Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"On Vacation"

Prior to the year 2010, I had really never been "on vacation." At the age of 34, my only time "on vacation" had been my family's annual whirlwind trip to Augusta, Georgia. My father is from Augusta, and, living in East Tennessee, rarely saw his family. So every summer, when I (and my brother and sister) was out of school, we packed up in the car and left out for Georgia at 4 a.m. Saturday morning. We would arrive at my Grandfather's house somewhere between 10 and 11 a.m., and spend the day with him and various other members of my dad's family. Sunday morning around 10 or 11, we would pack back up in the car and head home.

Twelve hours of driving over the weekend to spend 24 hours (at least 8 of which were spent asleep) in Augusta. In a strange, seemingly copacetic ending, the last time I took this trip was before my senior year of high school when my grandfather died. We stayed a few days that time, and I haven't been back since.

After high school, I went through a few jobs, some schooling, met and married my wife, and settled down. I was married in 1998, four years after graduation, and my wife and I bought a house just 2 months later. Being a newlywed, a new homeowner, and having a job that paid just enough to get by led us to spend a lot of time at home. My employer offered me a one week paid vacation every year, but also gave me the opportunity to take it as extra pay instead of time off, so I did that every year. By 2002, I had my own business and couldn't make enough time or money to take any real time off. When the business ended in 2008, we were in financial distress.

I had been married for 10 years at this point, and I had never taken a vacation. It was a miracle my wife hadn't left me. In 2005, I had managed to scrape up a little cash and take her to Gatlinburg, TN, for a weekend. We called it our honeymoon, even though it was several years late. By 2008 my business had failed, I had taken a job I wasn't all that thrilled with and my wife was pregnant. There was no way I was going to be able to get away any time soon.

It seemed like the next 18 months went by in a flash. My daughter was born, I was promoted at work, and we were starting to get our finances back in order. By the fall of 2010, we had scraped together some money with the help of a bonus I earned at work, so we rented a cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN, and spent a week "on vacation." It was amazing. Never before had I been paid while I wasn't working. Spending time with my wife and child every day was priceless.

Me and my dad in St. Augustine, FL.
The next year my brother and his family offered to let us stay in their rental condo in St. Augustine, FL., for a week while they were on vacation. A small disclosure: I had actually been to St. Augustine as a child with my parents on the last real vacation they took. I was so young I don't really remember much, other than partial memories of seashells and starfish. This had to be around 1979 or 1980, when I was 3-4 years old. My wife had never been to the beach either, and had asked at various times throughout our marriage that I take her to the beach. I am somewhat of a nerdy, geeky, indoor-type (if you didn't guess that already) and the beach never seemed appealing to me. I don't really enjoy warm weather, so why would I go somewhere that's even hotter for vacation? Nevertheless, again we scraped up a little cash, and took advantage of my brother's offer.

St. Augustine turned out to be so much more than I thought. Sure, it's hot, but it's a different heat. The water is cool, the wind is nice, the sky is beautiful. We were hooked. As I type this, I'm in a condo right off the beach on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine. This is the third year we've vacationed here, and I can't imagine not making time for it. This week seems to sustain me all year long. We may not always come to St. Augustine, but now we treat the annual vacation as a regular expense and plan for it. In the past, I would downplay the importance of anything that didn't have any long term reward, such as a new roof on the house or remodeling the bathroom. What I didn't see before is the long term reward of time together - making memories with my family. My wife and daughter will be able to talk about trips to the beach and we will all remember the things we've done "on vacation."

No comments:

Post a Comment