Vacating the Premises: Reflections on Getting Away from It All

Linking with the fine people at The High Calling for their week on vacation reflections. . .


 Oh, yeah, this was a LONG time ago. One of our almost-annual treks to Mammoth Lakes in the eastern Sierras to stay with my husband’s extended family and fish, play board games, hike to town, enjoy the beauty.

Many years ago, I began a bi-monthly gathering for women just behind me in the mothering cycle, most of whom had brand new babies and maybe a toddler or two. At some point during those five years, I was asked a good question:

What one thing would you recommend we do to encourage the building of a cohesive and committed family unit?

My response surprised a few, I think. It wasn’t particularly ‘spiritual’ in nature. I did not recommend a regular family worship time, though I believe that is a fine idea for many families. I did not recommend regular church attendance, though that, too, is great to do. I came close to saying this: “Find a way to offer service together as often as you can,” because I believe that is an essential ingredient. And service can look like a lot of things, beginning with the practice of hospitality in your own home.

No, I didn’t say any of those things. Instead, this is what I said:

Find a way to get away every single year. Make traveling as a family a priority, no matter what that looks like for you. 

And I stand by those words. I believe there is nothing better that we can do for our children, for our spouses or for ourselves than to get a glimpse of God’s greater world, to tickle our toes under the sheets in a place that is new to us, to look at the wonders of nature, the complexities of city life, or the remarkable diversity at play in human culture.

So if I had to pick one such getaway and call it ‘the best,’ I would hesitate. A lot. Why? Because every trip was the best. The best we could do for that year, the best destination for us at that point in time, the best. True, some were better than others. But even the rough ones have made for great storytelling. So maybe I’ll string a few of those less-than stellar ones together in a short list and leave it at that.

The year we rented a trailer, sight unseen, saw it coming toward us over the freeway overpass which went directly over our chosen trailer park and realized that FIVE of us would be cramped into 14 feet for a full week And one of us was 14-months-old and getting an ear infection. 

The year we pulled a rented tent trailer, not realizing our station wagon didn’t have a hearty enough transmission to get us there and back. 

The year we put camping gear on top of our car and never took it off because it rained every single day for 3000 miles of National Park trekking.

The time we crept to a motel from our soggy tent at 5:00 a.m., trenches and tarps having totally failed to keep the deluge at bay.

The time I backed our rented car into an unseen cement post below the van’s back window. Thank goodness we bought insurance that trip. 

Our 30th anniversary trip to Italy which was part fiasco and part triumph, involving a lost wedding diamond, and a couple of miraculous discoveries. (A story told at another website earlier this month.)

And, of course, no list of mine would be complete without this one. The two times early in our married life when we took a camping trip without the poles for our tent. True, it was two different tents on two different continents, but still. Twice?

Yes, twice.


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  1. Those “remember the time that….” stories bind us together like nothing else can. My young adult children are scattered across the states, and we don’t get to see each other very often at all. But nobody else on the planet has those kind of shared times, and that is what helps hold us together. We didn’t travel far and wide, due to the Mr.’s work and him only being able to get away the occasional long weekend, so we early on opted for a little cottage at the coast. So most of the mishaps and hilarity occurred as I was there or schlepping back and forth solo parenting with three kiddos. This brought back so many memories, and I think you gave very good advice to your women’s group.
    Think of you often, in your recovery process. A hectic spring here continues into summer, just now read the Italy/anniversary piece. Isn’t it amazing the things we can convince ourselves we just have to do, then looking back later, it is a ‘what were we thinking’ moment. Always enjoy the gift you bring us with your words.

    • Exactly, Judy. “Nobody else on the planet has those kind of shared times. . . ” Nail on the head with that one. Thanks so much for your encouragement!

  2. “Because every trip was the best. The best we could do for that year, the best destination for us at that point in time, the best.” I like that, Diana. And your stories remind me of the year we drove to S.C. in a car without a muffler and had to pull over about an hour in and duct tape a part back onto the car – that was the year my Mom was waiting for a transplant, we all wondered whether it would be her last Christmas. The weather was grim, the stress was heavy and I was five months pregnant with #2. That was such a season of letting go. As always, I love your stories. Thanks.

    • Oy vey – car troubles. Too many stories to count! But being 5 months pregnant with a toddler? 10 times worse! Nice to see you here, my friend.

  3. Sandy Hay says

    My parent only took us on 1 family vacation…EVER. For my Dad is was a fiasco, recluse that he was. My sister and I have only recently been reminising about those days to Williamsburg, DC and the Skyline Drive . We were 8 and 10 and can still remember giggles 🙂

    • I’m so sorry to read this, Sandy! Even if it’s just down the highway a small piece, getting away from the familiar can be so invigorating. Glad you have at least one story to share with your sister.

  4. Love this, Diana. Your advice is poignant, and the stories, hysterical. When I was writing about my “best” vacation stories, they were a little surprising, like yours. The memories that stand out the most were the ones where we made the best of a not-so-good situation.

    Thanks for this post, and for linking up at The High Calling.

  5. Absolutely loved this advice you gave to those just behind you. I think maybe you should start “cabining” like my sister and I do now. No need for tent stakes 🙂 Said a little prayer for you this morning…

    • Oh, honey, we gave up camping LONG ago. It never really was our thing – we tried it, several times, but as Dick became more successful and our kids bigger and harder to lug around, we went to motels/cabins/rental houses. And we still do that. We rent through VRBO or HomeAway for every trip. A home-away-from-home has become our motto. Thanks for the prayer!!

  6. I think you hit the nail on the head with that advice, Diana! My favorite memories of childhood are the treks we made every summer to visit family in Massachusetts, a LONG way from Georgia! As I was divorced when my children were quite young, we went on several trips with my parents, but I always took them to our annual family church retreat in the North Georgia mountains. Oh, what precious memories we made there!
    Now, my husband and I go “camping,” in luxury mountain cabins. 🙂 More memories!

    • And such memories are a rich resource for years and years, aren’t they? Thanks for reading and for leaving encouraging words, Martha!

  7. It is the stuff of family stories told and retold. We laugh as though hearing and experiencing them for the first time. And the grandkids sit spellbound and beg for more.
    This was great!
    P.S. I know all about those soggy camping trips 🙂

    • I think most people know about soggy camping trips if they’ve ever tried to get away with small children on a tiny budget! Thanks for reading, Linda – always so glad to see you!

  8. Your stories are so fun, Diana. We were happy to see you among the links so far at The High Calling. Isn’t this a great theme? We were hoping for a few good stories where things didn’t go exactly as planned. And yours certainly fit the bill! 🙂

    Have a great summer.

  9. The only *real* vacation I remember growing up was when my parents took me out of school, and we set off for Tucson, Arizona. I don’t know what they did with my brother and sister. It was a great trip… seeing tumbleweeds in Texas, a gunfight on the street, big cacti in the desert. I remember a travel size chess set, and Dad and I played over the back seat while Mom drove. I did homework. And could hardly wait to jump into the pool–even through it was only about 50 degrees. We tried to do a lot of different things with our kids… Williamsburg, DisneyWorld, a cruise… but mostly just camping. Great memories.

    • Sandy – so glad to see you here! ANYWHERE you go is a great place to go, I think. Even if it’s quite nearby. I look at my weekly trips to the beachside as mini-vacations. So glad you got to do more of all kinds of trips with your own kids than your parents were able to do with you.