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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, January 07, 2016


Photo © 2015 by Ralph F. Couey

Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey

"A vacation is what you take
when you can no longer take
what you've been taking."
--Earl Wilson

We all work hard.  That's a given, and not just at our jobs.  The range of responsibilities that adults shoulder range from bringing home the bacon to caring for children and in some cases, aging parents.  Over time, those burdens weigh ever heavier on us, creating stress that cuts into the state of our health.  Which is why vacations were invented.  This is that precious (paid) time off that we earn from employers after toting their barges and lifting their bales for an entire year.

What we do with that time varies as well.  Some of us prefer the so-called "stay-cations," taking time off, but staying close to home.  Others plan trips ranging from forays to the local mountains or lakes, to epic overseas adventures.  What we do on those trips depends on the personality of those involved.  Some plan every minute of the two weeks with tours, activities, parties, concentrating on having fun.  Others spend the time unplugged from everyone and everything, emptying the brain and relaxing the body and spirit.  I'm in this last group to a degree, but not completely.

I've always considered a vacation as a mix of the very industrious and the extremely indolent.  I like to visit places and do things, but I also treasure those hours of doing absolutely nothing.  A few years ago, we spent a week in Mexico.  We went several places and saw some amazing things, but the one moment that stayed in my mind was the two hours I spent in the pool on a floating mat, just lying there enjoying the sun and silence.  On the other hand, this past summer we went to Paris.  On a trip like that, the last thing I wanted was to sit somewhere and do nothing.  Paris is full of things to see and do, and the visitor is almost compelled to use every waking moment to that purpose.

However a person spends that time, it is important to take that time.  Surveys uniformly show that as many as 40% of Americans don't use their time off.  This has consequences.

According to Health Net, the reasons for taking time off are compelling.  Men who don't take vacations are 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks.  Women who don't go are eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.  People who take regular vacations benefit from reduced depression and stress.  They are also more productive, as the surveys found that annual reviews for vacationers were on average 8% higher.  When folks return to the workplace, they are more energized and upbeat.

It's also better for your personal relationships as well.  If you spend long hours at work, compounded by hopeless commutes back and forth, you're not with your loved ones.  Over time, this creates dangerous emotional space between each other, particularly for those raising children.  To keep a marriage together and a family close, we need to spend time with each other without distractions.  The family, after all, is the bedrock of our existence; the glue of our emotional lives.  When that is in good shape, everything else becomes much more doable.

Beyond the health aspects, its just good to get away.  When you visit someplace you've never been, you expand your horizons, giving a new depth to your life's experiences.  Seeing the world makes it easier to understand.  Meeting and interacting with people from other cultures provides valuable insights into the differences that exist from place to place.

When our kids were young, we took the time to go on trips at least once per year.  Now in their 30's, the memories of those trips come rolling back whenever we're together, bring smiles and bouts of raucous tear-streaked laughter.   Even those recollections bring us closer together.

I understand that some people feel trapped in job situations where vacations are frowned upon because the time away is viewed as non-productive.  Also there are those who truly fear that if they take time off, their job may not be there when they return.  If you're in one of those situations, I would advise looking for something else.  Over time, that kind of pressure will put you in an early grave.

Take time off.  Go away, far away as you can afford.  Do things, see things, experience things you thought you would never do.  Your life will be richer for the effort.

And in the end, a life rich in experience is the best kind of wealth.
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