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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Why we need to take a are full of valuable lessons.

Two beach chairs and umbrellla on the beach

What do you consider a vacation – relaxing on the beach, camping in the woods, climbing in the mountains, sightseeing in a city, a staycation, or something else?

Each February since we both retired, we have traveled from Indiana to Florida to escape the cold and enjoy the sunshine.

In 2017 our February was an adventure to select a location to return to, which became Cape San Blas on Florida’s panhandle near Port St. Joe.

From 2018 through 2022 we spent the entire month at a beach house on the Gulf. As described in my lessons learned post last year, we determined that 2023 would be another year to explore rather than to stay in only one location.

As before, being on vacation taught us many valuable lessons.

Exploration is exciting yet exhausting

The first half of February took us from a visit with cousins in Alabama... to a bed and breakfast in historic Savannah, Georgia... to an Airbnb in St. Augustine, Florida... to a 2-night stay on a boat with friends in Sanford, Florida... to our aunt's condo on Marco Island, Florida... and then finally a hotel in Ocala on our way north to Cape San Blas.

Each stop was filled with seeing new places, meeting new people, eating delicious food, and having many adventures. Our time was full of plenty of fun and excitement. Highlights included seeing historic mansions and parks in Savannah, exploring a fort and lighthouse in St. Augustine, taking an airboat ride on Lake Monroe, and much more.

Each stop also involved schlepping in suitcases, occasional crowds and traffic jams, and as many uncomfortable beds as comfortable ones. Poor sleep and lots of packing and unpacking took their toll. We were thankful that the second half of the month would only be split between two beach houses on Cape San Blas. It was a blessing to get settled in familiar surroundings.

We decided that for a fully restful experience at the beach we would search for one place to stay put. We would explore from that home base. Stay tuned to find out where that is in 2024. So far, it is yet to be determined.

People and places make a vacation a pleasure

We certainly saw many wonderful sights while on vacation as well as lots of amazing wildlife, including alligators, turtles, dolphins, sharks, and nearly 100 species of birds. However, it was the people we met and spent time with that made the trip truly special.

I am married to an extrovert who has never met a stranger. No matter where we were -- breakfast at the B&B, on a trolley, in a restaurant, climbing the lighthouse steps, walking the beach, or shopping in Apalachicola -- we made new friends and learned that all people have a story to tell.

In addition to meeting new people, we spent precious time with family and old friends. Friends of 40+ years live most of the year on their boat in a marina when they are not making the Big Loop. We enjoyed living for 3 days and 2 nights on their boat and hearing about their many adventures. They describe boating as endless hours of boredom mixed with moments of terror.

Family we spent time with included an aunt, several cousins, our daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids, and a sister and brother-in-law. Hanging out away from home makes for less stressful gatherings and special memories. We confirmed that vacations with children require only a swimming pool to be successful.

Responsibilities back home carry on without you

Both my husband and I are involved in numerous organizations that keep us very busy when we are home. To take a vacation requires a concerted effort to clear our calendars and leave things in the hands of others. Despite the potential to attend meetings remotely, we chose to remain absent.

I was thankful during our vacation that I had worked in advance to prepare and schedule blog posts and social media posts, organize meetings and events that would occur shortly after returning home, and leave those that occurred while we were gone in the capable leadership of colleagues.

If you believe your work can’t exist without you or the world will stop spinning without your direction, it’s time to take a vacation and leave it all behind. It is a good reminder that others can keep things going and learn to manage without you. A vacation isn’t a vacation if you are working.

“A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.” ~ Evan Esar

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