10 Vacation Commandments
Aug 16 2013
Holidaying with families in addition to yours is like a team exercise. The secret to successful short term cohabitation lies in these rules
This time around, I did not want to come back home exhausted, needing another vacation. This time, I wanted to find the balance between effort and ease. The antidote, ‘rest’ is found within the word ‘stress’. Take the humble origin of ‘vacation’. It stems from the root word ‘vac’ which means, ‘to empty’. For many of us, it is a difficult concept because we are constantly on the run. The marathon of the mind is, in fact, even more tiring than a physical one. In addition to this unending race grounded in anxiety and worry, you have sleep deprivation.
Mine wasn’t a single-family vacation. There were three families and between us we had 13 kids. From 17 to three. Travelling with others is like any other team exercise. It is fraught with differing viewpoints, varying needs and different personalities. There are those who are happy at breakfast but cranky at night. There are those who will not make eye contact till coffee is consumed and who would love to stay up and party at night. Here are my ten commandments to successful short-term co-habitation, some of which were contributed by my sister.
--Thou shalt give up control: When you hold on too tight to the reins, you forsake the peace. The best vacations have a broad plan with room to manouvre. Make a decision not to interfere with every decision. Even when you think you know more than the people around you, take the chill pill. When sitting in the passenger seat, give the ego a break, look outside and enjoy the scenery.
--Thou shalt give up the screen : That goes for anything that needed to be juiced up via a cord. Ok, you don’t have to go cold turkey and then obsess about going cold turkey. But make an agreement to leave the handhelds behind for most of the day. The world actually gets quickly used to your disappearance after knocking on your door and finding no one there. This is more difficult for kids. But once they realised there is no internet access, we ended up with some priceless conversations.
--Thou shalt not take anyone’s name in vain: Keeping the conversation above board by not rolling the eyes, or whispering behind the back, or performing an autopsy of the day’s events, or indulging in whining kept us all sane.
--Thou shalt embrace gluttony : An important ingredient of a good vacation is discovering the best places to eat and if you are able to, getting together and cooking. We would roam around during the day and when we came back to the ranch house hungry, we did not want to think about calories, portion control or expanding waistlines.
--Thou shalt share the burden : The “no slacker” rule was in full force as everyone pitched in with meals, cleaning, and clearing. It actually kept resentment levels to an all time low.
--Thou shalt let the kids pick their own battles : We kept out of the usual fights as much as possible and interfered only when there were cries for help or the noise decibels were unbearable.
Thou shalt be calm, forgive easily and forget fast: I would prioritise this one above most of the others. So often we react as the group dynamics can get to you especially when you have so many kids in one place. But biting the tongue, sleeping over the irritation and throwing in a pinch of patience goes a long way. Words spoken in haste cannot be erased. The best vacations are sepia hued.
--Thou shalt find nurture in nature : Rachel Carson says “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts”. There is no price tag attached to the beauty of waves lapping against the sand, or watching the sunset behind the mountains and painting the skies with splendid hues. I tried to get an hour of yoga every morning sitting on the lawn and contemplating the mountains in front of me. I know I was a better person for the rest of the day.
--Thou shalt drink and be merry : Need I say more?
Thou shalt be grateful for family : If you wake up each morning with this single thought and take it back to bed when you end your day, trust me, this affirmation will keep most of the craziness at bay.