Photography, Hand-lettering, and Artwork // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs
I grew up vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains. My parents owned an R.V., and we would take off for sometimes weeks at a time to stay in the same campground each visit. I first went to this campground at the ripe age of two; my brother was an infant his first vacation. Over time, my family became friends with the people who own (and live) at the campground, and because of our frequent vacations to East Tennessee, these sweet friends watched my brother and I grow up. They, along with the rest of Gatlinburg, were evacuated during the wildfires which tore through the Smokies in late November. We were brokenhearted to see the people of a place so near and dear to our hearts experience such a catastrophic disaster.
I am still amazed at how fast life can change. In the literal blink of an eye, devastation can be upon us. Our friends and much of East Tennessee did not know if they would return to homes or to ash. This was another reminder of how crucial it is that we take every opportunity to recognize what we are thankful for.
I am so thankful for the mountains. I love that place. The scenery is breathtaking, and like my mom often mentions, the air is different; it’s like it’s fresher there. But I love the mountains most for the retreat it’s been for my family and me. People have always asked us what we do while there. See that’s just the thing. We don’t do anything when we get there! No schedule, no timeline, no planned events. We love to take a leisurely stroll around the campground, sit outside under the camper awning, or catch up on some pleasure reading material. But beyond that, nada. We’ve done all the touristy things, but we primarily go for the relaxation – and the food.
In paying tribute to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, I want to encourage you that you need vacations. And I mean vacations, not trips. There’s a significant difference. The mountains are for me what another place may be for you. Wherever it is that you like to vacation, cherish that place! If you don’t have a place, find one. You need it. Here’s seven reasons why.
It’s something to look forward to.
The daily grind can be rather monotonous, and we all know it’s tiring. You get up fighting the sleep you so desperately desire, you go to work, you run 17 errands on the way home, perhaps you stop by the gym, you get home to 17 other tasks that need to be done before bed (including a shower if you made that stop by the gym), you go to bed later than you should, and then you get up and do it all again. And honestly, you’re doing all of these tasks if things are going well. (I try to remember to be thankful that I am able to do all of the above.) But how much easier is it to clean my apartment when I know I’m leaving to go somewhere fun next week? Or how much more exciting is it to fold laundry knowing that those clothes are going in my suitcase? Booking a vacation gives you a bit more motivation to slay the day. It puts some pep in your step and helps you keep your eyes on the prize.
Rest time is the best time.
God designed us to need rest. I often want to fight sleep, but I usually wind up sorry that I didn’t give myself an adequate amount of shut eye. Vacations allow us to rest for however long our vacation is, even if it’s just for the weekend! You can sleep in, and when you wake up, you can lay in bed if you’d like. You aren’t at home to be able to do any household chores. Even if you take a “vacation” day at home, it’s just not the same. You’ll likely still be tempted to toss in a load of laundry or clean the sink. Plus, not only do vacations provide you physical rest, they allow for mental rest as well. As the day unfolds, you don’t have a schedule to keep. You have no meetings to rush to, no deadlines to meet, and no calls to make.
Everyone is trapped together – which is great!
If you’re on vacation with your family, not only are you resting, your family is, too. When my brother and I were in high school, vacations were family-only time. We couldn’t grab our keys to run out the door and meet friends for dinner. Our mom couldn’t get up and down to laundry, and our dad couldn’t go outside to mow the grass. Instead, we were spending quality time together away from all the distractions at home. On vacations now days, this time is still especially sweet for these very reasons. What cherished time that was and still is!
You get to enjoy the scenery.
Vacationing somewhere scenic is super enjoyable. If you aren’t making any surefire plans, you can sit and enjoy the scenery. This is just an added bonus to already fun relaxation time. Staying somewhere scenic usually provides access to extra leisure activities like hiking, swimming, biking, or whatever you enjoy doing that’s outdoors. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, you can sit by a window and enjoy the view – and watch everyone else doing that stuff.
Clearing your mind is actually possible.
This comes in handy when you return from vacation. After having spent some time away, you’ll return to the real world refreshed and rejuvenated – physically and mentally. Though sometimes it’s hard to return to work after a vacation, it’s at least easier to do it with a fresh mindset.
Adventures are remembered.
Even though you may not have any plans on the agenda, you’ll probably end up doing something. And who knows where that something might take you. Several years ago, I got the notion that I wanted to bungee jump. So my family set out to find a nearby fire tower in the Smokies to let me test the height to see if it would bother me before I committed to doing the jump. Long story short, we ended up on a gravel road going up the side of a mountain in the next state over. And the fire tower? We never even saw it. The sign at the entrance was rather telling, and we opted out of the six mile hike it was going to take to get there. But we ended the day with dinner at the absolute best hole-in-the-wall gas station restaurant that we still eat at every time we go to the mountains. We refer to this day as “The Adventure.” We sure didn’t plan it, but it was one of the most laughter-filled, memorable days!
You have freedom from reality.
You’ll get past the awkward we’re-not-doing-anything-on-our-vacation conversations. You’ll tell people, they’ll give some weird looks, you’ll give some weird looks, and everyone will go about their business. Beyond that, you don’t have to give any reason for anything. Reality will be there when you get back.