Why Vacation is Such an Awful Word

Article by: unknown author

Sun December 09, 2012 | 00:00 AM

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For a quarter century, as the founder and CEO of a hotel company and then as a writer, I tried to retire the word “occupation.” It’s the word we use to describe when one hostile country takes over another and, of course, the “Occupy” movement used the word to describe an overthrow of the status quo. And, yet, I’ve always seen our work as not something that occupies us but an experience that can be one’s calling – at least in the best of circumstances. On a good day, I believe in Khalil Gibran’s premise that “work is love made visible.”

For the next quarter century of my life, as I pursue traveling and travel writing, I’m going to endeavor to retire the word “vacation.” It once specifically referred to the summer break for British law courts and universities and when London aristocrats would “vacate” to the country. For too many of us, it means trading the LaZ-Boy and the boob tube for a beachside bar stool with a placid ocean view. Why do we use travel as self-serving escapism or as a means to vacate our troubles or ourselves? When our vacation becomes our antidote to our occupation, that’s a dreary existence, indeed. It’s a small world after all.

Rather than using vacation as a means of “checking out,” why not use it as a means of “checking in?” Ideally, we take a vacation to discover a new landscape or culture and, in the process, to discover something about ourselves. Interestingly, the word much of the world uses for vacation is “holiday.” The origins of this word come from “holy days” as these were the times when people would put down their plows and gather in celebration of the gods. While as a word “holiday” also offers a slippery slope, I do see value in expressing and experiencing our travel time as holy and something to be held in reverence. For it is in these moments when we create spaciousness from our over-cluttered lives that we become more intimate with our emotions (and our families) and we stand ready for serendipity or an epiphany to rain down upon us. It is in these little crevices of our hard-paved lives that the weeds of inspiration appear and the dandelions emerge in bouquets that remind us just how dear and sacred life can be.