July 19, 2019
We're not going on vacation this summer, no working vacations or staycations, and not the classic vacation where you "stop work, go somewhere interesting, and do fun stuff".
I should qualify. We're not taking vacation during July and August. And we're not going with the kids. Our vacation is in September and by "our" I mean just Damien and I.
We've taken very few "classic" vacations (stop work, go somewhere interesting, and do fun stuff) in our married life. We've taken many trips but often they were working vacations/roadtrips or travel to visit family. And those family visits, sleeping in the spare room, navigating family relations, caring for the children and cooking meals the same way I did at home, never counted to me as vacation.
(As the children have grown and required less physical energy, my opinion on vacationing during a family visit has been changing, especially in the Nova Scotia context of visiting my parents. Even though I'm working during our visits, the pace is different and the natural environment is deeply restorative. Plus Nova Scotia is a vacation "place" with a lot of cool stuff. Trips to Nova Scotia have become a type of vacation for me.)
with my mom on her recent visit to Montreal
We've done many, many weekend or extended weekend excursions with our tents but somehow those never counted in my mind as true vacation. And not because I don't like tenting. I love tenting. I just think my childhood set the standard, as it has for many things, for what defined true vacation - a weeklong campground cabin rental on a lake in British Columbia every summer.
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.
one of my Dad's preferred vacation modes - on a motorcycle
My children have traveled and adventured way more than I did as a child. I didn't experience cross continent roadtrips, tenting, or hostels. We were more bed & breakfast and antique store travelers.
Perhaps my kids will carry similar associations into their own adulthood about vacations. It's not a vacation unless you hike mountains and sleep in a tent!
We've covered a lot of ground over the years - on foot, by car, and very occasionally by plane (when the kids were really little); we've had unique experiences throughout North America, but we've never established a summer vacation tradition. Except for perhaps the tenting and hiking elements.
It's only taken me about fifteen years to be a peace with that. To not constantly compare what I had as a I child with what I've built for my children; to fully appreciate the amazing experience and opportunities uniquely available to me and my family. And to come to terms with the fact that a great vacation can involve a lot of sweating and exercise, though I never have learned to embrace hiking in the rain.
Do we all have to recalibrate after our childhoods? Even the good ones? How will my kids need to adjust their expectations in adulthood?
For many years I longed for a vacation where I could lay on the beach, as I did in my childhood. It probably wasn't the beach I wanted so much, as the care-free feeling of my youth; especially in those intense years of parenting young children.
I never got it. A care-free vacation.
And that's probably the truth of the matter right there. Vacationing with young kids, on a budget, is never care-free. At least not for my personality type.
I don't want the beach anymore, though I do love a feeling of being care-free. Which I realize is more a state of mind than circumstance. But having said that, care-free is easier for me attain when there's a bit more cash to spend and less whining from the back seat, if you know what I mean.
As I experienced in my own childhood, I want mountains, bookstores, coffee shops, good restaurants, and quirky hippie culture. (Nelson BC was the exact location where my vacation memories were solidified.)
But now, I also need to climb those mountains. For accommodations, I'll take my tent, preferably pitched for free (aka: primitive camping) in a national or state forest. An occasional dip in a lake to get clean, or better yet, a flowing river is ideal; but to lay on a beach, no thank you.
I am grateful for the many beaches I've visited with the kids over the years, lakes in Maine, the north Atlantic coasts of New England and Nova Scotia and that one summer in California (oh Marin county, how I love thee), but we never did rent a cabin on a lake.
I've never had a family vacation like those of my childhood.
I'm coming to realize that's not just because we've never rented a cabin at the beach and returned to the same place year after year, but because I'm the adult now - feeding, funding, and finagling the troops. And I don't think anything is entirely care-free again after growing out of a secure and happy childhood. Maybe that's what I've been looking for all these years in the perfect vacation - to be a child again.
To be continued...
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