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What is the nature of a summer vacation? What separates it from the vacations of other seasons — from the escapes from bad winter weather or the high-energy getaways of spring break?
I’ve been considering this question for a while now, as the spring flowers finish their short blooming period and the first of the summer flowers — hibiscus and hydrangea and lily — begin to blossom in the heat.
What makes a summer vacation a summer vacation?
Surely they look different to everyone. Some people decide to reconnect with nature while it’s at its most vibrant, visiting national parks or camping close to home. Others choose to go farther than before, visiting destinations from Asia to Europe to Africa.
But all have a few similarities, I think.
The term “summer vacation” reminds us firstly of the end of school. We can almost all remember breathing a sigh of relief on the last day of school, thinking, “We’ve made it! We’re done — at least for now.”
I believe it’s this term, and the relief that it’s associated with, that lends great power to the summer vacations we take as adults.
We all welcome the summer as a time to engage deeper with our communities, ourselves and the natural world around us. Instead of having our noses in school books or in our work, we lift our eyes to the warmer weather, the more vibrant world, and all the possibilities that a true break can provide.
And it’s these possibilities that we create when we travel. Summer vacations are filled with possibility — we explore further, stay longer, engage deeper. Whether we’re encountering local wildlife or completely different cultural groups, we learn that our daily routines — whether it be school or work or child-rearing, or a mixture of all three and then some — do not have to be all work and no play, all forward progress and little contentment.
No, summer vacations are all about resting on our laurels.
Resting from a school year completed, resting from a winter of hectic uncertainty, resting from the challenges of the year before, the periods of decay and growth that can take so much energy…
This kind of rest doesn’t have to be physical. It can be taking time out of your day to cultivate contentment, training your brain to take note of everything you’ve already accomplished to motivate yourself for what is to come, or spending time away from screens to explore more of the beautiful summer world we all belong to now.
And part of this rest comes with the summer vacation.
So no matter where you roam this summer, take a little time out of your vacation to contemplate what it truly means to you: how does it encourage you to celebrate how far you’ve come? How does it change your perspective and encourage you to learn something new? How does it help you to rest, even if you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail or walking from one side of Paris to the next in a single day?
The answer might surprise you.
Lacey Pfalz is a freelance Associate Writer for TravelPulse. When she's not writing about traveling, she's often found fussing...
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