Who doesn’t love a vacation? The mere word, which means “planned time spent not working,” along with such other descriptors as “break, breathing space, intermission, recess, recreation, respite, and rest,” immediately releases some sort of dreamy enzymes or hormones into my veins. But I have learned the hard way that some vacation dreams can turn into nightmares if we’re not careful. Here are a few suggestions that might be more important than the destination or detailed planning.
1. Be conscious of what you need a vacation from.
In general, Jim and I always want a vacation from stress: the alarm clock; a fully packed calendar every day; always being in a rush; and never having a chance to linger over a meal or to take a nap in the afternoon or to just hang out somewhere with a newspaper or a book — without a thought to what’s next or when we need to be back home. In general, on vacation we do not want to recreate the same stress we deal with at home. We all have experienced stress that accompanies even a great vacation, but we can consciously minimize it.
2. Consider, based on your own experience, what works and what doesn’t work for you and your travel partner/s, discuss these ahead of time, and then build them into your vacation plans.
Jim and I are exceptionally compatible -travel partners, which was obvious on the very first driving trip we took together up the coast of California through the redwoods to Bend, Oregon. This is when I learned that Jim also loved stopping at an old-fashioned coffee shop for a piece of pie or parking in the center of a no-name town to walk around and discover what might be there. Above all, we avoid stress, because that’s what we are on vacation from. We want to enjoy every day. We avoid early morning commitments, and because it’s one of our favorite things to do together, we build in plenty of walking time. We consciously incorporate the things we love to do.
3. Discuss what each of you wants most out of a particular vacation before you leave.
This suggestion is worth its weight in gold bullion. It works for planning family vacations, holidays, and other events as well.
After getting married, we approached our first Christmas in a mood of bliss, thinking it was going to be the most wonderful Christmas of our lives. We had no idea we were heading into particularly dangerous territory, full of unanticipated landmines. After several minor skirmishes, we hit a huge one because we each had a very different picture of what happens on Christmas Eve. The tradition in my family was to eat twice: the official Christmas Eve meal followed by several hours of convivial conversation, and then a midnight snack of reheated leftovers.
This was not Jim’s picture. In his family, a fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren family, there were rarely extended conversations, and after eating the brief Christmas Eve meal, visitors departed. To cut to the chase, on our first Christmas Eve together, while I was having a ball enjoying my family’s tradition, Jim had disappeared from the table. Wondering why, I found him in the bedroom fuming. His idea of our first Christmas Eve included my family’s early departure so we could finally be alone to enjoy our first romantic Christmas celebration.
It has been our practice ever since to discuss ahead of time what each of us wants most out of a particular vacation or holiday, and we are committed to making each other’s holiday or vacation dreams come true.