so forth.
6. Deal with difficulties in a positive way. Show love and respect to each member of your family especially in the middle of a conflict or crisis.
7. Use the vacation to get to know your wife and children better. Be a good listener; be interested in what they have to say. Play games with the children, read to them. Do things with them you normally don’t have time to do.
8. Recognize the great value of family togetherness. Shared experiences provide memories that will last a life time. Children remember the times their families did things together. It strengthens your ties to each other.
9. Learn to relax every weekend and you will enjoy next year’s vacation even more. Time doing nothing is essential to good health. Even ten minutes a day will help. Time relaxing with family throughout the year is essential to a healthy family life.
“Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:10