A husband and wife went on vacation to an island together. They arrived on the same day, left on the same day, and spent every day in between together. Neither engaged in any work while they were there. The wife went on vacation for ten days, but the husband was only on vacation for six. How is this possible?
No, this is not a riddle. This is part of the ongoing debate with my husband about what constitutes a “vacation” day. I am not kidding - these are the burning issues of the day that occupy our time.
My math is very simple. Every day that I am away from work, laundry, school lunches, emails, and household chores counts as a “vacation” day and I am relaxing the heck out of each and every one of them. My husband, on the other hand, takes the total number of days and subtracts all intervening travel days, weekend days, legal holidays, and any additional day that simply was not up to snuff. Which is why after my ten-day vacation on Maui I am refreshed, and after his measly six-day “vacation” on the same island my husband is clamoring for more.
Thankfully, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary agrees with my liberal, expansive interpretation of what constitutes a vacation day: “a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation.” Do you see any legal holiday exclusions there? I don’t. I win. (So says the lawyer in the family).
But then there is this wrinkle. The above definition is the third in the series in the dictionary. The first and primary definition of “vacation” is: “a respite or a time of respite from something.” Perchance, is even my expansive view of what constitutes a vacation too narrow? Do we need a vacation to another place, or even a “stay-cation”, in order to meet the definition and find “respite or a time of respite” from the rigors of daily life?
The basic purpose of a vacation is rejuvenation. It is a time to reconnect and to discover again the simple pleasures that make this existence worth living, whether that means walking barefoot in the sand, getting lost in a book, or watching the sunset with people you love. Once refreshed, we can return to work (whether that is inside or outside of the home, or both) with a clear head and renewed energy. We are better for it, as are those around us.
I know that I am not ready to give up traditional vacations to places far and wide, and I relish the thought of being in a position to extend them beyond ten days. But if those vacations only are going to be few and far between, there need to be other ways to recharge in the meantime. It is time to look for those opportunities for respite with the same diligence with which I plan our family vacations, and to carve out time amidst the daily grind to do the same things that I love to enjoy when we are gone: to read and to write, to walk barefoot and enjoy the views, to study a painting and eat something new, to laugh and appreciate the leisurely company of family and friends. Even if it is for fifteen minutes on a weekend because, according to my friends at Merriam-Webster, even that counts.