jodie johnson

Editor’s note: It’s a prime vacation week, so we’re dipping into our archives to republish a classic post from a few years ago about vacationing. The content is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

A friend recently forwarded me a fun Huffington Post article that challenged the definition of “vacation”. The writer said those of us who are parents often fall victim to thinking we’re taking “vacations” when we’re really taking “trips”. The article provided some fun screening questions to help you decide which you’re taking. For example:

  • If you work up a sweat packing the car for your vacation, you’re not taking a true vacation, instead you’re taking a trip.
  • If you’re meeting up with extended family members or in-laws on your vacation, yep, that’s also a trip.
  • If you’re trapped in your hotel room each night at 8pm because the kids need to sleep, don’t be fooled, you’re not on a true vacation.

Ok, so what’s a true vacation?

The author claims a true vacation is one where you get to just sit, read a book, and totally unwind. Stress and day-to-day life are completely abandoned for an extended period of time. You do nothing…and you recharge.

The concept makes me chuckle. If what the author is saying is true, I can’t quite remember my last true vacation! My family tends to go on trips, or what I like to call…adventures. We use our vacation time to do extended weekend trips camping in Door County, hiking at Devil’s Lake, and biking on the Elroy-Sparta rails-to-trails bike trail.

We also use vacation time to go to tropical or exotic places, but we do so with extended family and/or friends. And even then we’re going on hikes, snorkeling and site seeing. Rarely do we just sit and do nothing. We’re hard wired to go-go-go.

My husband and I are both engaged in our work. I work at a fast-paced, entrepreneurial company. And he runs his own business. And we also have two active kids who take music lessons, play baseball, basketball, soccer and swim. We go from busy mornings prepping the kids for school, to work, and then back to doing things for the kids. And when the kids go to bed, we jump back and do a bit more work before unwinding. When you do that day after day, it’s hard to switch gears and do nothing. When you have downtime, you tend to think, "What’s next? or “What could I check off my to-do list?" That tendency undoubtedly explains why I often hit the point of exhaustion around 10pm each day. And that I tend to feel like I need a vacation after returning from a "vacation".

Personally, I love my life full of adventures. We have a ton of fun and I’m never bored. However, this Vacation vs. Trip article really got me thinking. Maybe I could benefit from forcing myself to take a few true vacations - even if they were only an hour or two long.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll learn to enjoy nothing as much as I enjoy adventure. How do you like your vacations? Active and adventurous or relaxed and calm?