Are You Ready for a Vacation?
SUMMER in the Northern Hemisphere is at hand. Soon millions will be going on vacation. But vacations are by no means restricted to summer. Tourism has become a year-round business, bringing in billions of dollars annually. Although most vacationers travel inside their own country, foreign travel, once limited to the wealthy, is now commonplace.
Vacation time allotted by employers varies from country to country. In 1979, only 2 percent of the German labor force received six weeks’ vacation, but now by far the majority do. The average vacation for industrial workers in Western Europe is over five weeks.
Vacations Have Their Place
Vacation originally meant something quite different from what it means today. The New Encyclopædia Britannica explains: “The modern practice of vacations . . . is derived from the ancient Roman religious calendar in a reverse fashion. More than 100 days of the year were feast days dedicated to various Roman gods and goddesses. On the days that were sacred festivals, and thus holy days, persons rested from their routine daily activities. Days that were not considered sacred were called dies vacantes, vacant days, during which people worked.” Rather than being days of work, the “vacant days” of modern times are days of rest.
Germans like to call vacations “the best weeks of the year.” Workaholics, on the other hand, may consider today’s “vacant days” to be vacant indeed, devoid of meaningful activity. But this would be an extreme view. A balanced viewpoint accepts the wisdom of periodically getting away from the normal routine, doing something different, and relaxing.
The positive aspects of vacations were confirmed in a 1991 survey of European business executives, 78 out of every 100 of whom said vacations are “absolutely necessary to prevent executive burn-out.” Fully three fourths felt vacations improved job performance, and over two thirds said vacations improved creativity. More colorfully, 64 percent of the women and 41 percent of the men agreed with the statement: “I would go bananas without a regular vacation.”
Travel, an Education in Itself
Seventeenth-century English physician and writer Thomas Fuller wrote: “He that travels much knows much.” Travel allows us to get acquainted with people from other places, to learn about their customs and their way of life. Traveling in countries that have living standards lower than our own can teach us to be grateful for what we have and can awaken in us feelings of empathy for people less fortunate than ourselves.
If we let it, travel can correct misconceptions and allay prejudices. It provides an opportunity to learn firsthand at least a little bit of a new language, to try out dishes that may delight our palate, or to enhance our family photograph album, slide collection, or video library with examples of the beauties of God’s creations.
Of course, to benefit the most, we must do more than just travel. The tourist who travels halfway around the world only to hole up in a hotel among fellow tourists—many of them his own countrymen—to swim at the hotel’s private pool or beach, and to eat the same food he has at home will learn little. What a pity! According to reports, a majority of travelers apparently fail to take a serious interest in the countries that they visit or in the people there.
Samuel Johnson, an 18th-century English essayist and poet, said that a man who travels “must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.” So if you have occasion to travel, prepare for your trip. Read about your destination before you go. Plan what you want to see, and decide what you want to do. Then prepare accordingly. For example, if you want to stroll on the beach or hike in the mountains, take along proper shoes and clothing.
Do not try to cram too much into your schedule and thus carry over the stress of everyday life into your vacation. Leave plenty of unplanned time for doing unexpected things. One of the real benefits of being on vacation is having time to think and meditate without the pressure of a tight schedule, feeling liberated from the stress and restrictions of living by the clock.
A very rewarding vacation may even include hard work. Doing something different is generally the key to a good vacation. For example, a nonprofit organization in the United States called Volunteer Vacations arranges for volunteers to spend vacations maintaining national parks or forests. One volunteer said he worked very hard, but he enjoyed it so much that he decided to repeat the experience a year later.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often use vacations for traveling to Christian conventions or to further their public ministry. Some use their vacations to work at the headquarters or branch facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their respective countries, and they enjoy the experience. Afterward, many of these write letters of appreciation for the privilege.
Yes, vacations can be most pleasant, even the best weeks of the year. No wonder children count the days till they arrive! Yet, there are things that you need to guard against. The following article will explain.