I am going on vacation very shortly, a matter of hours actually, and I was reflecting on the fact that this will probably not be much of a vacation for anyone. It will involve me driving with two small children and two other adults in a minivan from Guelph, Ontario to Savannah, Georgia, stopping to celebrate a family reunion with people I mostly do not know, then driving back to Guelph. I figure to spend roughly the same amount of time in the car as out of it, to eat vast amounts of bad restaurant food, and to sleep only as much as my children will sleep in unfamiliar surroundings. Suffice it to say that this may be my last post for a few days.
This got me thinking about what the word ‘vacation’ means. Because it involves the vacating of one space in order to occupy another, hopefully nicer place, it necessarily implies travel and distance, even if this distance is only small, and it implies that the space being left is somehow worse than the one being approached. The assumption is that the home and its worries need to be escaped in favour of some ideal place of relaxation and rejuvenation.
For me, however, the idea of vacation, even a more ideal vacation, is not attractive, both because it involves travel, which I generally do not like, and also because it involves vacating the space that I have painstakingly constructed to make me feel at home. I have to leave behind my library, my kitchen, my garden, and my neighbourhood, not to mention the friends who occupy those spaces with me. To vacate my home, therefore, is to remove myself from precisely the things I most enjoy, and all for the purpose of travelling uncomfortably, eating terribly, sleeping poorly, and conversing frivolously with people I hardly know.
I do not want vacations. I want holidays. I want holy-days, days that are set apart from the kinds of activities that consume my time and my energy, days that are devoted to the family, to the home, to reflection, to relaxation. I want, not to leave my home, but to inhabit my home more fully, to be more fully at home. Where a vacation tries to escape the things that trouble the personal and familial spheres, the holy-day consecrates these spheres anew, sets them apart once again, by purifying them for a time of the things that trouble them. I need fewer vacations and more holidays.