Welcome Today’s topic is vacation. Who doesn’t love vacation? Well, as much as I love going on vacation, I can’t imagine anyone not loving vacation. But as it turns out, there are actually people that don’t enjoy going out of town, for various reasons. Several research studies have been conducted around the highly-prized vacation days of US workers. A study in 2013 (Forbes; 11/30/13) reported that over 500 million vacation days were left unused at the end of the previous year. In 2016, a study claimed that almost 60% of American workers left vacation time on the table at the end of the previous year (a study by Harris Interactive for Jet Blue.)
While part of me cringes at the thought of missing out on time off for vacation, I can also identify with some of the trepidation. When I was teaching, it was so much more of a hassle to be gone than to just go ahead and go to work, even if I was really sick. Anyone out there who has made sub plans for a kindergarten class of 25 will know exactly what I’m talking about! But this is not just a dilemma for elementary school teachers. When my mom worked for a newspaper publication, she felt the same way…it was easier to just go to work than make up the work before or after being gone. Some people are afraid to use up paid days off, in fear that a bigger emergency may come up later on, requiring the time off. Other employees are concerned that asking for too much time off will leave them in poor standing with their boss or manager. Some are striving for advancement or more money and feel vacation time will impede these goals. While understandable, I believe employers count on this mentality from their workers, saving the company or business time and money in the long run. But here’s a newsflash for everyone: We are a stressed-out, unhappy population! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 18% of the adult population in the US has some type of anxiety or depressive disorder. Yes, I’m basically making the plea for more vacation time, for the sake of our health and sanity! So who’s with me?
Food For Thought My husband got a glimpse of my desire for perpetual vacation while we were on our honeymoon. I was so blessed that my husband arranged for a week in the Smokey Mountains for us to spend our honeymoon time. It was AMAZING, which probably explains my obsession with wanting to get back there as often as I can, or ideally, move to that area. I loved every minute of our time there…until the day we were leaving. We had spent the week hiking trails and visiting highlights of the National Park, such as Cade’s Cove. We decided to spend the morning of our last day in Gatlinburg, before grabbing lunch and heading back home to Missouri. That last morning was terrible…and it was all my fault.
I woke up that morning not wanting to leave, not wanting to pack, not wanting to say goodbye to our fabulous cabin, not wanting this amazing time to ever end. So many times in life we are reminded that all good things must come to an end, but I wasn’t going to allow it without a protest. So as we were packing up our things and loading the car, I was pouting and sulking and very short with my husband. Some thanks for this amazing trip he’d given me! When we got into Gatlinburg, things didn’t really get any better. We had multiple parking issues and some of the shops we went into were having power issues, so cash registers weren’t working. We had waited until this last day to purchase any souvenirs and I wasn’t able to get the items I wanted. My immaturity escalated as I declared I didn’t want anything! The restaurant we tried to have lunch at ignored our waiting to be seated, which only added fuel to my fire of discontent. I then walked out and back to the car, practically jogging so my husband struggled to keep up. I started the car and headed out of town and back home, not even asking my husband if he was ready to leave. We drove in silence for a few hundred miles. Interestingly, my husband thought I was upset because I couldn’t get a T-shirt that I had wanted. It took awhile, but fortunately we had a long drive back home, and eventually I tried to explain my disappointment in the fact that we had to leave such an amazing place. After that fiasco, I’m lucky he ever took me on a vacation again!
I am NOT proud of my behavior, by any means, but unfortunately, this seems to be my reaction to every last day of vacation we have. I’m so excited packing and getting ready for trips and the drive. Of course, I love the adventures of being there, the times exploring and discovering. But when it comes time for that last day, I struggle so bad. Since I have seen this pattern over time in my life, I will even try to prepare myself and get my mind in the right place. Sometimes this helps, at least with my outward behaviors, although I’m struggling on the inside. Other times, its like a demon I can’t seem to control. We’ve had more than one drive home where I’ve been less than pleasant and my husband has been irritated or annoyed at my behavior. Who can blame him?
I noticed this pattern creeping back again a few weeks ago when we were leaving from our spring break trip. Part of my frustration on this day resulted from some of the disappointments of our trip this year. We know our vacation time is short and spaced widely apart, so naturally we want to make the most of the time we’re given. We want to get the most fun and relaxation we can for our time. But I will tell you, I did not want to ruin what time we had left with a fit on the way home. I am not kidding you, I had to pray! I had to ask God to give me some peace and calm and understanding that this vacation time must come to an end. We had one last destination we wanted to take our daughter on the last day, and we had about an hour-drive to get there. I am happy to say that by the time we reached that destination, I was much calmer and able to enjoy the rest of our time together. I am also happy to say I maintained this more positive attitude through our lunch stop and five-hour drive home. Since I was in a better mood, I could joke with my husband about my need for “perpetual vacation.”
So, where does this longing for perpetual vacation come from? I have a few theories about myself, personally, and maybe you can identify with one of them. First, I think back to my childhood. I have mentioned before that my family was poor, no exaggeration, and there was just no money for vacations every year. I remember taking maybe three or four vacations during my entire birth to age-eighteen childhood. We did take the occasional day trip to St. Louis or Springfield, but even those were spaced widely apart. When all the kids at school talked about trips to Florida or California or Colorado, or wherever, I didn’t want to say our “vacation” was a trip to the St. Louis Zoo on a Saturday. I didn’t know what it was like to stay in a nice hotel with a swimming pool or bring back a souvenir that said, “Hey, look where I got to go!” Please do not interpret this as a pity party of sorts. I just think this is a partial explanation for my desire to travel. Then, for my senior trip, my parents and I worked very hard so that I could attend a sponsored trip to Washington D.C. A plane trip, a hotel with an indoor pool, tours of landmarks…it was an amazing three days. And I was hooked. I decided I wanted to go places and see things and have experiences. Which brings me to my next reason for this vacation obsession. Adulthood and responsibilities set in, after college graduation, and again four years later when I married my husband. Time away is our chance to escape the expectations and responsibilities of our every day life. It’s a way to break up the monotony of the “daily grind.” I think that’s why some of us cling to these days. When we spend our whole lives trying to please others and meet their demands, vacation is a time to say, “Now I get what I want for a change.”
I’ve always thought that if I had unlimited funds I would put myself on a perpetual vacation, traveling the world, or at the very least, see all the amazing places right here in our own country. But traveling and exploring is only part of the vacation mentality. It also includes things like…no grocery shopping or meal prep…no checking the mailbox for the next bills to be paid…no work…no emails or phone calls to answer…no bathroom cleaning or vacuuming. But you and I both know that life does not work like that, for anyone, and if it did there would be considerable less appreciation and gratitude for those vacation days.
I want to leave you with two things today. First, please use some of your vacation days. Life is too short to work constantly for people that don’t appreciate you or to strive for more stuff that fades away faster than memories. Go ahead…cross something off your bucket list! And second, I want to offer you a Psalm as a blessing for your travels:
Today’s Scripture Psalm 91:11-12 (ESV) “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
Today’s Recipe It’s no secret that my favorite place to travel is the Great Smokey Mountains. In honor of my favorite place, I’m offering you my Pulled Pork recipe that includes my “Smokey Pork Rub.” The best parts of this recipe are the rub and the “magic” braising liquid of Dr. Pepper! I served this pork last weekend at a family gathering, alongside a homemade Carolina-style sauce and a store-bought traditional barbecue sauce. This is a good “hands-off” recipe when you need to feed a crowd! Please note, make sure you grab garlic and onion powders for your rub, and not salts!
Pulled Pork with Smokey Pork Rub
- 1 large, deep-sided foil pan
- 2 4.5-lb pork shoulders
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salt (Pink Himalayan salt is my new personal favorite)
- 1/8 cup EACH: Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, Smokey Paprika, allspice, cumin, and Aleppo or Red Pepper flakes
- olive oil, about 1/4 cup
- 1 16-oz bottle Dr. Pepper (use regular, not diet)
- To serve: Texas toast or buns, dill or sweet pickle slices, favorite bottled barbecue sauce, tangy vinegar-based Carolina sauce (I like this recipe from The Noble Pig.)
Be sure to mix the meat in with the Dr. Pepper and pork juices that are in the bottom of the pan. With all the flavoring from the rub mixed in with this liquid, you may find you don’t even need a sauce!