Monday, September 2, 2013

Military Monday: Vacations

A week and a half of bliss.

Rose bushes by our PEI cottage
For twelve days my family have enjoyed one another's company while driving almost 4000km (close to 2500 miles), visiting three provincial capitals, touring historical buildings, national treasures, and one absolutely beautiful beach. We've eaten a plethora of just-off-the-boat shellfish (OH, the LOBSTER!), fresh croissants, rabbit pie and even a home cooked and very delicious gluten-free birthday cake. We've body-surfed and had (slightly rude) late-night Scrabble games. We've biked, toasted marshmallows, read more than twenty-five books collectively, and watched shooting stars from a red-sand beach.

Pure heaven.

I've been quiet in social media circles for a week or so, but if you caught my tweet/facebook post a few weeks ago, you will know that this is the first true and un-blemished vacation our military family has had in years.

What do I mean by un-blemished? I mean a vacation that is neither tacked on to, nor involves any of the following:

*a house-hunting trip
*a move from post to post
*a family emergency
*the beginning/middle/end of a deployment
*a major holiday (ie Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving...or any other religious holiday which generally involves semi-mandatory family get-togethers)
*a work/military conference or trip

If you are a service family of any sort, or have had to move away from family as a result of your/your spouse's job (RCMP families? Oil-rig workers?), you will understand what I'm getting at. Sometimes a vacation can be just being together in your own house for a week, with no demands on your time other than what game you're going to play or what park you are going to walk to.

It's hard to be away from your parents, grandparents and siblings. And vacation time with them is precious. Incredibly precious. So every vacation has to be planned and plotted and judiciously organized to maximize this family time. It's even more complicated if your respective parents live in two separate parts of the is the case in our family (almost 1400km apart). Just going 'home for the holidays' is a delicate balancing act, not to mention an expensive and potentially stress-filled prospect. Even worse when your posting has plunked you in a completely different part of the country or the world.

Don't get me wrong! I'm not complaining. Sometimes the military lifestyle works to our advantage, and little bonuses come our way. Like this past January, when I got to tag along on my hubby's New York City visit (I blogged about it here...). Or when the kids and I flew over to Italy to meet up with my hubby during his two-week mid-deployment break (see A Vacation in the Clouds here).  I have one friend who has just completed a cross-continent family adventure as part of their move from Florida to Alaska (loved reading her Facebook updates!). Another went to Hawaii with her hubby when he was tasked there for a month. Military families are great opportunity maximizers, and can turn a stressful situation (a 10 day drive to a new post) into a once in a lifetime trip (a family adventure to see the coast of Maine and the Rocky Mountains all in one tour).

Thunder Cove Beach, PEI
But these military 'facilitated' vacations are few and far between and sometimes bitter-sweet. I have to say, one of the hardest good-byes I've ever experienced was our Venice adieu, watching Daddy as he left on his plane to head back to the Middle East while we waited for ours to take us back to a very quiet and Daddy-less home. The magic of our two-week vacation ended with the close of a door.

When we were plotting our precious yearly vacation time waaaaaaaay back in the winter, we decided on Prince Edward Island for many reasons, but the military had no part of this decision. We went there because we wanted to  and not because we had to. A rare occurrence in our family existence.

And the extended family visits on the way? Well, they were just a bonus.


Got a family vacation story you'd like to share? A move that turned into an unexpected adventure? Drop me a line in the comments below!

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