Sunday, August 11, 2013

8:34 AM
I am always a little shocked and depressed when I read the statistics on how many vacation days go unused each year in the United States. The latest figure I saw was that the average American worker forgoes nine days of paid vacation each year. Nine days! Throw another one in the mix and you have a glorious two week vacation or staycation that could be spent with your partner and kids, seeing the world, doing a project, or otherwise bonding in a way that keeps you close to them and to who you are at the core. In what better way could you possibly hope to get paid to spend your time?

Having just finished a pretty epic family vacation, I am really feeling blessed. Along with eight other families, we shared houses and meals for seven days in a place that has the magical combination of a natural and developed playland: a river to float down and SUP and a waterslide to careen down; beautiful forest trails to run and mountain bike and smooth, paved trails for the kids to bike and scoot; mountain lakes to swim in and pools to splash in; wildlife viewing from the back porch and a nature center where all manner of the natural world could be tactilely explored; an underground lava cave to descend and playground structures to climb.

Water Fall
Water Slide
The kids clocked more miles on their bikes and scooters that they had in the previous summer months combined.  I ran at least ten miles each day, six to ten at grown up pace, the difference at kid pace as they biked or scooted to their next destination, usually a pool. I spent an hour SUPing up the river with my daughter on board, watching the birds dive and the fish jump. I biked everywhere, including a beautiful solo mountain bike ride along a river to a waterfall. I finished each day physically exhausted, stuffed with delicious homemade food, and excited for the next day’s adventure.

This group of friends is distinguished by many factors, including: (1) their ability to maintain these friendships for close to 20 years, (2) the grace by which they have navigated two-career households as equal partners, (3) their penchant for having two children, almost exclusively in the older girl/younger boy or two girl combinations, (4) their mental prowess, which is only surpassed by their athleticism, and (5) their love of the epic, which in due course they are passing along to their children.

Pre 10 miler
Post 10 miler
To give a perspective on how the week went, here are some of the events that come to mind as being fairly epic:
  • Thanks to a masterful planner, we got 36 people to leave their real lives behind for an entire week so we could all play together, some families coming from as far away as England and New York.
  • We cooked a total of 20 delicious communal meals where, thanks to another masterful planner, everyone took a scheduled turn to feed the other families. Being the provider was fun, the walking into a fully prepared meal after a day of play was even better.
  • We executed a Family Fun Run in which all 36 (including a 22 month old) completed at least a two-mile course on foot, bike, skuut, scooter, or in a stroller. One seven year old Fun Run participant did the entire course on her stilts.
  • Two moms ran for two straight hours, likely covering more ground in those two hours than most of us do in a week. Two dads initiated a similar adventure and ended up having to swim across the river to get home.
  • A co-ed group did a 50-mile bike ride up a nearby mountain.
  •  Five moms ran 10 miles together along a beautiful riverside trail and finished by jumping into the river and having lunch at a brewery. Six dads rode the trail home from the brewery and narrowly missed being pummeled by a massive hailstorm. The kids were blown away by the hail and ate it by the spoonful.
  • A near daily river float occurred, wherein multiple flotation devices were lashed together and a group of kids and adults would laze their way down the river before hot tubbing away the chill.
  •  We tried, but came nowhere near, finishing three kegs of delicious beer. We did, however, blind taste and rank 14 different beers and left the table standing up.
I love this sort of thing – the feats of endurance, the pseudo-triathlon nature of our days, the fact that so much happened at the pace and direction of my children. I didn't send my kids to summer camp this year, but instead I gave them, and all of us, this. I can imagine no better modeling for them than to get to spend time with a wonderful group of kids and adults that make a point of coming together each year, five years running now, to celebrate the joy of play. That, in and of itself, is pretty epic.

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