You may have noticed that it's been a while since I posted an article on this blog. That's because my wife and I have been away on an extended vacation out west visiting the "Big 5" National Parks in Utah: Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef. We also spent several days at the Lake Powell National Recreation Area (Glen Canyon) in Arizona.
The featured photo is one we took at one of our favorites (and judging by the number of visitors there, many others' as well)—Zion National Park. It is the entrance to what is known as "The Narrows" on the canyon floor. Unfortunately, it was closed to hikers when we were there due to high water. You can read more about them here.
Our trip started in Denver (where we attended our grandson's high school graduation) and then we rented a vehicle and headed west. We were gone over 3 weeks—the longest trip ever for either of us. We drove a lot too. According to the car rental company, we logged almost 2,500 miles! (Glad I didn't have to pay by the mile.)
It wasn't that I couldn't have written something. I had an iPad with me, and we stayed in hotels with sketchy WIFI that worked most of the time—kind of, somewhat (it was mostly just very slow).
But I wanted to disconnect from my computer and keyboard for a while, except for occasional texting and email with our children and grandchildren back home. I needed to give my brain a rest from all the writing I have been doing over the last 6 months or so (this blog, a stewardship class for my church, and 2 book projects—more on that soon).
I certainly don't presume that you even noticed or that you spent each day wondering when the next update was going to show up in your inbox. I know this blog is not that important or a significant a part of your life (although I do hope you find it helpful from time to time).
I only mention it because I try to keep up a fairly regular schedule of posts (every 2 weeks or so) and I wanted to let you know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, nor am I going to just quietly "fade away" as many bloggers do. I intend to continue to do the work of what Tim Challies affectionately refers to as a "plodding blogger."
I also want to share some thoughts about what may sound like an oxymoron: our "vacation from retirement." Not because our trip was special or so different than those that many people take every year (other than it may have been a little longer and therefore something I couldn't do when I was counting my vacation days at work), but I want to discuss vacationing in the context of retirement.
A vacation from retirement, really?
At this point, you might be thinking, "So how exactly does a 'retired' person take a vacation in the first place. Aren't you always on vacation?"
Okay, I know that sounds a little sarcastic, but it is a valid question.
Many people approach retirement as an endless vacation, but for most people, it isn't (nor should it be.) If it were, they couldn't, logically speaking, take a vacation from vacation, right?
Retirement for me initially felt like more of a stay-at-home vacation—a "staycation." I wasn't going to a regular job every day, but I was still busy with a lot of different things.
Maybe you've taken a "staycation" and spent your time cleaning out the attic, garage, or basement, or making some much-needed repairs and catching up on some long-neglected yard work.
If so, perhaps it would be better described as a "workcation."
But if you practice biblical retirement stewardship, some type of productive activity (i.e., "work") will likely be an integral part of your life. It can take many forms and will look different for each individual.
Therefore, it really does make sense to take a vacation from retirement, and here are what I see as a few of the benefits:
Vacations change things up; they're disruptive, but usually in a good way.
Having a daily routine can be a good thing, but it can also put us in a 'rut.'
If you are a retiree, your routine may look a lot like mine. You get up about the same time each morning, perhaps have a quiet time (devotional reading and prayer), maybe check the news, email, or social media, work out (I like to take long walks) or start working on other projects or volunteer activities (not necessarily in that order), then have dinner and watch some TV and then later off to bed.
The next day you start all over again.
Even if you're not retired, your routine may be very similar—just insert "head off to work" instead of "working on other projects or volunteer activities" at some point.
When you get away from home for a vacation, it breaks your regular routine and gives you a different perspective on your everyday life.
It is also a great way to broaden your horizons—to experience something entirely new. (For example, in our case, OHV 4-wheeling in the desert in the Sand Hollow State Park in southwest Utah.)
Vacations—even active, busy ones—can be a form of rest, which is strongly encouraged in the Bible.
God created the cycles of work and rest. In his wisdom, he knew that it would be good for our bodies and our souls. Plus, it images him—he rested as well (Gen. 2:2-3).
Under the New Covenant, "Sabbath rest" is, most importantly, the spiritual rest we find in Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:28-30).
We can enjoy this Sabbath rest every day, and especially on The Lord's Day, which for most is Sunday. We also have the promise of an eternal rest in the presence of Christ and the glories of heaven (Heb. 4:9,11).
But God also instituted the Sabbath for purposes of physical rest (Deut. 5:13-15; Ex. 31:16-17). As finite creatures who bear God's image but who get fatigued, we are commanded to rest just as God rested in creation.
Some people enjoy quiet, slow-paced, peaceful vacations. They find a beautiful spot just to chill out—to sit and relax and enjoy a view of the mountains or the lake, or the sound of the ocean. That leaves them rested and refreshed, ready to return to their jobs or the "work" of retirement.
Even vacations that involve a lot of activity (like the one my wife and I just took—we went hiking almost every day) or doing something exciting or adventurous (like our 4-wheeling trek in the desert) can also be restful and relaxing, just in a different way.
Strangely, if you take an active vacation, you can return physically tired but emotionally and spiritually refreshed.
I think God has graciously provided all of these things—and especially his physical creation—for our benefit and enjoyment (James 1:17).
A vacation can give you new opportunities to experience the beauty, majesty, and wonder of God's glorious creation.
The Bible says that God's creation is one of the ways he has made himself known; especially, his creative power and the glory of all that he has made (Gen. 1:31; Ps. 19:1-6; Ps. 104:31; Rom. 1:20).
We live in a beautiful state (North Carolina) where we have mountains and beaches and everything in between. But vacationing out west allowed us to see things we never have before.
As we visited several of the national parks in Utah, we were continually struck by the beauty and diversity, and also how different they were from what we are most familiar with on the East Coast.
My wife and I had a lot of casual discussions about geology—rock formations, etc. (This is something neither of us knows a lot about.) We know that science can tell us a lot about such things, and as Christians, we believe that they don't argue against the existence of a Creator-God, they attest to Him.
I agree with Cambridge professor of experimental physics Russell Cowburn's assessment in a YouTube video when he said,
Understanding more of science doesn't make God smaller. It allows us to see his creative activity in more detail.
That's exactly how we felt as we visited the national parks in Utah. We saw God's creative activity up-close in lots of different ways—the wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of the rocks, hills, and mountains.
We were particularly struck by the majesty of the mountains at Zion and the unique formations of the "hoodoos" at Bryce Canyon, and the slot canyons near Lake Powell in Arizona known as Antelope Canyon, which are only accessible with the help of a Navajo Indian guide.
Vacation can be a great way to build relationships with family and/or friends.
Although we sometimes vacation with friends or family, only my wife and I took the trip to Utah. We basically spent 3 weeks of virtually uninterrupted time together. This allowed us to draw closer, share experiences, regularly talk about what we were seeing and doing, and to have occasional conversations about things "back home."
As I mentioned, we also did a lot of hiking together. There was something special about attempting a relatively difficult one (for us), engaging in some mutual encouragement, and then sharing in the accomplishment at the end.
Being away from home—and apart from other family members and friends—can cause us to appreciate them more. We missed our children and grandchildren, and we missed our church friends.
It is easy to take friends and family for granted, and an extended time away from them serves as a reminder that they are a good gift from God (Ps. 127:3-5; Prov. 27:9).
If you vacation with friends or family, it can deepen your relationships. Taking part in fun activities together can strengthen the relational bonds of friendship and family. There may be some difficult times—that comes with the territory. But if they are handled constructively, relationships are further strengthened as you resolve disagreements and conflicts.
Vacations are (mostly) just plain fun. Therefore, they can lower stress and improve your overall well-being.
There is nothing unbiblical about having a good time unless it's taken to an idolatrous extreme. The Bible encourages us to enjoy the gifts that God has graciously given us, and we should enjoy them with a clear conscience (James 1:17; Ecc. 5:19).
Time away from your usual responsibilities can be good for you, especially if you have a particularly difficult or stressful job. If that's not the case, it's still good to get away for a while. You may return renewed and refreshed for the challenges that lie ahead.
Also, if you have been wrestling with a particular problem or difficult decision, you might come up with some new ideas or even an entirely new perspective on your situation.
Unless your vacation is like a bad Chevy Chase vacation movie, you will have fun and…well…fun is fun. Sure, there will be some glitches along the way, as Clark Griswold experienced on a regular basis.
This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. A quest for fun. – Clark Griswold
We hopefully won't run into as many challenges as Clark and his family did, but even if we do, we can continue to puruse our "quest for fun."
Vacations can give you an increased awareness of the importance, meaningfulness, and joy of being a part of a local church.
Most Christians love their local church. We do because of the worship, teaching and preaching, shared mission, community life, and mutual care we experience together with our pastors and fellow believers.
We attended a church in Denver while we were on vacation. It was good to worship and hear a sermon, but it wasn't the same as being at our own church. We only knew the family we went with among the several thousand people who were there (it was a very big church).
Protestant, evangelical churches seemed to be conspicuously absent in Utah (at least in the towns and cities we visited). But nowadays, fortunately, most churches have websites where you can keep up with what's going on and listen to messages, and even communicate with others. So, on Sunday mornings, I listened to the previous week's sermon from my home church.
If you're like me, you miss your church and those you fellowship with there when you're gone for a while. I was able to be with several friends for an early morning book study today, and as I write this (which will be last week when you read it), I am anticipating being back at church this coming Sunday for the first time in 4 weeks!
Vacations cost money and take some planning.
You can spend a little or a lot on vacation. If you drive a short distance and camp, you may spend very little. If you travel long distances, you will spend a little more, even if you camp out or stay with friends or relatives.
If you fly, rent a car, stay in hotels, and eat a meal out each day, you will spend much more.
I see no problem with "splurging" on a nice vacation once in a while, especially if you plan for it by saving up ahead of time while not neglecting your other financial responsibilities (giving, saving for emergencies and retirement, paying off debt, etc.) But no one can tell you how to spend on vacation; that's between you and God.
I have a "vacation fund," which is actually a "sinking fund" that I track virtually (using money management software) along with several others that are all part of a single savings account.
I have been saving for about a year for this long trip so that we would not be in debt when it's over; our vacation won't "follow us home" as Dave Ramsey likes to say.
Was this a big splurge for us? Yes, it was. But it's not something we do every year; in fact, we have never taken a vacation that lasted more than 10 days.
It's not something I would do regularly; I would prefer to fund travel with money set aside from my regular retirement "income," not via withdrawals from retirement savings. But I don't think its necessarily wrong to do so if you can afford to.
Vacations can be good for the economy, and provide an opportunity for generosity toward those who serve us along the way.
You may think it strange that I bring this one up, but it's true.
According to the US Travel Association, the vacation/travel industry in the US in 2018 was a $1.1 Trillion industry, generating a total of $2.5 Trillion in economic output and supporting 15.7 Million U.S. jobs!
Think about it. Unless you sleep in your car, an RV, or a tent (which also cost money—directly or indirectly), you will spend money on hotels or other accommodations. You may cook your own meals, but many people eat at least some meals at restaurants. You may take a tour or a cruise, which all cost money.
All of these create jobs and an economic benefit to individuals and communities. So, interestingly, when you take a vacation, you are actually helping others.
A lot of these jobs are minimum wage positions such as waiters, housekeepers, clerks, etc. You can help them and express gratitude and generosity by tipping those who serve you.
Most people don't think twice about tipping a waitress or waiter (although many of us should tip more), did you know that only about 30% of guests leave a tip for their hotel housekeepers?
In my experience, most housekeepers are women, and I suspect that many of them are working moms. Their families could really benefit from a few extra dollars, especially if they are only making $10.00 an hour cleaning up our messes.
Go for it!
Whether you are retired or not, a vacation can add a lot to your life. If you haven't taken one in a while, start planning (and saving). You can take a minimalist approach or go big—it's up to you. No matter what, it will probably enrich your life and help you to be better prepared to take on whatever lies ahead.
(By the way, if you can find a lot of good information about Utah's national parks at https://utah.com/national-parks.)