Best Vacation Stories: Untaken Photos

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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A few years ago, an acquaintance heard me say that I never take formal vacations and butted in, “Well, you should. And you need to start this year.”

I smiled politely. Must be nice to order Disney World onto someone who can’t afford it like you can. When abrasive people tell me what to do, cordiality hardly masks my refusal of whatever wisdom they might impart. I need to find conclusions on my own.

The other truth about abrasive people, however, is that they’re difficult to forget. In this case, he was right. The guy’s seriousness took root. For the next three years, I rolled the idea around like a piece of furniture you want to keep but can’t decide where it fits. Disney was out of the question, but a road trip wasn’t. Canoeing on a manatee river wasn’t. A few days in New York City wasn’t. I just needed to start saving and get feedback from my wife and two pre-teen daughters.

They jumped on the idea. In January of 2013, we filled a page with possible locations, another with wish lists, and a third highlighting our intersecting points. These scribbled notes would serve as home base for our plan. We were going on a real vacation.

In the meantime, I had been writing stories about my childhood, an era when my own dad spent more time at the bar than home. He had neither vacation time to take, nor interest in doing anything of the sort. With his old failures so prominent in my mind and physically written down inches away from our vacation folder on the desk, I resolved all the more to do for my family what he never did for his: I would save, plan, and spend. I’d stretch far to serve them and to distance him. When June came, I’d hear my father concede from the grave that, yes, I was the better man.

Only the June I had expected never came. A house fire scare and resulting illness set off a series of events that began to paralyze us. I had no way of knowing this would become our most difficult summer. Even if I could, it didn’t appear to be unworkable yet. So I struggled when my wife asked questions like, “What if we altered this?” and “What if we changed that?”

I scrambled to adjust. I fought with anger. This is my clear shot at measurable proof. Why is it falling apart? I need this vacation to happen. But the roadblocks were too many. Too serious. I couldn’t let go, yet I couldn’t force it either. In effect, I was my dad’s son and my girls’ dad all at once, with each day bringing us closer to the deadline and farther from whatever hope remained.

Then suddenly I stopped. Just days prior to V-day, broken under confusing weight, I prayed, “God, what am I supposed to do?” I recounted how faithful I had tried to be, how hard I’d worked, how generous I felt about giving this gift. All I heard was this:

“You’ve resolved to take your family on vacation. I only need you to take care of your family. Maybe that’s a vacation, maybe it isn’t.”

I closed both folders on my desk. Set them aside. I said goodbye to my father and to Florida. Said goodbye to the exotic and expensive, and to the untaken photos I’d imagined for months—evidence of how much things had changed in one generation. Instead, we returned to what the girls requested from the very beginning. Wherever we went and for however long, “Could it involve animals and water?”

So the next morning, we drove an hour and a half to the zoo. We spent another afternoon at a working farm. And we swam at a hotel for three days in-between. Nothing fancy. Nothing like what I thought I wanted. But it was—according to them—exactly what they needed. A good old-fashioned vacation, something to make kids happy, especially when Mom and Dad let them eat ice cream off-hours, wake up late for cartoons, and swim till they couldn’t swim anymore.

It all worked out. In the end, it wasn’t just the kind of vacation we took that changed. It was me, too.


Best Vacation Stories

While the stereotypical summer vacation usually involves a cabin or a beach, the vacations most of us take are much less nostalgic and far more varied than that. Or even if there is a beach or a cabin, it’s not the one we see in movies or read in books. Some of the best vacations, in fact, don’t involve packing or traveling at all; they happen in the backyard or on the front porch. At The High Calling, we’re telling some of our best vacation stories, the ones where things didn’t turn out as expected, where plans changed and so did we. So, whether you have reserved your favorite hotel or just a spot in Grandma’s spare bedroom, join us as we share what happens when we step away from everyday for vacation. And if you like these stories, why not share them with a friend or tell one of your own favorite vacation stories.