Everyone advised me to take time off between jobs. Everyone. Given that the Kee family is about to embark on major life adventures – with me starting a new job in a new community; Kathleen starting a new school; and Jacob beginning McGill – many people offered advice on how to cope with our upcoming change. Some said to take a good month off; others advised that the amount of time was not as important as the need to actually get away. My husband Kevin and I really thought about what our ideal holiday could include, and we decided to totally splurge on a two-week family trip to France.
But when we really thought about what it meant to “take time off,” we decided that in addition to time and place, we actually needed a third criteria: a complete break from email or anything work-related. For the first time in years, I didn’t have a professional book with me, and I didn’t have any access to email or social media.
The combination of extended time in a beautiful and interesting place, with no ties to regular life, created what our kids started calling – the dream vacation. We were trying to be quite mindful of our dream vacation, so we planned our outings (and our food!) each day. As those of you with teens understand, our kids sometimes could be cynical. Whenever we were faced with our trip not going as planned, like when we were lost or when it poured rain on our bike ride, the kids would lower their voices and snicker, “Dream vacation”. But every night over dinner, we came to enjoy recounting the day’s adventures, and we focused on describing certain moments – highlights for each of us. A few of mine include the following:
- We turned a corner on our bike path along the Loire Valley and suddenly, as we pushed to get up a hill, we realized that we were between two enormous, as-far-as-the-eye-could-see fields of sunflowers. I remember gasping at the beauty.
- We sat at the Louvre, staring at “Liberty Leading the People,” and Kevin came to life explaining the context. The kids and I marveled that he could recount so much history but also explain it in such a compelling way. The moment was certainly the inspirational painting, but it was also this chance to be reminded of a strength of personality that we don’t have time to appreciate daily.
- As we sat under a tree in the rain, we remembered that we had two umbrellas. Kathleen and Kevin sat under one, and Jacob arranged the second without realizing that he had left me completely uncovered. When Kathleen laughed and pointed to me sitting completely in the rain between two umbrellas, Jacob said, “But then my legs would be exposed.” Almost immediately he was startled by the selfishness of what he had said, and we all laughed. At other points on the trip, when there was a quiet moment, one of us would whisper, “But then my legs would be exposed,” and we laughed every time.
I guess my point is that a dream vacation includes beauty, inspiration, laughter and joy. We are so grateful for our experience! But now that I am back, I realize I want to try to do two things: I want to seek opportunities for moments on a daily basis, and I want to take time to feel them and relive them. My hope is that our dream vacation is not limited to two weeks in France.
And as we head into the second month of summer, my hope for you is that you have many moments of beauty, inspiration, laughter, and joy. More importantly, may you take the time to know – really know and feel! – that you are experiencing a moment, and enjoy that moment too.