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Rethinking Recreation

August 30th, 2020 by dk

As September sneaks up on us, people are rushing out for Oregon’s uniquely moist forest air. We know September will bring new family challenges. August is when we all take a deep breath. And some breaths are deeper than others.

Every viewpoint along the coast was overflowing last weekend. Every reserved campsite was taken. My parents called it enjoying the Great Outdoors. My children think of it as just getting out. It’s still great, but everyday activities don’t require capital letters.

Everyone recharges in their own way, so it’s important you learn what works best for you. When my boys were little, we developed two different vacation strategies. We mastered the quick getaway and the deep diversion.

Getaways were often unplanned but they followed a familiar script. It might afford us only 44 hours, but we learned to make the most of it. We’d see at noon that tomorrow’s calendar was clear. We’d throw essentials into a few shopping bags. We’d leave work and school early that day, locked and loaded. We’d drive a couple hours — just far enough to be sure we were really gone.

Over dinner, we’d plan the next day’s activities. I would often pick up the local newspaper to see what’s going on. We’d spend two nights away, then race home just after dawn to resume our routines by breakfast. Others thought we were gone for a day, but we knew it had been two.

We could do a quick getaway every month or so. We were always watching for calendar openings, scouting far-enough destinations, keeping our plans nimble. The deep diversion trips were different. I learned that I needed three weeks to do what today we’d call a “hard reset” — completely powering down, allowing all systems to restart fresh.

If accommodations included an indoor pool and a TV, I knew the boys would be well entertained. I would need the first week to sort through whatever work I was leaving behind and the last week to gear up for what was ahead. Only during that middle week could I really relax with my family and explore with them what the area had to offer.

These strategies have served me well over the years. Do you know what works best for you? We all know that our work requires special training and certain skills. Should we be surprised to learn that cessation of work does too?

Recreation should allow you to literally re-create yourself. You may have to reimagine your circumstances and reevaluate your options. You may need to reframe, recategorize, and reorganize. You can’t rotate your tires while the vehicle is in motion.

Vacation should produce a special sort of emptiness — vacating your regular routine, letting go of every assumption, clearing away barriers and obstacles. Deep rejuvenation will give you new energy and insight for whatever challenges lie ahead.

If all you’ve done is rest and relax, rewarding yourself for the work you’ve done, beware. You may not be rebuilding anything except a deepening resentment that work and life is hard.  It is, but you can revive yourself — if you learn how.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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