Spring has finally sprung. As I look at my family and begin to make summer plans, I have to admit, yet again, that I am a slow learner. The older I get, and especially since breast cancer and melanoma, the faster time slips away. Beyond clutter control and home organizing, simple living is about living your priorities rather than getting pulled down by your stuff. Choose to focus on vacation or travel—to see new places, have new experiences, and make memories rather than acquiring and maintaining stuff. Here are my thoughts.
Our family often gets bogged down with other stuff. Travel plans get pushed back again and again—stuck back behind a furniture purchase or a home improvement project, or a desire to save money for college or retirement. Back, back, back, until “later” or “next year” just doesn’t happen. Begin by being consciously aware of this danger.
The reality is that vacations float within a very short window of opportunity. I want to travel with my kids when they are old enough to get around and be fairly self-sufficient. The older they get, the more they enjoy the same stuff that Mom and Dad enjoy. I also want to travel with them before they are too busy with jobs and activities and while they are still young enough to enjoy my company. They must still be willing to be seen in public with me.
I also want to travel as an adult with my husband and our friends. American workers have some of the smallest amount of available vacation days in the world. We work. We work. And, we work. This means we then have a very small seven-day window of opportunity to untie the knots in ourselves that we have spent months creating. Simplify! Take that vacation!
We only go around once. It is a morbid thought, but ask yourself what you would regret if you or someone in your family were to die suddenly. Especially, as a two-time cancer survivor, one of my regrets would be not having traveled and vacationed more. I wouldn’t be wishing for furniture or clothes.
There are always tradeoffs. Would you wish you had foregone the 50-inch high definition television for an adventure? Since I can’t take my stuff with me when my number is called, the priority boils down to relationships and life experiences, which include seeing the sights that this world has to offer and sharing that experience with friends and family while I am here to do it.
Please try not to get too caught in your routines. I am a great one for getting stuck in a rut and bogged down in routine. Travel is sometimes a much-needed break from the routine. Visiting new places and trying new activities is an opportunity to learn and to think outside the box. It can be a time to think about different places where you might retire or different housing options for the future.
It is sad to think that sometimes people move or switch jobs or change marital partners, when all they really may have needed was a vacation—a break, a refreshed perspective on life. Some of the self-help books out there specifically advise people take a vacation before making a major life change. Think about that!
Another benefit of travel is the anticipation. My family, including me, was simply excited about a long weekend trip to Duluth, Minnesota. It wasn’t a Caribbean cruise or a European adventure, but we were enthusiastic. During our trip we got to try on some new hats. We considered what we liked and didn’t like as we explored. We wondered if we would like to move there, rent there, own a seasonal there, or simply visit those places again. We tried food and activities we don’t try when we are at home. We laughed more. We played.
Every trip has an end. It was good to come back home a few days later. It was sad our little trip was over, but it was nice that we all looked forward to coming home. Today I am not taking our budding trees, gold finches, and nearby picturesque lake for granted. Travel showed us options, yet it also deepened our appreciation for what we already had—stuff we are quick to take for granted when engaged in the daily grind.
Consider what your priorities are and what the windows of opportunity for them are. I probably wouldn’t take my kids to Disney World now that they are in their twenties. They are grown and busy with their own lives. And, it probably won’t be physically realistic for me to wait until I am eighty to rent a bike in San Francisco or go ocean scuba diving.
If I am going to be true to my simple living priorities, then my family and my husband and I can make travel plans now. My kids still sometimes travel with us. My window of opportunity is today. Am I going to think about it and talk about it, or am I going to do it? When are you going to take that vacation? Some memories are better made sooner rather than later.
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. She also is a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com