The problem we often face with family vacations is that we try to include too many activities and too little leisure into our daily schedule. We need no spreadsheet, no detailed plan, or no alarm clock to enjoy our time away from the constant pressures and responsibilities of our daily lives. There’s a simple joy in relaxing and letting life take us where it may.
I am learning this more and more as I grow older and perhaps a bit wiser. I still try to include several activities and destinations in my family’s travels, but I somehow manage to slow life down, to let everything simmer idly as I think the day away, and to let little moments occur that help foster relationships with my wife and children. And for most of our family vacation to the mountains, I succeeded… until the last day.
We awoke early, packed our overly abundant luggage into our little SUV, cleaned the floors of the cabin, shut off the water, locked the doors, and rushed away like startled rabbits. After a quick and unexpected lunch break, we drove hastily towards the New River for a short trip to my favorite place on earth, the Hawk’s Nest Dam.
Although we were forced to visit in haste, hurrying along the roads and paths towards the dam and rushing through our site–seeing adventure, we still managed to enjoy a few moments of stillness in our otherwise chaotic minds. We stared intently into the river. We watched as water crept its way through the partially open flood gates and then crashed into the pool of water below the dam. We climbed upon boulders which once topped the oldest mountains in the world. And we studied the changes brought from years of fluctuating water levels and currents.
A boulder which once leaned onto another, creating a tolerable shelter from rain for fishermen, had collapsed onto the ground. And the rock where in my youth, I spent hour upon hour and day upon day fishing, meditating, and building lifelong friendships has disappeared.
We had several days of leisurely enjoyment in the mountains and we all benefitted in our own way from the time outside. Do I feel bad that I rushed our last day by mandating a trip to Hawk’s Nest Dam? Not at all. The joy we found along the New River was well worth it.