When my husband and I got engaged, my church recommended we attend a series of what amounted to counseling sessions before we tied the knot. Out of all the topics we discussed—children, religion, communications—my husband said one thing that stood out from all the rest. He said this thing was very important to him. It was: Vacation.
I remember looking at my husband with curiosity. It was true we had met over spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It was true that on our next spring break, we flew to Acapulco—and purchased into a timeshare resort. It was true that for the first few years of our relationship, we lived three hours apart and visited each other on weekends. In a way, our relationship was built on vacation. But I hadn’t realized how important taking an annual vacation was for him until we sat in that room, and he said it.
Like I said, hooray, because vacations help strengthen relationships, right, and I was in this one for the long haul.
I guess I was surprised because my family didn’t take big vacations. As a child, I hadn’t gone to the Grand Canyon or Disneyland or Washington D.C. Still, some of my fondest childhood memories took place at my grandparents’ homes—a six-hour drive down I-55 from the suburbs of Chicago to the wooded hillside outside St. Louis. We covered that route hundreds of times—with three kids jammed in the backseat and a dog wedged between my parents in the front seat—and we can recount plenty of stories about our adventures, including tornadoes, snowstorms and one specific incident concerning ice-spitting.
I’ve since done some research. According to the NPR article, “Relax! Vacations Are Good for Your Health,” the more leisure time, including travel, you incorporate into your life, “the better you feel and the healthier you are.”
For my honeymoon, I made sure to plan a special trip—a big vacation—for my husband and me. So, we traded our Acapulco timeshare for a couple weeks in Hawaii.
Many people ask me what inspired our move to Hawaii. They ask if my husband is in the military. If my husband is Hawaiian. If a job transferred one of us.
No. No. No.
We came for our honeymoon. We came back for vacation. Again and again and again and again.
According to the same NPR story mentioned above, “People who had more leisure activities ‘reported more life satisfaction, finding more meaning in life,’ says [Karen] Matthews [of the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center]. ‘They tended to be more religious [and] spiritual in orientation. They reported having a lot of support from friends and having a large network of friends and family.’”
It’s no surprise to hear that studies show vacation can lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones and generate overall feelings of well-being. For me, vacation gave me a new home. My husband and I moved to Hawaii for the same reasons we vacationed here: The warm weather, the ocean and the myriad of activities available to us--from golf, running and hiking to paddling outrigger canoes, snorkeling and diving.
Now that we live in Hawaii, we get asked all the time: When you live in paradise, where do you go on vacation?
The short answer is Squaw Valley, California—I just returned this past Sunday—but the long answer is Big Island, Oahu, Maui, Canada, Mexico, Napa Valley. And the list goes on. But the truth is we do not light out for the territory, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, as much as we once did and certainly not as much as crotchety old Sam Clemens did, either.
Could that explain my husband’s recent work-related injury—his first sidelining accident of his life? Or could it be age?
According to the Framingham Heart Study, mentioned in the NPR article, more than 12,000 men at risk for heart disease were tracked for nine years and questioned annually about vacations. The result?
“The more frequent the vacations, the longer the men lived,” says Matthews.
So, once the husband heals, we’ll be packing our bags. New Zealand’s on the list. Fiji, too. Maybe we'll hop over to Oahu to see the new "Return to Waikiki" dinner show, featuring one of my favorite Hawaiian musicians--Makana.
How about you? Do you believe in vacations? What benefit have you derived from regular vacations?