I heard recently on a Christian radio station somebody talking about turning a vacation into a pilgrimage or a sabbath time, an opportunity to get closer to God. The speaker said that there is no word in ancient languages equivalent to the word “vacation". While I don't think that's true (the word has it's origins in the Latin), I would agree if she had said that ancient people probably did not generally have time for vacationing since they were often more preocuppied with daily survival. The closest these people may have ever gotten to a vacation could have been a religious pilgrimage.
One dictionary definition of a pilgrimage is “A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance. " So, a religious pilgrimage is generally a long, arduous journey. Hardly the kind of liesure modern people tend to seek when vacationing.
And yet some people may feel the same way about camping and backpacking. These activities can be hard work, and even with the best camping gear, you would probably sleep better in the comfort of your own bed at home.
Also, I must say that my memory of our family vacations as a child are of spending many hours locked in a car on our way to someplace like the Grand Canyon. These trips certainly seemed long and arduous to me.
So, if we go with this theme of a vaction being like a pilgrimage, what could the exalted purpose be?
A Chinese friend of mine recently observed that in America we have a balanced government, but we are not balanced in our personal lives. He said this is the exact opposite of China. This is an interesting observation. The Chinese place great importance on this concept of balance, or “yin and yang". Who could disagree that in our industrialized society there is far too much emphasis on money, career, advancement, success; and not enough attention paid to our relationships with our family and friends, with God, and with nature?
Any vacation can be a start at restoring that balance which has been lost. Vacationing outdoors may have a particular advantage in that it takes us completely out of that environment which has caused us to lose balance. Especially when we leave the radios and electronic games at home, we are forced to actually hold conversations with others and at times left with nothing but our own thoughts as company.
At first, many people are not comfortable with silence. We are accustomed to constant external stimulation. Without it, we feel lost. However, when we allow ourselves to slow down and just live in the moment, we realize that we don't need those outside intrusions.
After returning from a camping vacation, hopefully we will feel refreshed, we will have a better appreciation for our modern conveniences, we will have made some good memories, we will have strengthened relationships, and we will have brought our life a little more into balance. Sounds like an exalted purpose to me.
The author, Greg Bonney, is the owner of Bonney Information and E-Commerce and founder of Scoutcamping.com (http://www.scoutcamping.com ).
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