A reader responds to the question:
Vacations are the best way to build a family. When out in a tent for a week with the kids, the whole family is doing nothing but family activities and building family memories. Same applies now that the kids are out of the house. A vacation with my wife is “us time”. Vacations together bind families together.
Another adds, “Because when I’m dead, my daughters aren’t going to say to each other, ‘I really wish that when Daddy was alive, he’d spent more time at work.'” Another:
I’m not sure “happiness” is the proper measure for why or why not, vacations should be taken. I don’t travel to increase my happiness.
I think you could make the argument that if one never took a vacation and never saw something new, one might be happier never having known the vast diversity of all things on this earth. It’s like that expression, the grass is always greener; if one never knew about the grass on the other side, then perhaps one would be content with their own grass on their own side. I travel because I want to visit that grass, to smell it and see it, and to compare it with my own. Had I never travelled to Europe as a teenage, backpacking for a couple months on my own, I would never know how disgusting soda is warm with no ice, or how fantastic fresh pasta tastes when its authentically prepared, as they do in Rome.
I take vacations in order to explore the world. To see the diversity of lifestyle, of cuisine, geography and language. Exploring the world doesn’t make me happier; it just makes me, me. And with each passing trip, be it a trip to Peru or a plop vacation to an island, I learn a little bit more about myself, a little bit more about what I like and what I don’t, and in doing this I feel more at peace with myself. Vacations are good in that way. They help define who we are when we return home.
Another puts it this way:
One of the best parts of vacation is making home seem new again.
Update from a reader:
In a truly wonderful letter, Kurt Vonnegut advised a group of students to “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
I write to make my soul grow. It’s also why I travel.
When I move through the world with open eyes, I gain a few inches. I earn a little valuable perspective. The dullness of everyday life is swapped out with an intense curiosity that wipes clean my mind’s carefully constructed sensory adaptation. That to which I was once blind is temporarily laid bare in plain sight. Like a good night’s sleep restoring the well of willpower, travel rejuvenates my dwindling childlike wonder. Music, food, nature and people are furiously alive with rich detail and flavor.
When I travel, I am reminded of our fundamental goodness as I my see comfort zones, slide past them ungracefully and get by with the help of strangers and newfound friends. Because everything seems so different, the bonds between people get a fresh take and deep look as I see mothers caring for children, brothers jostling each other out of childhood, or friends soaking up the familiar rhythm of their rapport.
When it’s all over, travel remains with me. My self-imposed demands to be less blind and see more of what I call home. The new imperatives to be less passive and act more. The stories I relate to friends and family among the soft early mornings and the hazy late nights. The hopeful wanderlust and sense that adventure is just over the horizon.
Most of all, what remains from travel is the becoming and the growth of my soul. If nothing else, that’s why you’ll find me hunting the world for the unknown. To become. To grow my soul.