Monday, May 16, 2011

The Value of Vacations

by Suzie Johnson
I was forty-three when I took my first real vacation. Over more than twenty years of marriage, we had gone away overnight once in a while, usually to Eastern Washington. That never really counted as a vacation in my mind because we always went to see some obscure steam train that was passing through for rail-fans – my husband is a rail-fan of the most intense kind. Actually, I think he’s a little more than a fan. I teasingly call him a “foamer” – an expression I learned from my favorite amateur television detective, Jessica Fletcher. She used the term to refer to rail-fans that foam at the mouth at the thought of a train.

Whenever these steam engines pass through Eastern Washington, my husband likes to “chase” them. He takes roads off the beaten path that parallel the railroad tracks. I’m instructed to hang out the window and take pictures. When the train reaches its destination, he spends hours taking pictures and talking to the “guys” while I read. It’s not that I don’t like trains; I would just rather ride them than chase them. Afterwards, he likes to go hobby-shop hunting while I read. I do get a lot of reading and writing done this way, but it’s not my idea of a vacation.

Not after I finally experienced a real one.

What I learned from that very first vacation, almost two weeks away from work, household chores, and daily stress, is how important it really is to get away from it all.

We know Jesus did this. He didn’t go on two week vacations – that we know of – but he did go off by himself to pray and rest in his father’s presence. I’m sure he came back to his disciples refreshed, renewed and ready to face his next acts of ministry.

I think we’re shown his example for a number of reasons, one of the most important being the need for alone-time with God. I don’t think he would be opposed to us having a little fun, too, as long as we keep him first and foremost in our hearts and minds, always keeping that open line of communication with him.

When I took that first vacation, I went on the train from Seattle to California. It was magical. I’d never experienced anything like it. Most of my time was spent staring out the window and taking delight in the scenery. I didn’t sleep much – I didn’t want to miss anything. But I wasn’t tired because I had a running conversation with God that sustained me. I had the same experience on the way home. And in-between, I had the most fun I think my mother and I have ever had together – at Disneyland. I’ve never seen my mother laugh so much, and we loved experiencing it together so much, we’ve been back three times.

My first vacation, and every one since, has served more than one purpose:
* Quality alone time with God during the traveling phase (everyone else I vacation with flies to our destination, so I’m always alone on the train)
* Relaxation
* Laughter
* Memory making with family members
* Lots of time spent reading / writing / brainstorming new ideas

What I found was that those memories sustain me through the year. Not only that, but planning for the next one gives me something to look forward to. If I can’t afford a real vacation, I combine it with a work or writer’s conference (just being at a conference can be relaxing for me), or if I can’t do either, I like to simply plan a train ride – to me, that in itself is a vacation. People cook for you, they make your bed at night, and you get all of that wonderful time to de-stress and rest in the Lord (much like Jesus did).

While I’m writing this, I’m anticipating my next vacation – in combination with a work conference. Afterward, my son is joining me and we’re going to have some fun. This morning, as you’re reading this, I’m in Florida for the first time in my life, which should be much warmer than the average 47 degrees I’m used to. Though I’m not going on the train, and I’m dreading the flight, I know that once I’m in the air and looking out at those clouds, I’ll be spending quality time with my God.

To tie this in with current events, while you’re reading this, I will hopefully be witnessing something I’ve never seen before and will never see again – the launching of the Space Shuttle Endeavor. And, at the end of the week, a much anticipated movie will premiere. Can you guess which one I’m hoping to see while in Disneyworld?

Do you have a favorite vacation destination?
What is your favorite kind of vacation?
Do you like to rest on sandy beaches or engage in touristy activities?

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia Fools For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at


  1. Just came back from a lovely working vacation at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference myself. Felt like it was a huge success 1) Good spiritual time, 2) Good contacts for WhiteFire, 3) Good networking for me, 4) Lots of fun, 5) Energizing.

    The only thing it wasn't was restful :) But I think I caught up over the weekend.

  2. Its a goof kind of tired though, right Dina? I get so physically tired on vacations sometimes, but my spirit feels rested.

    I'm at my conf now. The first hour was a motivational speaker. The hour of intense laughter took away all the craziness of yesterday's travels.

  3. Hurray! congratulations on your successful flight experience. Sounds like you dealt with it quite well and you're enjoying your time in Florida!

    I have always been a vacationer and I often fight the urge to just get in the car and go. Someday I'll drive across country...leisurely! Suzie, I would also hop on any plane or train that would take me. I watch planes fly over with envy! (Did I ever tell you I used to be a travel agent?)

    I've just returned from family/extended family vacation in my favorite way. Renting a house at the ocean. I would do this twice a year if I could. This year there were more people than ever taking advantage of the great off season rates so I will stop telling you all what a great destination it was.

    I can't wait to hear the reviews of On Stranger Tides... from you and don't forget to get that photo of you with Johnny Depp up online asap!

  4. Thanks Deb! Well, I didn't get to see the shuttle launch b/c of cloud cover, but I could hear it. But! Yesterday my plane flew right by it standing on the launch pad. It was so cool! The weather is lovely and there's a hammock out by the lake with my name on it. I can't wait!

    I'll be sure and say hi to Johnny for you, Deb. ;-)

    My apologies for not being able to jazz up the post w/pics. I have no internet access! I'm so thankful for my Blackberry so I can stay in touch.

  5. Hi Suzie! So glad to hear that you're enjoying yourself in FL and that your journey was uneventful.

    Wonderful post. You and I are both related to big railfans :-) I used to take the train when I was in college, and it was wonderful. I could read, daydream, talk, nap, or enjoy the scenery. It's a fabulous way to travel.

    I can't wait to hear about your experiences when you get back! In the meantime, enjoy yourself and that FL sunshine.

  6. Hey Susie, thanks. I just finished soaking up the sun under a palm tree by the pool. Now I'm going to eat at Planet Hollywood. I've never been there. But I am looking forward to my quiet time tonight, and - b/c I've been able to finally relax, I've got some good ideas for my wip!

  7. Ooh, Susie, I'd love to go to Mount Hermon writer's conference. I've heard so many good things about it. And I absolutely love Disneyworld. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea. But I love just being a kid there, especially now that I have my own kids and can see it through their eyes.

  8. Count me as another who loves to travel. My first word was "jet." (Coincidently, it was also my oldest's first word. I raised him right.)

    With the perpetually-in-limbo adoption though, we can't really make plans to do much fun travel. For the last several years, our travel has pretty much been limited to adoption-related trips to the country where we get to do not-so-fun things like meet with government officials and embassy staff. And we get to visit with a little boy who calls us "Mama" and "Papa" and keeps getting older while the bureaucrats fiddle...

  9. Lisa, I've heard about Mount Hermon, too. I would also love to go to it. To me, there's something so magical about Disneyland. I'm hoping to go next summer when the RWA conference is in Anaheim.

  10. Oh, CJ, that's so funny about your first word and your son's both being "jet". But LOL, when I first read it, I thought you named your son "Jet." I'm tired. My eyes aren't seeing right.

    I'm praying all that red tape gets solved quickly so you can take your little guy home with you. And then you can plan a family vacation with him.

  11. My favorite vacation spot is..Disneyland of course. You & Grandma can come anytime and we can have a girls trip. But I think she should stay off the Matterhorn ;)

  12. I guess I should've read your comments before writing got on a plane and are in Florida and something to do with Johnny Depp?? I adore him! My friend went to the Pirates premiere at Disneyland last weekend. She waited in line for almost 24 hours. She said that Johnny was the nicest celebrity she's ever met (She lives in LA and has met quite a few). He signed autographs for every fan that was there, and skipped the press line to spend time with the fans. She got a really good picture of him kneeling down to sign autographs for a group of little girls. I wish I lived closer, I think I would've slept out on the street just to meet him :)

  13. Tiff, my sweetie-pie, you know your wedding is the reason I finally got to take my first vacation, right? If you hadn't of gotten married, I may have never made that first trip. So thank you!

    Yes, a trip to Disney w/ you and grandma is in order. We can take you mom, too. ;-) And yeah, we'll have to keep grandma off the Matterhorn. Lol.

    I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the Deppster. It would be so awesome if he shows up here.

  14. I'm glad something good came out of that :)

    The new show they have at California Adventure called "World of Color" is truly breathtaking. It's all done with water, and pure Disney magic that somehow brings all the movies to life on the huge fountains of water that shoot up. Of course because I'm me, I cried. I keep bugging my mom to make a trip. I'm ready whenever, annual passport in hand :)


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