2009-10-10 / Viewpoints

Publisher’s point of view

ROBERT HOOFTALLEN

My family and I recently took a 9-day hiatus from our collective day-to-day life for a little togetherness and differentness on Hatteras Island.

It was my wife’s and my 12-year wedding anniversary, a reason to celebrate for sure, but that’s not the only reason we went.

We went for a lot of reasons, but the main reason was to be together.

To me, that’s what “vacations” are all about— being together every minute of every day in an environment totally different from the one in which we usually live.

We never go a year with out taking time off for ourselves. We call it vacation and I guess the trips fit that description. But “vacation” has a vocational escapism feel to it and our trips aren’t at all about escaping anything, not even work. Quite the contrary, actually. We stay in touch in every way possible— phones, email. We work from there, sparsely. I’ve even written this piece from there probably a dozen times over the years.

Our vacations are more about embracing the time of our lives than they are about getting away from our normal routine.

In life, we put things in two categories: things we should do and things we must do and those things are different for everyone. But, the bottom line is, whatever we decide we must do, we do, and the things that we should do end up on the list of things we wish we would have done.

For our family, taking a vacation at least once year for at least 9 or 10 days is a must do, no matter how clear it is to us that we can’t afford it—financially or otherwise.

We see vacation as an investment because that isolated time gives us the priceless opportunity to reaffirm our love for each other and create new bonds that will help our relationships endure.

Experience has proven this to be true so we are certain that no matter where we go, what we do or what the weather is, our vacation will be time well spent and the experiences we have will be woven into the fabric of the ties that bind us.

We also must go because of the priceless moments we’ll share— moments that are unique to the time and the place; moments that will never be forgotten; moments that can never be recreated.

This trip, for example, will be forever remembered by all of us as the “Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald” vacation. It was that famous song by Gordon Lightfoot that my children just couldn’t get enough of.

And it was the experience of them learning the song and singing along to it that their parents will treasure for a lifetime.

Watching them sing along with Lightfoot in the rearview mirror will always be one of our most precious memories and the memory would simply not exist if we hadn’t been on the road together.

It’s those kinds of moments that make our lives rich and worth living.

Vacation is a must do for us for a final reason: to celebrate a period in our lives.

Life is full of phases and when you have small children it is never more apparent how short those periods can be and how quickly they’ll pass you by.

There’s a grace to every period and every age and they’re all worth celebrating.

Celebrating our lives takes time and money, to be sure, but in our eyes it’s a great place to invest. It’s one of the reasons we work hard.

My wife and I have discussions often about where or how the money and time would be better spent and we simply can’t come up with any answers that feel right to us. That’s because we value our time together more than anything else.

That little, five-letter word, value, is, in my opinion, one of the most important words in human language. How we see value, where we see it and where we put it, is probably the most important thing we do in life.

Because every move we make in life is meant to add value to our existence in one way or the other. When we take any action, no matter what it is, we do it to gain pleasure or avoid pain— both of which add value our lives.

And what we value dictates how we live.

Unfortunately, in America most people will sacrifice their leisure time for what they believe they can gain materially in lieu of taking that time off.

Some countries mandate vacation—France being one of them and we know how wacky they are, right? Well, I wonder.

Because in America being a workaholic is cool, not a sign of deeper, emotional problems.

In American, trading in vacation days for cash or not using them at all is a sign of a “good worker” not a raving lunatic.

In America, we pamper and spoil our children with material things to appease our parental guilt, rather than clocking out and putting forth the energy and effort to spend real time with them.

In America, we put more focus on being the family with the best and most “stuff,” rather than being the one that stays together.

In America, we spend more energy keeping tabs with everyone we think we know (facebook, myspace, texting, emailing) than we do maintaining balance in our own lives.

In America… (you fill in the blanks here).

It’s our material envy that fuels our unhealthy values. We just can’t seem to put value in things we can’t own.

It was Albert Einstein who said: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

And I agree with him.

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