We are not very good at vacations.
I must have known we wouldn’t be very good at them before we got married. While Tony was open to starting a family right away, I was the one who put the brakes on the baby-making. I did want to have a family with him, but I also wanted to enjoy my time with my husband before we began trying for kids.
Some people set a timeline – three years… once we graduate college… once we have a certain amount of money in savings… after one of us gets a full-time job… Instead of a timeline, I had a little goal in mind. I wanted to have vacations alone with my husband. Oh, but not just any vacations… I specified that I would like two airplane vacations alone with my husband before we started trying to have children. Did you catch that? Not road trips, not “stay-cations” where we both just take time off of work. I wanted to travel. I wanted leisure time with my love. I was sure that once we had kids, our ability to travel would be much more limited.
2 Airplane Vacations, Please
Well, despite my fantasies, we didn’t automatically have a whole lot more money once we got married than we had when we were dating and engaged. So… I had to compromise a tiny bit on these two airplane vacations.
The first one we took was to San Antonio, Texas. We were afforded this week-long vacation because I was sent there for work. Tony was able to do his job remotely for the week. While we were separately busy during the day, we were still able to spend the evenings strolling the River Walk, checking out The Alamo, and eating delicious food. It certainly wasn’t my dream vacation, but we did fly on an airplane together, stay in a hotel together, and explore a new city together. As far as we were concerned, it was a pretty great trip.
Before we had a chance to take our second airplane vacation, we made an impulsive decision to move from Washington to Wisconsin with our friend Dave to help start a new church. We decided to take an extended road trip on our way to what would be our home for the following three years in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We camped in Yellowstone National Park, visited our friends in Colorado, and ate some real southern barbecue under the Peace Arch in St. Louis. No airplane, only one night in a hotel, but lots of new places and adventure.
Since then, most vacations we have taken have been because of work or gifted to us by generous family. Even now, we are on our first vacation as a family of five, spending the week in Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s delightful and quaint and I wish it had been our idea. It wasn’t. We were invited by our friend Jesse so that Tony could play guitar for a Family Christian Conference here. He’s working, so to speak, but we are still able to enjoy the free time we have together in this incredibly beautiful place.
Americans Don’t Take Their Vacation Days
Traveling and making time to relax have not been all that important to us. We are just not good at budgeting or planning for real time off together. Apparently, a lot of you aren’t very good at it either.
Statistics show that most Americans do not take as many paid vacation days as are allotted to them each year. At the same time, many Americans aren’t even offered paid vacation time, unlike a lot of other countries in the world who have similarly thriving economies. As a culture, we seem to underestimate the importance of leisure. It’s pretty sad and can have an incredibly negative effect on our marriages and our families.
4 Reasons Your Marriage Needs a Vacation
1. You need to make memories.
If you really want to fortify your relationship with your spouse, you need to make memories together– and lots of them. There is a term in sociology called the “crescive bond” – the bond created between people through shared experiences – which is vital for healthy family relationships. It is this bond that takes a group of people from simply sharing some DNA and a place to live to being a family.
Families have memories, inside jokes, and crazy stories together. However dysfunctional family can be, the thing that brings us back together over and over again is that crescive bond and those irreplaceable memories. Taking a trip together, whether it’s a two hour road trip, or an international adventure, helps create those shared experiences much more than simply going through the motions of your everyday life.
I don’t know how much our girls will truly remember about this trip to Cannon Beach, but I will remember. I will remember their excitement about every bridge we crossed over and every tunnel we went through on our road trip down here. I’ll remember having time to snuggle and giggle on the bed – all five of us – in the middle of the day. These are not the opportunities we get in the usual hustle and bustle at home.
2. You need to re-discover each other.
Seeing things for the first time opens our minds in many other ways. Do you remember the first time you drove into a new city? When I was thirteen and my family first moved to Washington State, I remember being in the car when my mom said to us, “Look guys. We’re here. This is Seattle.”
I was in awe of the luscious vines growing on the cement walls alongside of the freeway. I couldn’t believe how many beautiful tall buildings there were, how green and surrounded by water the urban landscape was. Even as we pulled into our new neighborhood, I noticed every sign pointing toward parks and lakes and new paths I was eager to discover. As time went on, I began to take all of those wonderful details for granted. I became familiar, I knew what to look for to get around, and I overlooked everything else. We all do that, not only with our familiar surroundings, but also with the familiar people in our lives.
Getting away to a new surrounding reawakens the part of our brains that takes in new information. As you begin to look up and notice the beauty of a new place, your brain is open to learning new things about your spouse and each of your family members also. A vacation can help you re-discover each other and revitalize those loving feelings you had when you were first falling in love.
I have known for a long time that Tony is not a big fan of open water. He doesn’t like boat rides, water skiing, swimming… I think I’ve seen him wear swim trunks maybe four times since I met him. This is a part of his personality that I thought I knew pretty well. I was stunned to hear him admire the beauty of the ocean and get excited about playing on the beach and in the water with the girls. I am seeing a new side of him and we’ve known each other for ten years. Getting away is giving us this time to really look and see each other in new and different ways.
3. You need to relax.
I don’t know how or when it happened, but at some point “being busy” took on the same meaning as “being important.” We have embraced busyness as a badge of honor. We are stressed because we are busy, and we are busy because… well… we are a pretty big deal. Hey, maybe you are a big deal, but having an addiction to a fast-paced life is quite bad for your physical and mental health.
We have heard many times that chronic stress takes its toll on our body’s ability to resist illness. When you’re stressed, it can be tough to get a good night’s sleep, making you irritable, anxious, and generally unpleasant to be around.
Taking a vacation can do a great deal to break that cycle of stress. Sure, there are things about vacations that produce their own special kind of stress. Packing with and for small children has not been my favorite part of this vacation… Why do the tiniest people need the most stuff? Still, getting away and purposefully relaxing outside of your usual environment has the incredible power of lowering your blood pressure and resetting your body and mind to a more healthy state. Studies have even shown that regular breaks actually helps your focus!
I have loved sitting in the sand with my girls, watching their delight as they experience the wind and the ocean. I have looked at my phone less and my family’s faces more, and that alone has made me more relaxed. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to be around mama when she’s stressed and anxious. Taking this time to relax is good for my mental and physical health, and it’s good for my ability to be the mom and wife I want to be.
4. You need to know the rest of the world will go on without you.
Many people, especially those that work in high-pressure environments, do not take vacations because they believe so much depends on them doing their jobs well and consistently. I hate to be the one to squash your ego, but the rest of the world will go on without you for a few days. Your co-workers, your boss, your clients, whoever you are convinced would be lost without you will still be there when you get back.
You may be incredibly dedicated and committed to your job, but the truth is, you can be replaced. The only truly indispensable role you have in your life is the role you have in your family. Even CEOs at the highest levels of the companies with the most employees are regularly replaced and those companies continue to function and profit. Steve Jobs is gone, Apple is still profitable. Bill Gates has stepped down, Microsoft isn’t going anywhere. But, your role as a husband or wife, father or mother, is the one role in which you are uniquely irreplaceable. Taking a vacation is an investment in the most important organization you will ever be a part of – your family.
I’ve admitted to you, we are not good at taking vacations. As I sit here close to the ocean with my girls soaking in the breeze and my husband leaning in for extra six-second kisses throughout the day, I’m committed to changing that. If you’re like us, maybe you should, too. And if you need more convincing, here is some additional reading for you:
I don’t want to think of vacations as a luxury at the bottom of our priority list. Instead, we will put them at the top of our list, we will make memories together, invest in one another, enjoy vacations as a family, and #staymarried.
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