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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Monday, July 27, 2015

How to vacation charitably

Once upon a time taking a "vacation" meant complete abandonment from life's routine.  No schedule,  no agenda and certainly no expectations or planning. The act of going on vacation meant a time to rest and relax by putting away the world that engulfed my existence in any other given moment.

There were the teenage years of inviting friends to accompany our family on the annual summer excursion to Surfside Beach. Those years were memory makers.  However, as family members passed away the location grew to become a stark reminder of absence. Family vacations then became a means to keep grief at bay. There were destination shifts to Ocracoke, North Carolina, Destin, Florida and Tybee Island, Georgia. Each location with undeniably beautiful attributes never really kept those feelings of loss from surfacing, they simply didn't reinforce it.  Looking back, my relocation to South Carolina in later life was driven by a desire to reside in the landscape where those warm family memories were made.

The young adult years entailed being invited to join others in their adventures near and far.  This period spans both coasts of the United States. Road trips with sorority sisters, conferences for professional development, packing and moving to accept a new job, and attending weddings (there were a lot of these). These years are memorable. However, notably missing in these jaunts are many of the in-between states that we either flew over or slept through.

Decades after graduating from college vacation travel became fodder for exploration both of self and places outside the United States. Cruises, canal tours, sandy beaches, mountain top retreats and a myriad of food and music festivals.  These years created a presence of just being. Several earlier blog posts allude to destination travel and while it's habit to denote these experiences via FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter there's a notable shift in my thoughts on how vacation time should be spent in present day tense.

I'm definitely late to the notion of vacation as a philanthropic opportunity. Congregations of people and civic groups have dedicated themselves to mission work, student exchanges, and immersion programs for far longer than I've been alive.  A recent visit to Eleuthera, Bahamas was a catalyst in viewing time away in a different light.  I met a librarian at a bar. Truly, a serendipitous  meeting, while picking up a pizza at the Rainbow Inn in Rainbow Bay.  Turns out the individual, Susy Siel, is the executive director of Freedom to Read, Inc and she endeavors to build settlement libraries in Eleuthera every summer.  Outside summer months, she's a media specialist at a high school in Wisconsin. It was not so much meeting her, but the post conversation exploration of the organization's website and FaceBook page that it dawned on me, someone who believes that reading is fundamental and who has even tutored reading in her local community, that here's an individual that gets it right. Susy through community development and a league of committed volunteers is making an investment in young people, creating a legacy that reaps benefits beyond the books that stock the libraries shelves.

While it's still important to escape the daily routine either in union or isolation there's a host of opportunities to do good work, make a difference and give back.  Perhaps embracing this concept gives rise to the desire to step back from life and incorporate charitable endeavors into a ritual once reserved for self indulgence.  I don't doubt that there was purpose in the universe placing Susy and I in the same location for that brief period of time.  It was my aha moment.

Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life