Before I went on vacation this summer, I bought a book. I imagined lying on a beach chair, a cool sea breeze blowing my hair while my sunglasses shaded my eyes, book in hand, and a relaxed spirit. Ahhh…

Our vacation was quite active, lots of hiking and things to explore. There was down-time, not a lot, but enough for me to pull out that book. So I did.

I read a few sentences, and then heard the hummingbirds zooming around outside so I had to go out and sit with them a bit. I took my book with me. Even made a nice cup of coffee. Watched them for a few moments and dove back into the book.

Took a sip of coffee.

Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. Put the book down and went over to watch these sweet butterflies fluttering about the zinnias right off the porch. Had to get my camera and I photographed them for 10 minutes or so.

Then I sat back down, put my feet up, drank some coffee. Watched the mist roll up the mountainside. Got up and stood as close as I absolutely possibly could to the hummingbird feeder to see how close to them I could get. Turns out I could get REALLY close so I stood there for awhile.

When I came back to my coffee it was cold. Dumped that out and wandered back out to the porch and sat. By that point I had no idea where the book was nor did I care. I was distracted by nature and was loving every minute of it.

Vacations, as defined by some in society, are a time to escape. And that works for a lot of folks. Kudos to them!

What I’ve learned about myself is that vacations are a time, for me, to be fully present, to ask a million questions of our guides, to look at every plant, animal, fungus, cloud, star, river, person, or thing they point out, and when given down time, to use it to explore this new world.

Last year we rented a small home on an inlet of the Atlantic, had a beautiful view right from our deck. We could see and hear the ocean, watched the tides moving in and out, exposing huge rocks which we thought were whales for a moment. That view was enough.

But one afternoon, while everyone else was doing their own thing and the book I was trying to read just wasn’t enough, I wandered up the street and found a very narrow path among some wildflowers. I, of course, followed it and ended up on these massive rocks right on the ocean. The crashing waves sprayed 10 feet in the air, the gulls huddled on the warm stone, and I quickly ran back to the house to get my kids.

The three of us spent the next few hours climbing the rocks, watching the waves, gathering shells and making cairns to mark our spot. I must have taken a hundred photos that afternoon alone.

We eventually wandered home, ate a quick dinner, grabbed my husband and went back, staying long after the sun set. The light was breathtaking.

I think about what I would’ve missed out on, had I continued to read the book. I giggle as I write this because I love, love, love to read. And goodness, reading certainly isn’t a bad thing to spend your time doing.

But I would’ve missed the crazy, amazing, views and exploring with my family.

We would’ve missed one of the best afternoons we’ve ever had together. Although i wouldn’t have known any different, I know now.

I know now.

When on vacation, I talk to everyone I meet. I photograph the little things and when the light is just right, I photograph the big things. I eat the local food. I take home baggies full of treasures – shells, driftwood, feathers, bones, and rocks. I stay up late and look at the stars and I get up early and watch the sunrise. I explore and learn and see and expose myself and my family to as much as possible. 

Because the place? That is our escape.

Sorry my beloved books, but your time is at home.