Examining Vacation Habits

Last week Laura and I went to B-Town to celebrate Luke’s birthday (my youngest son). While we were there, my future daughter-in-law, Analise, said, “Papa G, you sure do like your vacations!” And I do. Maybe too much.


I find myself, at times, dreaming about the next holiday, the next break, the next vacation, the next time off, and the next sabbatical. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with looking ahead to the “next,” as long as it doesn’t devalue the “now.” 


Call me a slow learner. After three decades of full-time pastoral ministry, God continues to teach me the tremendous value of being fully present. The Benedictine monks call this “the spirituality of stability” (Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, 157).


If we go through life on fast speed, jumping from one holiday to the next, enduring the day-to-day only to get to the next escape, we become a cardboard cutout that breathes. We don’t allow anything to touch us deeply enough to change us. We consume experiences like a drug that numbs us from reality.


It’s time to take time, to slow down, to experience the spirituality of stability, to savor the moment and not rush through it to get to the next “fix.” A drug addict calls this “using.” Are you a user? Do you “use” vacations like a drug addict uses drugs? 


Here’s what I’m working on. I’m trying to grow in a healthier rhythm of life where a weekly sabbath is part of the ebb and flow of spiritual and emotional health. Likewise, a vacation is part of cessation and rest, so that stepping back into work is a joy and not a burden. 


Jesus modeled this for the disciples. He often went to a solitary place to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:36, 6:46; Luke 4:42, 5:16, 6:12, 9:28). To withdraw was not to escape but to recharge, not to run away but to run toward renewal and rest. Once recentered, we can then step back into the normal rhythms of life and be fully present. 


I encourage you to examine your vacation habits. Are you using your vacations as times of escape from the ordinariness of life? Do you come back from your vacations exhausted and dreading work? Do you find yourself sitting at your desk daydreaming about your next vacation and not fully engaging in the moment? 


If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, maybe it’s time for you to create a better life rhythm that includes the ebb and flow of a spirituality of stability. Find that stability in your daily routines, a weekly sabbath, seasonal vacations, and learning to be fully present in the ordinariness of life. You might be surprised at how much peace fills your soul in the valley as well as on the mountaintop.