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?

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40 comments on “If not now, when?

  1. shoreacres says:

    It must be wonderful to have the resources to do such things. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yes, we’re fortunate to be able to afford it. One of the tickets is courtesy of frequent flyer miles accumulated on the job over a decade ago. Other than the hefty airfare the costs of the vacation are no different than we’d have if we spent a couple a couple of weeks at the beach. We haven’t taken a vacation in 12 years so even for a notoriously frugal couple like us, it doesn’t seem terribly extravagant. 🙂

      Like

  2. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, good for you. When I travel which is not a lot any more with caring for an aging mother in law, I like to disconnect from the social media. When I return home to several hundred emails, I have to wonder how we ever got along without them. Usually, I just do a quick scan for seriously important ones and trash the rest for a new slate. I spent the entire day, 5:30am to 6:00pm, at Terra Nova Gardens yesterday. Planted some things, talked to neighbors, had a lunch. enjoyed the shade, dreamed about future plans for the garden, and, of course, weeded a couple of beds. The beauty of it was there was not rush to get things done. Work a little rest a lot was the mantra for the day.

    Have a great vacation planning day.

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    • Bill says:

      The world is a smaller place now, so it isn’t possible to escape emails, phone calls, etc. by retreating to the other side of the world. Back in the old days anyone trying to reach me could be honestly told that I was out of the country and unavailable for a couple of weeks.

      Very busy here too. Getting the last of our sweet potatoes planted today. Our alternating hot and wet weather baked our clay soil and messed up the germination of much of what we planted. So we’re re-doing a lot of it now and hoping for better results. But our spring gardens have been among the most productive we’ve ever had, so I really can’t complain. Have a great Terra Nova Gardens day Dave!

      Like

  3. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, that is awesome news!!! My sister just spent few days in southern France (Nice and surrounding small towns) and the photos are wonderful. As well as food. Let us know if you need farm sitters in September. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Careful now, I might take you up on that. 🙂

      We’re looking forward to time away (even as I admit to finding the concept a little disconcerting). We’ve visited France twice before but we’ve never been south. We’ve driven around Brittany, Normandy and Picardy and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to good food, wine and relaxation!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dani says:

    Lucky you & Cherie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Cherie has been saying for a long time that she wanted to go to Paris for our 25th anniversary. That was a couple of years ago and we went to a play in a nearby small town instead (with a load of hog feed in the back of the truck).

      We sorta realized that if we don’t do it now, it may never happen. So here we go, ready or not!

      Like

  5. ain't for city gals says:

    I smiled when I saw the title of the post…as you know that is one of my favorite sayings!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes I know and I thought of you when I typed it. 🙂 As I’ve said before, it’s a very very good question we should ask ourselves often.

      Like

  6. Susan says:

    Good for you! Sometimes , no matter how much we love this life, you just have to see other things!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Susan and we agree. I can honestly say I wouldn’t mind if I never leave this farm. But I agree that it’s important to broaden our horizons when we can. My neighbor across the road is over 60, is a successful industrial scale farmer, and has never been more than 40-50 miles from this place his entire life. I love it here, but every now and then it’s good to wander a bit.

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  7. bobraxton says:

    remembering rural NC 1950’s summer radio song “enjoy yourself – enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think …”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, you’ll figure out something. Great post.

    Like

  9. Laurie Graves says:

    To work hard is good, but to take breaks and have fun is good, too. (Spoken like a true Franco-American, I know.) Have a wonderful time. And you will indeed figure something out.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      As much as I value and even enjoy work, it’s hard to imagine being at the end of my life, looking back over it, and regretting that I took a little time off every now and then. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We haven’t taken a real vacation in, quite literally, decades. We managed to camp overnight a few times as a family when our kids were small but weren’t able to repeat even that small feat.

    I hate to say it but vacations have become out of reach for many of us. For years the church we attended went into near shut-down mode in the summer, visiting ministers giving sermons to a few folks in the pews, because so many parishioners were on vacation. The topic of vacation appeared in bulletins and sermons. It was assumed that everyone had a fresh, even inspiring answer for “what are you doing this summer?” I served on more than one committee which went on hiatus during the summer. It was a popular way to start the autumn meeting by having each person share a vacation highlight. I always found something to say, that my kids had befriended a wild duck or that I’d hosted a batik party in my backyard, but I also felt a bit of a divide.

    I was raised on my dad’s teaching salary and my family took extensive trips each summer, seeing the country on a frugal budget with a travel trailer pulled behind the car. I’m as well-educated as my parents but circumstances are different these days. I heartily agree that we all need a break. There are certainly cheap ways to do that, but poorly paying jobs don’t post schedules in advance and ongoing freelance jobs don’t build in breaks at all. This summer I’m going to try to carve out a Sabbath break —- reading on the porch, picking flowers, taking a walk, lying in the grass — basically doing nothing. It’s not France, but it’s a vacation of sorts too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bobraxton says:

      Laura Grace – as spouse of a PC(USA) pastor (retired), I perked up my ears with the observation(s) about “vacation” in church context. A difference for me from the generation of my parents (1916-1988; 1923-2015) is that my father (carpenter in rural NC) “never” got a paid vacation or even a paid holiday. The days he worked, he received pay. My best “deal” was after first five years with a defense contractor, I earned 3 days of leave for each month worked – 36 days of “leave” per year. It “hurt” when I went to my next job and got cut back to 10 days (two weeks) per year even when full time.

      Like

    • Bill says:

      You’re absolutely right Laura and I totally get it. The ability to have any vacation, even once in 12 years, is a privilege that I don’t take for granted.

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way the working people (for lack of a better term) are being left behind in our culture. Things like retirement and paid vacation that seemed to be on their way to becoming the norm increasingly look like they were just temporary mid to late 20th Century phenomena that are not in the cards for most people now.

      Cherie grew up lower middle class. Her father worked for the phone company. But it was unionized job and he got 2 weeks paid vacation every year plus he could accumulate all his sick days/PTO. They had a travel trailer and used that time every summer to drive around the country as a family. As you say, for people in that socio-economic situation, that possibility largely doesn’t exist any more. Of course farmers, until very recently, wouldn’t even understand the concept of vacation.

      I hope you find time for some rest and relaxation this summer, however and whenever you can. I’m grateful that you share your wisdom and beautiful writing with us. Thanks for keeping it real.

      Like

  11. Joanna says:

    Your travelling to Europe and not visiting us, oh Bill! 😀 Enjoy your vacation and I hope it all works out well for you and you will have great tales to tell.

    Like

  12. EllaDee says:

    I’m so pleased for you ☺I’ve been listening a lot to Joni Mitchell lately so have been humming the title anyway…
    We’re about to set out next week on our big trip towing the caravan around Australia… I had to pause when I wrote ‘next week’… everyday life at home could go on endlessly but we worked & planned for this trip. Hopefully it is one of many trips we get to do in the future. Do it now while you can is the words of wisdom we hear from others… not just for travel but because life is too short to pile up one days, maybes and what ifs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Have a great time! I’ve always been a planner and prudent to a fault, but there does come a time when it’s right to stop deferring and get started. And taking a two-week vacation from the farm is minor compared to the radical change of life I made a few years ago!

      I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience. We’ve been contemplating doing something similar someday.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Dearest Bill,
    Indeed, if not now; when?! Travel while you’re still healthy enough for doing so because as we all age, different times will be upon us.
    We too have aways worked way too hard and skipped many years for a real vacation. Traveling for work; getting from A to B is not the same. But we still enjoyed seeing a lot of the world that way.
    Putting two daughters through college and university is not easy and we tend to wait for ourselves till it is almost too late…
    Enjoy the daydreaming about your upcoming trip. Time will be there rather quick!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Mariette. I traveled a lot for business back in my former life and it took me to lots of interesting places around the world. But as you say, just getting from point A to point B in order to do a job is not the same as leisure traveling. I came to hate all the miseries and inconveniences of traveling, and especially being away from home and family so much. But even with my strong bias against traveling, we’ve enjoyed it in the past in part because we’re both philomaths–we love learning about places, cultures, people, etc.

      I think we’ll enjoy the trip but I doubt we’ll ever go back to the annual vacation model.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. allisonmohr says:

    I love rural France. We think we’re done with Paris, it has just gotten too crowded. The country side, however, is just gloriously beautiful. Have a great trip and enjoy. Post some pictures would you please!?!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I agree. Paris was my wife’s idea. I don’t care for it personally. But I have enjoyed the countryside so that’s the part that I’m looking forward to the most. I appreciated your posts during your trip and was glad to be able to virtually tag along.

      Like

  15. avwalters says:

    Someday, maybe, we’ll do Paris again in the off-season. I have some research to do for a future book. At least that’s the excuse. For now though, we’re content to stay put. We’re enjoying our bonding time with the property and the building process. We also have a couple more years of “infrastructure” plantings before a full-fledged vacation is a possibility. It’s the downside of homesteading later in life. Some of the things you’d like to plant wouldn’t even bear in your lifetime; others, well, you’d better get a move on.

    In the meantime, we have side trips to family–“working” long-weekends to my mum’s, for visits and to do maintenance and fix stuff for her. We’re not unhappy with things.

    In the meantime, France has a thriving organic “biologique” ag sector. Visit, learn, glean, form professional connections…and deduct the trip. Bon Voyage!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That was our experience as we settled in too. There was plenty to do here, we were enjoying our time here, and really didn’t need a get-away. But after a dozen years, it seems about time for a full two-week break.

      We do plan to fit in some farmers markets and farm stays while we’re there. But as for deducting the trip, tax deductions are only of value when you have income. 🙂

      Like

  16. Good for you Bill… and good for Cherie. The farm won’t go away. But time has a way of disappearing in a flash. I don’t think of vacations as vacations. I think of them as an integral part of life, equally important to anything else we do. They aren’t a break from work, they are a break to do something else, an opportunity to relax and play, yes, but also an opportunity to explore and grow. –Curt

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Well put Curt. Even though we’ve gotten away from it, for a while we prioritized travel (once I got over my “I’m too busy to take time off” thing). As my colleagues and our friends ran up debt and bought prestigious cars, vacation homes, private school tuition, etc., we lived more modestly but took nice long trips. We learned, broadened our horizons, helped educate our kids and had a lot of fun to boot.

      Maybe someday we’ll even make it to Burning Man!

      Like

  17. mukhamani says:

    Very, very true, if not now then when? Regards.

    Like

  18. Wonderful that you have made plans for Paris.. you will so enjoy it.. And the football mania will be over by then. 🙂 I know now we have retired we are more content to stay at home these days.. When we were working we would travel abroad every year, sometimes twice..
    But the last couple of years we have been exploring more of the UK.. 🙂
    I think if you do not make the effort and do it you won’t and I agree If not now then when.. xx

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I had to travel a lot for my job, so after I retired I just wanted to stay put a while. I doubt we’ll ever start traveling as much as we used to, but I expect we’ll start wandering away from the farm a bit more in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • its good to wander Bill.. I know we made excused about leaving the allotments for a couple of weeks.. 🙂 Just means the weeds grow a bit taller lol.. They are still waiting when we get back x

        Liked by 1 person

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