Vacations are necessary opportunity for growth

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

“I haven’t taken a vacation in years,” people sometimes boast.

“That’s not dedication,” my father would often say. “That’s stupidity. When I say that I haven’t had a vacation in X number of months, I’m not bragging; I’m complaining!”

Vacations were important in our family, for good reason. William Barclay in his book, “Ethics in a Permissive Society,” reminds us of the necessity to take vacations.

“The surest way to injure the spiritual life,” writes Dr. Barclay, “is to neglect the body. The truth is that many a man might work better if he played more. Pleasure is that which relaxes and refreshes the body, and it is no credit to a man, only a sign of grave unwisdom, if he says that he has no time for it.”

Vacation time is here. Those long-awaited summer months have bounced jubilantly into the midst of our routines, carrying promises of sea, sun, sand, mountains, lakes and secluded cabins.

Vacations provide a time for relaxing, reflecting, rehabilitating and recreating. Such “time-outs” allow the soul to catch up with the body and fills both with new vigor.

Yet, beyond rest and relaxation, vacations also give us the opportunity to reset. As my electronic equipment so often reminds me — when all else fails, unplug!

It always amazes me how pulling the plug for my phone, computer or television magically “fixes” whatever errant ways are preventing proper functioning. Interrupting the current somehow re-orders each device in a way that restores it fully.

We, too, need those breaks in our routines. If we truly “unplug,” vacations can provide that mental disconnect from the daily responsibilities that can reset and even recalibrate our lives.

I recently made my first-ever solo trip to the shore to visit a good friend and her family. Everything about that trip was new to me — driving multiple hours, alone, on an unfamiliar route, to an unvisited town, to a new home with never-tested accessible accommodations.

I had no room in my mind for familiar routines, only new learning.

Every part of that vacation challenged me, forcing the familiar to the backseat while adapting and adjusting joined me in the front seat of my adventure.

Upon returning, I was unexpectedly energized, both physically and mentally. Large issues seemed smaller, urgency was redefined, and tolerations revisited.

By unplugging from the familiar and engaging in something new, I had not only taken a break from my routines, but I had also stretched my mental comfort zone — my capacity for living.

Perhaps it was the energy of mastery, or the sense of well-being from accomplishment, or the confidence from success that fueled my shift in perspective.

I now understand a bit more why “extreme vacations” have gained such popularity. In those extremes, participants are forced to learn and try new things — to grow. The result is often a recalibration of what is important in daily living.

As you vacation this year, I wish for you a restful, relaxing experience, filled with just enough growth to expand your capacity for living.