Top 10 Takeaways from this Summer's Excursion


Everyone has a different notion of what an ideal vacation looks like. I didn't really have an idea of what represented a 'vacation', until I became an adult. My parents never really went on one, so growing up, the concept was never embedded into my consciousness. Initially all of my vacations were about visiting family. Then I transitioned into wanting to “see the world”. Once my work life involved a ton of international travel, I got sick of airplanes and hotels, so today there is a new equilibrium- focusing on time with family, and experiencing nature. I just got back from Utah after spending a week there, and here are my top 10 reasons why this was one of the most memorable vacations I have had!  

1) National Parks are an awesome and cheap way to have a mind-blowing vacation. We hiked in Arches, Bryce, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands, with an additional trip to the Kodachrome state park. The weather ranged from 48 to 100 degrees fahrenheit, from sunny to hail storms- and the landscape went from lush to moonscape and everything in between. An annual pass to the national parks is around $80 per carload of people — compare that to the cost of taking the family to Disney (which I also love, by the way) and it doesn’t even come close. Taking in the sunrise over Bryce was about as magical as it gets!


2) Stepping out of the day-to-day routine to spend time with family is priceless.  No rushing around, long walks together, and just hanging out is something that most of us do far too little of. One day there were flash flood warnings at Bryce (and it was pouring rain) so we were forced to spend the afternoon in the hotel. I had purchased a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle (picture of the Arches - i.e. mostly red rocks)  which my mother and 13 year old son and I completed together in a couple of hours. Boring? Actually it was an amazingly memorable part of the trip - talking and just being together. Therapy. Bonding. Awesome.

3) No cell service is a blessing. So here’s the thing, when you are driving all over the remote parts of Utah, there are very long stretches with no cell service at all- a forced detachment from the crazed and frenzied world of always being connected. Actually, is there really that much going on that can’t be addressed once a day looking at your computer or phone? Mostly not. It is a bad habit and as a society, the fact that we have gotten into this compulsive need to always be “on” is disturbing. This is one thing that I plan to take with me beyond this vacation.  Being present with the people in the room is way more gratifying than being present with the pixels on the phone.

4) Forget about work- it will be there when you get back. There is an egocentric mentality that makes us all think that the work will fall apart when we step away. If that is the case, you haven’t done a very good job in preparing your workplace or organization. No one is irreplaceable in an organization - unless you have created it to be that way to feed your ego. If so, stop it.  

5) Holding on to some routine while on vacation is also good.  We tend to be early birds during the regular work and school year. The advantage of keeping up with that when on vacation is that you get to see the world as it wakes up, which in nature is really cool. Setting the alarm and forcing everyone to get up to be able to hike during the cooler part of the day is also good. It also makes it way easier when you return home, to slip right back into the regular routine. Same rule applies with eating well. Everyone feels better with three square meals (at least in my house) so sticking with that on vacation just makes it a healthier and more enjoyable experience.

6) Vacation exercise is way more fun (and uses different muscles).  Truth be told, I am a very inconsistent exerciser. Building a vacation around physical exertion feels awesome- and there is an element of feeling accomplished at the end of a long and challenging hike. The other reason to push into the wilderness is that the views are incredible - and hard to replicate from the road or trailhead.

7) Multi-generational vacation is awesome.  We had 4 generations on our trip - from my mother to my kids and my granddaughter. It has long been my view that our world is far too segregated by age which leaves us more limited in understanding than we should be about the insights, gifts and also challenges that we encounter at different ages and stages of life. I also hadn’t done a cartwheel in some time, but when challenged by my granddaughter to do some, I felt obliged to show them how it’s done!

8) A blended family means the more, the merrier. At various points in life we have had step children, ex-spouses and friends of the family all together. I love large group gatherings anyway, but being a part of people’s lives that you don’t always see, who have a special place in the lives of your loved ones, is really wonderful. It can also bring about unexpected fun!  For my 13 year old son, who is usually the only person in his age group on these sorts of trips, having his same age step-niece and her friends join in the fun was a blast! When all the adults were too tired to play, they had a game of hide and go seek in the hotel (that may not have been delightful to all the people they encountered) but was definitely good harmless fun for them!

9) Food is always a fun part of being away. No matter where I travel, I love to seek out places to eat that I wouldn’t be able to get at home. Hands down the best food on the trip was in a small town called Hanksville, UT- which wouldn’t have been my expectation for an awesome food experience. The place was called Duke’s SlickRock Grill, and from the outside it elicited a groan from my mother, who is not as much a “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” kind of gal. The first positive was when my mother returned from the ladies room absolutely gushing about how clean it was. The second positive was the incredibly friendly and attentive waitress. But the real treat was in the food. I had a large bowl of homemade vegetable soup that was so good, I tried to recreate it at home last night. If you are ever in Hanksville, you want to check it out (and as a side note, every place including this one was about ¼ of NY prices). Upon leaving Hanksville, there was a hailstorm - which was exciting drama for all of us!


10) Mostly though, every vacation underscores that there is no place like home.  There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed and being back to the comforts of home - until next time!


Jay Gopalakrishnan