"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Can You Go on Vacation When You're Retired?

     Last week I wrote a post called A Weekend Away, reporting on a short visit B and I made to Pennsylvania. In response reader Kirk wondered:  "Does it count as a 'vacation' when you're retired?"

     Kirk, I don't know if you're retired yet, or just contemplating it, but you raise an excellent point. If you're not working, how can you take a vacation?

     I bet a lot of you -- those who have just returned home from Thailand or Tucson or Texas, for example -- may have your own view on the matter. But for me to answer the question I have to take a slight detour.

     I remember when I was working I once took a stay-at-home vacation. I looked forward to cleaning out the basement, fixing a window frame in the garage that had rotted out, and doing some yard work. I wanted to build a fence around our garden to keep out the raccoons, the deer, and whatever else was gobbling up our vegetables.

     So I made arrangements to take a week off from work. During the first weekend, my wife and I just did our usual activities with the family. Then, on Monday, I figured I could luxuriate for a while in my free time. After all, I was on vacation! I planned to get up late, relax over a long breakfast, maybe read the paper, then start in on my work around the house.

     Instead, on Monday, my wife decided that I should drive our daughter to pre-school, while she took care of the baby. This would give her a much-needed break. Oh, and how about picking up a few groceries on the way home.

     So that morning, as usual, I gulped down a cup of coffee, then instead of rushing off to work, I rushed my daughter off to pre-school. After that I went to the grocery store. I had to go to the gas station; and then stop at Home Depot pick up some shelves and some bins for the basement.

My basement today: What's my excuse now?
     I actually got to the basement about 3 p.m., and spent an hour clearing things out, before heading back upstairs and getting embroiled once again in the kids and the evening routine. Tuesday went pretty much the same way as Monday. Then on Wednesday I did do some work in the morning.

     At the time we had a standing date with a babysitter on Wednesday evenings. It was a night out for my wife and me. But that Wednesday I decided I was falling behind and better get some work done. So my wife went to the movies with one of her girlfriends, while I was chopping away at rotten wood in the garage, then sawing boards and trying to slot them into the window frame. I got halfway done before my wife came home, the babysitter left, and I hit the shower to wash off the dirt and grime and tend to a few scrapes and scratches.

     I did finally get the window fixed that week. Then I started on the garden fence -- although I ran out of time and ended up taking a few shortcuts, so the fence was never put in to proper specifications. My fence did keep out some casual visitors to the garden; but never the determined residents of my yard. We got some vegetables that year, but fewer than I'd envisioned.

     By the end of the week I was exhausted and frustrated. And that was the last time I ever took a vacation and stayed at home. Because when you stay home, it's no vacation at all.

     After that experience, we spent vacations at the beach, or we went to visit grandma and grandpa, or we'd go for a week at a family-type resort. We'd go anywhere just to get away from our normal routine, have some real time off -- and so I wouldn't have to spend a week trolling around the basement and garage and digging in the dirt.

     Now, many years later, people ask me: If you're not working, if you don't have responsibility for kids, how can you go on vacation? Aren't you on vacation all the time?

     The answer is no. Because when you're home you still have your routine and your responsibilities. Maybe it's not a job. But it might be your volunteer work. Maybe it's not the kids; but it might be your grandchildren. And you still have a house to take care of -- or at least I do. And the car to fix, and the bills to pay, and dinner to cook and dishes to wash, and beds to make and groceries to buy.

     So Kirk, take some advice from this grizzled old veteran: If you want a vacation, a real care-free vacation, go away from home.


DJan said...

I so agree. I've been retired for six years now, and I still take vacations. Off to visit my sister in Florida, or down to southern California, usually away from the rain during the winter months. Well said, Tom.

Denise said...

Right on! As long as we have homes to maintain, it's not "vacation." And since I don't want to think about the alternative, there is vacation in retirement. Retirement is just living your normal life, but not having to account for your work time. The yard, the dishes, laundry is all STILL THERE!

Barb said...

Yep. While I may not have work or small children, I still have mainly filled days and a fair amount of regular activities-and the housework never disappears in retirement. Vacation is leaving behind volunteering, book group, deciding what to have for dinner and weeding the lawn-all those little parts of life!

stephen Hayes said...

Even though you're retired it's important to have planned events to look forward to, if only to mark the time. I'm beginning to have difficulty remembering which month it is, and the days of the week are starting to run together.

Olga said...

A vacation or holiday is a specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism. People often take a vacation during specific holiday observances, or for specific festivals or celebrations. Wikipedia

So, if you believe Wikipedia, yes, for sure you can take a vacation when retired.

Retired Syd said...

I'm going on vacation next week and besides just vacationing from the chores like house and yard work, it's nice to get away from even some of the things I love doing--like piano practice. I love it, but I'm happy to take a couple weeks off. It's much easier to take that time when there's not an actual piano staring you in the face.

Retired Syd said...

P.S. Not to mention it's easier to engage in some activities on "vacation," like reading, when you don't feel so guilty about not doing chores instead!

Anonymous said...

Retirement can be as busy as ever. David spent yesterday resealing tiles in an upstairs shower.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I so agree, Tom! We do get into our routines and have our responsibilities. Even though I love my semi-retirement and our life in an "active adult community" it has ceased to feel like a vacation and is simply regular life. A vacation is a total getaway as you said so well.

Kirk said...

My question was tongue in cheek, and I've been retired for the past 9 years. I still have a teenager at home, so my vacations often involve travel when she's out of school. I've also done a lot of independent travel both in the US and abroad; unfortunately my wife is not a big fan of long trips.

Anonymous said...

To me, vacation means no stress. It can be stressful to handle sitting in planes and airports and also dealing with rushing to the tour bus so it doesn't leave without you.
I personally prefer to stay home these days and just idle the day away, blogging or beautifying my home with flowers.

Douglas said...

If were were to be truthful and accurate, retirees would call them "trips" or, perhaps, "getaways." They aren't truly vacations but we are creatures of habit, aren't we? So we call them "vacations" because that's what we called them for just about all of our lives, it's what our parents called them (around us anyway) too. and, so, we continue the tradition.

As I write, I am contemplated our annual trip to San Diego in early April.

Tom said...

Kirk, I know you were tongue-in-cheek. Half the stuff I write is tongue-in-cheek. But you did raise a (semi) serious question. And I'm thinking of a follow-up on the subject as well. But, hmmm, maybe you're more of a grizzled old veteran than I at first thought (which, btw, is a compliment!).

Gigi, Maybe the one exception to the vacation rule is, if you live in Hawaii. Then maybe you always ARE on vacation!

And finally, Douglas, I am simply green with envy.

Anonymous said...

You touched a nerve: You were at home and still hired a babysitter? Mind-boggling. I've never heard of a woman who was working at home hiring a babysitter. Upholstering a couch is work; but, a woman so engaged is still expected to watch the kids. Etc, etc, etc.

When does a woman ever truly get to retire?

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh yes! I totally agree and would add-- DON'T tell your adult children or college aged grandchildren where you're going or you'll have company which means you'll just be taking the "work" with you.
Have a good weekend.

#1Nana said...

You are so right. I've been on vacation most of the month. I got back from Texas on Tuesday and have a huge list of things that need to be done at home…including the taxes. I'm ready for another vacation.

al said...

Here's a great solution:


Anonymous said...

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JoansGate said...

I've been retired about 2 years from full time nursing, went back for less than a year and now fully retired, going on 7 months. What people failed to mention is when one person wants to travel on occasion in retirement, and the other (husband) wants to stay home! It certainly isn't a vacation at home: cooking, cleaning, the market, the laundry, etc. Everyone needs a break from the routine. I'm already feeling bored with the housework-routine!

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