Disappearing summer vacation
July 16, 2012
by Ivan Raconteur

Summer vacations aren’t quite what they used to be.

It occurred to me, on a recent holiday afternoon, as I was toiling away in the office, rather than soaking up sunshine at a lake (or engaging in some similarly appealing activity), that things have changed vis-à-vis summer vacation.

Many moons ago, when I was a lad, I mentally began my summer vacations even before the teacher released us from custody for the season. On those hot spring days, as the semester was slowly grinding to a close, I would gaze out the open window of the classroom, sniffing the piquant aroma of adventure dancing on the balmy breeze.

As soon as the final bell sounded, my classmates and I would bolt out the door and revel in our newfound freedom like a gang of convicts getting their first taste of the outside after a long stretch in stir.

The sun was always brighter on those halcyon days of summer, and the sky was always a finer shade of blue.

We basked in the euphoria induced by months of uncluttered time stretching out before us like a blank canvas awaiting an artist’s brush.

The next morning, after a blissful period of sleeping in, we would bound from our beds with a glad cry, grab a quick breakfast, and we would be out the door, often for the rest of the day.

Some days we rode our bikes all across West Duluth. Other times we hiked up on the hill, exploring the woods and streams above the city. If the mood struck us, we would organize a game of football or other sport. Sometimes, we just found a quiet spot in the sun and read a good book.

The point was, we were free, and it was marvelous.

Sometimes, our parents forced us to endure a stretch of summer school or some other organized activity, but fortunately, these interruptions were generally brief. We survived, and were soon back savoring our luscious liberty.

Occasionally, we participated in the ritual of the family vacations, and those were usually good fun, too.

As the years passed, however, dark clouds began to drift over our ideal young lives. We began to have to work summer jobs to earn some of that which has been called the root of all evil.

With each successive year, we gradually began to find ourselves with more work and less summer.

We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the promise of the higher standard of living that only money could buy, and to get money, we had to work.

By the time we graduated from high school and started college, summers had become practically indistinguishable from the rest of the year. If we spent less time in class, we spent more time at work.

It became increasingly difficult to get time off, even to enjoy vacations with our families.

In our 20s, when school had been replaced by non-stop work, even if we could find the time to take a vacation, money was tight, and we were unable to afford the kind of vacations we might have liked.

Vacations seem to have become more rare as time has gone on.

Even when we are able to schedule vacations, we have to work like fiends in the days or even weeks leading up to our vacation preparing for our absence. Then, we have to work like fiends to recover upon our return.

In the age of smart phones, laptops, and mobile technology, some of us aren’t even able to completely escape from the world of work during our vacations.

Somewhere along the way, things went wrong. We had a good thing going when we were very young, and we let it slip away.

The situation seems grim, and yet, perhaps there is still hope.

Judging by the volume of photos I have seen on Facebook recently, it appears that some people have not lost the ability to take vacations. Smiling faces and spectacular scenery serve as evidence that all is not lost.

There must be a way to break the cycle of work, and recapture the joy of summer vacation. Frankly, I would be perfectly happy with an autumn vacation, or spring vacation, or even winter vacation. At this point, I am prepared to be flexible.

I believe vacation, at least on a modest scale, may still be available. I am going to make it a point to consult with some of the people who have beat the system and ask them about their secret.

That’s going to have to wait though. I haven’t got time right now, because I have a couple more deadlines to catch first.

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