We all have an idea of what vacations should be. Whether it means a chance to reconnect with loved ones, a simple change of scenery or a whole new experience, usually relaxation is part of the equation. Not always, though. Some of my most memorable “vacation” experiences have had nothing to do with rest. Some don’t even involve time-off work!
There was the time I spent five days on a twenty-nine foot sailboat, as part of a three-person crew. In October! With a head-wind for the entire distance down Lake Huron! And I, seasick for most of the journey. Not quite a vacation, but it lives on in my memory as one of the greatest adventures of my life!
My first EarthWatch expedition was a trip to Grand Turk Island, now more than twenty-five years ago. It involved a lot of hard work, but also learning, and expanding my horizons and my life experience. I worked with people of all ages, from a seventeen-year-old young man recently graduated from high school, to an eighty-five-year-old woman retired from CitiBank in New York City. We put in a good eight hours of work every day, much of it on our hands and knees in the archaeological site. I learned excavation methods, survey techniques, and about the ancient Taino people.
In our off time, we drank local beers, explored the island, visited the museum, played Trivial Pursuit, and always ran down to the shore at sunset, in hopes of seeing “the green flash.” Every day was filled with fresh experiences, and I loved it. At the time, I thought I’d like to go on a similar expedition for every vacation.
Life gets in the way, though, of some of the best-laid plans. Grandchildren were born; my parents aged. A new mortgage on my house, taken out to pay off student loan debt, changed my financial situation. The years went by. Then, a letter from my friend, Warren, who I met on Grand Turk Island, reminded me of the possibilities. This year, my granddaughter, Madeline, and I went on an EarthWatch expedition together, in honor of her high school graduation. Once again, it was a lot of hard work, but worth every bit of it for the memorable experience!
Usually, I count the days when family or other visitors are on the island as “vacation.” Even though I don’t actually leave home. Even though none of the other work or life obligations go away. Even though it can be exhausting trying to fit dog walks, picking beans and throwing in a load of towels into days made more full by events shared with family and friends. In long summers without reprieve, any change is refreshing. When family and friends visit, my days are punctuated by trips to the beach, excursions to see the sights, and dinners looking across the table at the faces of people I know and love. At those times, my days are even busier than usual…but nicer, too.
When my two oldest grandsons were small, they used to visit every June. I would take a week off work when they were here. There was a lot of bedtime drama, of breaking up sibling fights, and arguments about house rules. Those memories pale, though. The things I remember best are mornings sitting on the beach at Iron Ore Bay, reading and drinking coffee while the boys built elaborate dams and bridges on the shore. We spent most of every day outside, no matter what the weather. Evenings, we’d drive around to see the deer. Those are the memories that hold.
Likewise, when the three younger grandchildren came to visit, there was a lot of shuffling of schedules and sleeping arrangements. There were peculiarities of food preferences and entertainment options. There were squabbles. What sticks in my mind, though, are the giggles and fun. Small hands in mine as we walked down roads and trails with the dogs. Little elbows and knees as they settled in when we gathered on the sofa to watch a movie. Bright eyes and smiling faces, sharing the adventure of Beaver Island. Not quite a vacation for me, but what a bright spot in my life!
Rest is a nice idea but, in my experience, there are much better things vacations have to offer!