This is a guest post by Neil Schott.
What’s the point of your vacation? It’s a pretty simple question on the surface, and most people probably would respond with a simple answer, "to relax." People think of a vacation as a chance to rejuvenate, relieve some stress, or to sit on a beach and drink beer while watching the sun go down. When they get back to their workplace the following week and people ask how their vacation was they always respond, “It was great, I didn’t do a thing.”
So what was the point? Is there a congratulations in order? You just blew a few thousand bucks to sit in a plane, stay at an all-inclusive resort, and never wander more than 50 feet from the beachside bar. I’m not saying that it’s bad to go on a vacation and simply relax. Hell, no one loves sand and beer as much as I do, and I’ve been on trips to Mexico myself… but there is one little word that makes a huge difference; trip. I don’t think that a vacation can revive your life; it’s a temporary pause button before you return to normal. A vacation to me simply means a break from work, but a trip means a journey. Sure, you may have seen the tourist destinations on your vacation: the golden gate bridge, the Eiffel Tower, even Disneyland. However, none of those pictures that you have stored on your zip drive changed you at all. When I have some time off I want to come back with an experience, a story, a perspective, and not just pictures. I want to get out of that tourist comfort zone, challenge myself, and to add onto another chapter of my life. That is how you truly revitalize yourself. You don’t just relax for a few days to escape your life, instead you go on an adventure that makes you change the way you view your life.
This isn’t a philosophy that I woke up with one day; instead, this has been one that I have had to learn through my experiences. I used to be a kayak guide and the first company I worked for specialized with people who have physical and cognitive disabilities. Every single person was unique except that they all shared one important trait- they challenged themselves every single day. I would spend five days paddling with my groups through the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, or the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, or anywhere else the company sent me. During these trips I had the privilege of meeting some fascinating people and learning their stories. These were people who didn’t let a disability stop them from doing the things they loved. They were using their hard earned days off to get out into the woods or on the water, which is not an easy thing for a wheelchair bound person. Trust me when I say that nothing in the backcountry is handicapped accessible; sand doesn’t just become concrete, and tree roots don’t sink into the ground. The amazing part of this job was the participants were there because they signed up for it; they knew the challenges and beat them every chance they got. I never heard anyone complain. They set up and broke down tents, slept in the rain, cooked dinner, and shared stories around the campfire. At the end of the trip they all learned something about themselves that changed the way they looked at their situation.
If you think that your life is so hard and stressful that you need to dodge it for a few days then don’t go on a vacation- go on a trip. Do you really want to use your time off as a chance to avoid your ordinary life, or do you want a trip that morphs your ordinary life into something you thought you couldn’t do? You don’t need to ski to the North Pole, or climb the Himalaya’s to accomplish this. You should still go wherever you want; you just need to put a little twist on your vacation. I dare you to turn your vacation into a trip instead. Scour maps, trace out routes and explore the area you are in. Set a goal and train to reach it. Escape from the resorts and chain restaurants and in its place find the hole-in-the-wall diners and talk to real people. Instead of staring at that volcano from your beach, go hike it. Rent bikes and bike the coastline. Push yourself a little more on each vacation and soon you will realize that you are taking a trip and vacations are a thing of your past. Take charge and be the author of your story instead of just taking pictures as time idles by. Get hooked on adventure, however you may define it.
If you want to relax then brew a cup of coffee, turn off your phone and TV, and slow down on a Saturday morning. If you want to revitalize then go on a trip that will change you. Walk away as a new person and use your experiences to grow. Trust me, that beer tastes a lot better after having pushed yourself during a trip than it does while sitting on a beach during your vacation.