If not now, when?

Back in my lawyering days I spent way too little time at home. I traveled a lot, and when I wasn’t on the road I was usually in court, a conference room, or hunched over my desk in my office.

For the first nine years of my career, I took no vacation. I convinced myself that I was just too busy for that.

One day in 1994 my wife advised me that she and the wife of one of my fellow workaholic colleagues had booked a reservation at a beach house for a week and that he and I could choose to join them or not, but they were going to take a vacation. I grumbled and fretted, but went along with it. And it was great. We relaxed on the beach, played with the kids, and cooked shrimp boils. I drank beer during the day and was relieved to discover that the world did not stop turning if I took a vacation. After that I made it a point to take a vacation every year, no matter how busy I was at work.

In 2000, we booked a trip to France. I had a zillion frequent flyer miles, so flying the family to Europe was cheaper than going to Disney (which wasn’t our thing anyway). But just a few days before we were scheduled to leave one of my cases blew up. The judge scheduled an emergency hearing and I had to cancel the vacation. Luckily (in hindsight) I stubbornly re-booked for later in the summer, despite a pile of money in fees for doing so. We flew to Paris, stayed a few days, then rented a car and drove through Brittany for a week. By the middle of the week I felt as relaxed as I had been for many years. These were the days before the internet so I was truly severed from the daily grind and “crises” of the office. We just drove until we felt like stopping, with no reservations anywhere. I was off grid. My office couldn’t find me. It felt great.

So after that year we began taking two-week vacations every year. We went to Europe five years in a row, and the trip became something I could look forward during long miserable stressed-out days. It was the only time of the year I could spend all my time with my family.

After we moved to the farm things changed. We took our annual vacation in 2004, when I was still working at the law firm full-time and we weren’t yet doing much farming. But we haven’t taken a proper vacation since then. We went to the D.R. and Haiti for a week five years ago (to visit the orphanage Cherie was doing volunteer work for) and we’ve taken a long weekend to go to the Wild Goose Festival the last few years. But it’s been 12 years since a real vacation.

Honestly I was tired of traveling. I like staying home. It would be OK with me if I never got on an airplane again. But at the same time, I can testify that it is good for the body and soul to step away from responsibilities once in a while. And I’m convinced that travel can enrich life.

So one morning last month, during our weekly farm meeting when Cherie and I do our weekly planning, the question of a vacation came up. Why not, we concluded. Sure we’re busy and summer is a particularly difficult time to leave a farm, but if not now, when?

So the flights are booked. We’re going to France in September. We’ll have a hotel in Paris for a few days, then we’ll pull up the anchor and follow our fancy for a while. We’ve never gone east from Paris, so the tentative plan is to drive through Champagne, Alsace and Lorraine. We’re working on our rusty French and looking forward to a vacation that won’t include worrying about keeping the kids amused.

At this point we don’t know how the farm will be tended while we’re gone. September is peak harvest season. It’s a very busy time. But, we’ll figure out something. And if we lose a couple of weeks of production, that will be just fine.

After all, if not now, when?