“Are we almost there yet?” This is by far the most common phrase that has been asked in every single language, in every time period, on every single vacation. Second place would definitely be “I have to go to the bathroom.”
We just returned from an amazing family vacation to northern Israel. We laughed a lot, relaxed and rejuvenated. There are a lot of things you can learn though from a vacation and I want to share with you some of my thoughts in no particular order.
- People like to know where they are going and how long it will take to get there. This simple universal truth makes us appreciate what Abraham did when God tells him to leave his land, birthplace and fathers home and go to a place “that I will show you.” Abraham did not know where he was going nor did he know how long it was going to take. We can only imagine the nagging he must have endured from his household that was traveling with him! Are we almost there yet?
- If there is an opportunity to go to the bathroom, take it. While it is rare that you truly have a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” it is critical to evaluate opportunities that come your way. Don’t let cynicism and sarcasm get in the way. Be open minded and willing to jump on board when you think it may benefit you. Too often in life people procrastinate and live life with regrets. Down the road sometimes we wish we have gone to the bathroom when we had the chance. Don’t let life pass you by. Take advantage of every moment of your life because time is our most precious commodity. The Jewish Sages put it this way. “If not now, when?”
- People who sit in the back often get nauseous. There are countless situations which require leadership. Most people though would prefer to take a backseat and let someone else lead from the front even if it makes them nauseous. Followers tend to criticize leaders but never truly want to lead themselves despite their willingness to criticize. Though sitting in the back comes with a price, sitting in the front has many rewards and advantages. You get to see what is coming at you better, you can feel the air conditioning and you get to choose the station on the radio. Our communities, schools, institutions and even families need more leadership. Sit in the front. The rewards far outweigh the challenges.
- On vacation there is no room for excess baggage. When packing up the car, you need to manage to fit everything in while leaving room for everyone to sit. You need to prioritize when you pack and think about what is truly necessary and important for the trip. It is a good idea in life to take stock often of our priorities and rid our lives of what we don’t need. Ask yourself, what fits in on your journey in life and what must be discarded? If you are flying you pay a steep price for excess baggage. In life that price is all too often our health, our relationships and our self-image. We carry baggage from childhood that deeply limits us and it needs to be discarded. When we streamline our lives the result is that we create space for other people thereby enriching ourselves and others. The Jewish Sages put it this way. “Many possessions. Many worries.”
- There is no vacation from God. When on vacation we do not leave our spiritual routines behind. If we pray and study regularly we must do so while on vacation as well. In fact, if you want to really test your sincerity in your relationship with God, there is no better place to do so when you are on vacation and no one else is around. The sincerity of your relationship is reflected by your willingness to take God with you on your vacation and allow Him to be part of your life even when you are outside of your daily routine.
These are just some of my reflections from our recent vacation. Life always gives us opportunities to learn even when we are not in a normal, learning mode like a classroom. Perhaps there is no greater teacher in life than the experiences we have. If you open your mind and heart you will be amazed at what you can learn from simple things. These are all Divine messages. We just need to pay attention.