Vacations on our way to an empty-ish nest

This post is continued from the previous post - What counts as vacation, anyway?

We've had a good run of summer fun, adventure, and travel with our kids. A very good run. Sometimes we were working, sometimes we stayed with family, sometimes that fun was couched between hard hiking miles, buggy swamps, and difficult character growth. (Those particular experiences always made me think, this can't be vacation!?)

We've put many miles on our vehicles and many miles on our bodies. And maybe that's the combination I now associate with vacation.


Stowe Cider tasting with friend Tomo after Damien's backpacking trip in June

Last September Damien and I took what I'd consider a classic vacation - stop work, go somewhere interesting, and do fun stuff - hiking two weeks on the Long Trail with my parents. Taking this amount of time off work has only been possible since Damien became employed for a company, with vacation benefits, 18 months ago. And the fact that I considered backpacking a vacation is nothing short of miracle.

Paid vacation time is a dream come true after eight years of self-employment. But even with paid vacation time we don't have the funds for extravagant or expensive activities. Flights, hotels, frequent meals out - all of that is still quite out of reach. Good thing we like backpacking!

For this year's vacation we're doing something similar - backpacking in September. Just Damien and I. The kids aren't interested in doing this with us. They have a been there, done that attitude about the whole thing. And truly, they have been there, done that, big time.

Honestly, we're just not sure what to do as a whole family, on a pretty tight budget, during summer, for family vacation. We're planning a ski vacation for Christmas holidays. Which is part of the reason for summer's tight budget. We have to save for our winter fun.

We had a supper table conversation in spring with everyone, talking about what each of us would like to do on a summer family vacation. We were challenged by the affordability of the ideas but also in finding common ground between the five of us, in terms of interests.

We settled on the possibility of a weekend getaway with some thrill-seeking activities like zip-lines, maybe rafting? Turns out our teens and young adults want faster moving adventures than the speed of hiking. But even that is now slipping out of reach in terms of time and finances. The younger two are at camp till Aug 3. Laurent might stay longer to help with additional camps. Céline has weekend plans for most of August.


my dad visiting the kids at camp after being in Montreal

And as I search for a place to rent at Christmas, I watch our vacation budget shrink and all summer thrill-seeking options along with it. Skiing might be all the thrill we can afford.

Our children are nearly adults now and will be choosing for themselves what to do with their leisure time and how to fund that leisure. We suspect when they consider financing such trips they will at least appreciate, if not replicate, their parents' propensity to tent and hike. Two of the cheapest summer accommodations and activities available.

Whatever they choose, we don't feel a responsibility anymore to keep the gang together and create summer vacation memories.

Been there, done that.

We're moving into a new stage, where Damien and I do stuff for us. It's exciting. And because we're not responsible for feeding, funding, and finagling the troops, freeing up financial and emotional resources, there's a more carefree vibe to the whole endeavour. Vacation!

Which is not to say we don't want to do stuff with the kids, we do. We love being with them, and we invite them to join us. (And hello! Christmas ski holiday!) But in general we're not planning most of our trips around their interests or proclivities.

We now have the freedom to say "this is what we're doing, come if you like or stay home if you like". And one of these years we'll have more funds to match that freedom, when we're no longer feeding and housing our young adult children and I'm working more, and then we'll fly, literally, further afield.

Who knows what vacations will look like in the future. Just Damien and I? Or maybe with one or two kids (grandkids?) along? Will we ever take those trips to Alaska, Scotland, Iceland, the American Southwest and the other places that intrigue us? I sure hope so!

For the foreseeable future we're still all living together in our Montreal apartment. I see these people everyday. We still house and feed them. And so vacations and trips, where Damien and I don't have to pay the costs for five people are a nice break. We can splurge on the more costly things, eating out for example, when it's just the two of us.

When the kids are established in their own families it will be them who are inviting us along, "this is what we're doing, come if you like" as we have done with my parents over the years. (This is how my parents got into hiking and backpacking, by joining our adventures.)

And who knows what new family traditions and activities we'll be part of our summer vacation experiences. Maybe even some "stop work, go somewhere interesting, and do fun stuff" cabin rentals on the beach. Let's just hope there's kayaks!

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What counts as vacation, anyway?

What counts as vacation, anyway?

It's taken me many years of adult life to feel comfortable with my own family's version of family vacation, which has been an evolving hybrid of traveling to visit family, camping and backpacking, and working roadtrips.

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