Last week, I finished the best vacation I've had in well over 10 years. Actually, it was a "staycation" and I'd like to share with you a few things I think I did right that facilitated my "vacation success". My hope is that some of these ideas can help you have better vacation time, in the future. But, before I do that, please don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying Disney or the beach are evil. I'm not saying don't do anything. I'm not saying don't have fun. All I am saying it that you should carefully consider how your vacation plans intersect with your stage of life and plan wisely.
Here are 5 things I believe helped me have a great vacation. Some intentional, some accidental.
- Unplugged (Intentional) - Sara and I both deleted social media and email apps from our phones. We did stay somewhat connected via computers, but it was more like once a day or every other day, not 5 times per hour. Now that I'm back to normal life, I'm not planning to put the Facebook app back on my phone. It's more of a time-waster than anything else for me. I also set vacation responses on all my email accounts and did not check email once for 18 days. The world did not stop.
- Punched the calendar in the face (Intentional) - I'm a huge lover of calendar planning and schedules, but for most of those 18 days, I did not know what day it was and I'm saying that is a good thing, periodically. If your normal life is governed by heavy schedules, it may be good to get off schedule. One of our biggest stressors is getting our kids ready and moved from this event to that. It was great letting them sleep as long as they wanted, play with their friends all day and shower only when they seemed especially nasty.
- Tried something new (Accidental) - In the early part of my vacation, I was reading a book by one of my favorite writers, Don Miller, (for personal enjoyment, not necessarily for personal growth) when he mentioned bicycling through Joshua Tree National Park. That prompted me to look the park up online. That caused me to see all the fantastic hiking & biking trails. That lit some kind of internal desire to want to go hiking. I've never really hiked trails before, but while I was on vacation, I did 3 different short day hikes - one alone and two with some of my sons. Not only were those great times, but hiking has become a new hobby for me. Once I get some money together for a bike, I'll add that part too. And I'm a guy who's always struggled to have hobbies and enjoy life. This was a wonderful and unexpected piece of vacation, but I'll go into future vacations looking to try something new from here on out.
- Saved my money (Intentional) - It's not absolutely necessary to spend thousands of dollars everytime you have vacation time. We probably spent less than $300 outside of normal living expenses. I doubt anyone will call that anything but a win.
- Did something meaningful (Intentional and Accidental) - The only two things we scheduled in our 18 days off were a day trip to Oklahoma City to the National Memorial and a day to Safari Joe's H20 here in Tulsa. Safari Joe's was really fun and we built some good memories, but it's what you'd expect - waterslides, wave pool, lazy river, and snowcones. It was great. But, the experience of going through the interactive museum at the OKC National Memorial was much more than we expected or were prepared for. It's one thing to see daily news stories about a bomb exploding and some people being killed someplace far off. It's quite another to sit in a mock-conference room and hear a real-time audio recording of the explosion that destroyed the Murrah Building that day in 1995. It's quite another thing to see the twisted steel and shattered concrete on display right in front of you. My youngest son was so emotionally affected by it, he felt like he was going to pass out and had to sit down for a bit. That doesn't bother me. I want my boys to feel the weight of something like that. I believe it is healthy and it was a very meaningful experience for our family. Certainly, it's something we'll never forget.