Our Summer Vacation
by Constance B. Fink
As soon as my husband's Bible college classes ended in May, we rolled up our sleeves for our summer outreach. As pastor and wife of a rural church with less than a dozen members, we planned and coordinated a variety of programs to grow the church. By the end of the summer we saw results, but were exhausted. For twelve weeks we had been driven by schedule. Life felt automatic, and we desperately needed a break. True to his spontaneous nature, my husband said, "Let's take a week off."
"Ok!" I said, more than ready for a change. "We'll go here one day and there the next." True to my nature, I pulled out my calendar and started to plan like a travel agent. "Where's the map? I'll find the closest town and before we leave home, I'll call to get motel reservations. And we'll need to arrange for the cat... Oh, where's a piece of paper so I can start a list? But maybe we should just stay home. Then we could get some of the unfinished projects done around the house."
By the time I came up for air, neither choice sounded good — going away or staying home. If I didn't make something work, I would suffocate. Since organizing and planning are my natural bents, why fight them? Why not use my strengths to help us get the rest we desperately needed? So I started a list of what we needed a break from. I titled it, "What Our Vacation Would Not Include." The criteria surfaced quickly.
Since our finances were limited on a full-time student-small-church-pastor budget, spending money to sleep would stress me out, unless we could find a deal. But that would involve "planning" and would compromise our need for spontaneity.
Since our pop-up camper had not been used in a year, we would have needed to set it up, clean it out, pack it up, fold it down, hook it up, and pull it behind in order to go somewhere to set it up so we could rest. Camping definitely made the list of what not to do!
Routine and Monotony
For us, breaking routine is not eating in places we've eaten before or shopping in places we've shopped before. We like to experience local cultures. Without children at home, we enjoy the freedom of spontaneity, which could include gourmet carrot cake instead of real food for lunch in a quaint upscale coffee shop.
Long Distance Driving
High gas prices were a factor; but we also had the desire to slow down to explore new places, not just fly by on the interstate. After all, if we wanted to sit in the car, we could do that at home in the garage!
Our vacation must not include lists or planning ahead — packing involved both. Furthermore, lugging suitcases and bags up and down stairs and in and out of the car would not be restful. Anything we would take would have to be packed no earlier than the morning we left home; and if it didn't fit in a backpack, it didn't go (the cat would have to stay home).
I didn't want to learn anything; I wanted to play. I didn't want to be educated; I wanted to be entertained. I wanted to leave the adult part of us at home to reacquaint ourselves with play.
So, with this set of rules, we customized a vacation that perfectly met our needs: five days of day trips in all directions within a 300-mile radius of home for under $450. Taking into account my husband's need to live on-the-fly, we loosely planned the week not knowing what we would do until we got up that morning; and on the other days, he didn't look at the map until we were out of familiar territory.
By the end of the first 24 hours, we felt refreshed physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and were on the way to reconnection with play, rest, and relationship. We began to re-enjoy each other as spouses and friends, not just as coworkers in ministry.
We spent one night in a motel — a local motel, not a chain — with only a small backpack for the two of us, which, by the way, we packed a half-hour before we left home. We asked for a room with a king-size bed to be different from our queen bed.
The first half of the week we went to the zoo, dined in an outdoor café, explored local hobby stores, played a round of minigolf, and ate our way through a restored civil war town with historical restaurants, exquisite tea rooms, and shops. A tour of a mega-church gave us a different perspective from our small church-planting ministry. Seeing evidence of God's large-scale work served as a reminder that He is active in all sizes of ministries, even small ones like ours where the changes are not visible.
Midweek, we spent a day at home with no housework, no paying bills, and no cooking. We read, napped, and snacked. Uncharacteristic of August in Illinois, the temperature was below sixty degrees, so we slept all night in front of the fireplace — camping, without the hassle!
On Friday, the last opportunity to play, we pulled out all the stops at a local amusement park: thrill rides, water rides, roller coasters, and kiddy rides. I got drenched on the water rides. Dave got sick on a twirling ride. And we both found courage on a ride that shot its victims hundreds of feet in the air so fast that it created a G-force, then hung them there for a few seconds before plummeting straight down, creating the feeling of weightlessness. Courageous? Only because we squinted our eyes open for a few seconds at the top before the free-fall. By the time we left the park, we were played out, yet rested because all the criteria of our vacation had been met.Webster agrees, "A vacation is a period of rest or freedom from regular work, study, etc." Your criteria may be different depending on whether you have a houseful of children or an empty nest. The most important decision in planning a summer vacation is to decide what you need a break from. Avoid those things in your activities at all cost. That is one rule we will follow next summer vacation, for it is the rule that will give us both the opportunity to rest and the freedom to reconnect.