Each time I’ve undergone a job search, one of the first compensation questions that I’ve asked is “How much vacation time do I get?”
For my husband & I, in these “pre-family” years, traveling has been a priority. We enjoy seeing & experiencing new things & learning from different people & cultures.
This year, my husband & I were ecstatic to be able to string two consecutive weeks together to vacation in New Zealand. Compared to most people we know who take, at most, a week-long vacation, we felt as though we were incredibly fortunate to be able to take this long of a vacation. Yet, upon arriving in New Zealand, we began meeting people from all over the world, from nations where the standard vacation allotment is 4-6 weeks. In fact, we met one woman, Barbara, from the Czech Republic, who was in New Zealand for one month & yet remarked, “One month is not enough time to travel, but this is all the time I have for my holiday.”
This got me thinking: What are we, in the States, missing because of our success-driven, fast-paced culture that seldom allows us to take extended “holidays”?
Our standard of living may be higher in the States than in other countries (though perhaps even that is starting to decline), but at what cost?
Many Americans work extremely long hours, 50 weeks a year, and seldom take time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. On those rare weeks when we do take vacations, we typically view them as an escape from the stress & responsibility of our normal lives; As a way of running away from whatever currently weighs on our hearts.
Yet, elsewhere around the world, vacations are called “holidays” and the emphasis seems to be not on what people are escaping, but rather on where they’re going; On what they’ll experience once they get there; On meeting new people; And on taking time to rest, play, and to celebrate life.
All this was on my mind yesterday as I returned to the office for the first time since returning from my New Zealand holiday. In preparation for a prayer night I’m planning for next week, I’m currently reading Mark Yaconelli’s “Downtime: Helping Teenagers Pray” and was struck by this passage:
“The basic expression of our life in God is found in what the early monastics referred to as “holy leisure.” Leisure, in the spiritual sense of the word, describes a “condition of the soul”. It is a receptivity & gratefulness to the mystery & wonder of being alive in the world. Holy leisure is a spiritual attitude that seeks to behold the mystery of God’s life & creation beneath the activities & the roles we perform.”
It seems to me that without realizing it, as evidenced by the way they travel, my new friends from elsewhere around the world grasp this concept of “holy leisure” far more than I. Yet their example gave me a brief taste of what this holy leisure might look like in my life – on holidays and at home. I hope that this taste is enough for this attitude to continue to permeate the way I live the rest of the year as well, with an air of celebration and the ability to take time to rest, play, & to be receptive to the mystery & wonder of being alive in the world.