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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are Vacations Socially Irresponsible?

           Today is Thursday, which means today is Debate Day here on Tossing It Out.    I'm going to toss out the question to you, pose a few arguments, and then leave it to you to toss a response back to me.  Here is todays question:

Are self-indulging vacations that involve leaving home and spending a lot of money selfish and socially irresponsible?

           We are in an era of change, social responsibility, personal accountability--or at least that is what some would have us believe.  Each of us impact our world by our actions.  In absolute reality, the "fun" vacation of taking trips, going to touristy places, and spending lots of money to indulge ourselves and our families is not a necessity for us to survive.  Why do we feel the need to have these unnecessary excesses in the name of relaxation and entertainment?  Why might these types of vacations be a good thing?

        With all the talk about "carbon footprints" and the like, it is probably important to assess the  environmental impact of the travel entailed by vacations away from home.  Said travel uses up fuel for no practical goal oriented purpose.  Often energy used up at vacation destination is frivolous waste as it is sucked up by amusement and entertainment venues and travel for the sole purpose of seeing sights.  If people stayed home instead of traveling to a vacation destination it is probable that a great deal of energy would be conserved.  Also, one should consider the environmental damage done to more sensitive areas like national parks and similar destinations.  Travel vacations are environmentally unfriendly.

       These are economic hard  times for many families.  Many people are out of work, not to mention the huge financial hits that have been taken by many investors and homeowners.  People should probably be putting money away for what may be hard economic times to come.  Charging vacations to credit cards should not even be an option.  And even those who feel a sense of financial confidence might be better off thinking of socially responsible ways to put their money to work helping others.  Why should any of us be thinking about amusing ourselves with frivolity when so many in our communities are in need?   At the very least perhaps it would make more economic sense to use our accumulated savings to invest in home improvements.  Hire local out of work craftspeople and buy building supplies from local sources in order to provide some cash flow to our hometown economy.  Investing in ourselves and our neighbors will have more long term benefits than accumulating a few photographs and memories.

         Also, Americans should consider what kind of message our travel sends to the rest of the world.  Do other countries really want to see Americans in their countries?  Sure, they want our money, but does the money ultimately go to a good place and does money spent abroad help the U.S. economy.  We may be very well supporting political regimes that would like to eventually see the U.S. put down.  So far as spending our money in countries that are U.S. allies, the question as to whether it would be better to spend our money at home still arises. 

          If the financially able truly must go anywhere then they should consider the social significance of their travel choices.   Volunteering for aid missions helping poorer countries to become better or rebuild after disasters would be a merciful activity that would be more important than mere pleasure seeking.   Instead of going to Disneyland we should be taking our families to help build housing in poverty stricken areas.  Cruises should be replaced by spending time on the frontlines feeding and caring for the homeless.  Camping and hiking in the wilderness could be replaced with assisting farmers to bring in their crops.   It's sad to be having fun and recreation when many other cannot afford it or don't have the time because they have to work so much.

        What do you think?  I've just tossed this argument out there as one side of the debate.  I'm not going to say what my real stance on this debate question is because I want to hear your opinion.  But I will give a hint by saying that the arguments that I've presented here would probably be embraced by some people, but I have approached it somewhat tongue in cheek.  I don't want to say anything else right now.  Tell me what you think about this topic.

        Are you planning to go anywhere for a vacation this year?  Where are you going?  What do you like to do on vacation?

28 comments:

  1. Lucky right now I don't have to think about that, though the places I am going are nice they are more for events then they are for vacation, but while we are there we do intend to enjoy ourselves... call it what you will but I plan to self-indulge!

    Los Angeles in April for a wedding, Hawaii in October for a baby, my sis is having a baby girl!

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  2. I've never been a big vacation indulger. My wife and I, our favorite vaction is rustic camping - out in nautre roughing it with no electricity or internet, phones, nothing. I DID go on a cruise to the Bahamas once, that was very indulgent, lol. And I still want to travel to Europe - but I want to do it low budget, away from tourist towns, meeting the real people there.

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  3. Lee, I've not taken a real vacation - one that didn't involve family, books, or our singles group - since 2004. My husband and I have decided we are way overdue and both in desparate need to get out of Dodge for a while.

    I think learning vacations are important. By that, I mean traveling to places where we learn something about our country, our past, our world. A lot of people here in NC go to the beach and just sit there. I want to go to the museums, the aquariums, the parks! I want to expand my knowledge while I am recharging my batteries.

    And taking a credit card vacation is dumb! How can you relax if you're worrying about the huge bill that will arrive when you get home? Even when we went to England for two weeks, the $3000 it cost to do so was set aside in advance.

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  4. As one of the many who likes to travel (While my health permits me)
    I am heading for Nashville in June, not an emergency trip,but one I hope of fun and enjoyment and to see the friendly people of America.I have in the past have trailer holidays especially when the children were small but now I'm retired I would like to see as much of the world as possible.
    Here in the UK we love to see visitors from other countries and I hope we do them justice whilst they are here.
    I appreciate there are many lands
    that are poor and need help but I also give to charity so why should I not go and visit places I have never been to.
    It is something for me to look forward to in the coming months,
    As most of my time is spent as the weather has been awful either reading, blogging or shopping.
    I love to travel it has given me a new lease of life since getting over a horrendous period in my life.

    Interesting topic Lee.

    Yvonne.

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  5. In trying to keep with just answering your question "What do you think..." instead of simply sharing my experiences, I think the most direct responses would be, "Yes. Vacations are absolutely socially irresponsible." In the over-all scheme of life and why we're here and who we're supposed to be and who we should represent - we all need to be dedicating a lot more of our time, money and efforts to helping one another.

    It does seem that selfishness and thinking of and taking for ourselves has come to represent the Great American Dream.

    And given the economic crisis that we're all in, "Yes". It is financially irresponsible to go away instead of investing in home improvements, paying the mortgage, planning for the winter's heating bills, investing in education, etc.
    As for 'greening-up' - again, "Yes". Our carbon footprints sink hard and deep when it comes to the impact travel and amusement leaves on our environment. I shudder to think about all the waste and damage to our environment that one 'spring break' might bring.

    But ... (didn't you feel a 'but' was nearby?), for those who do live responsibly and live as good stewards of all that's provided to us here on this earth, and for those who actually live within their means and still find the time/energy/finances to give to others - there's nothing wrong with rowing our boats out a bit into the middle of the lake to get alone for awhile.

    It's all about balance. (Is there really such a creature?)

    No, we did 'want' to get away this year. But we 'need' new carpet and flooring. So we're investing our vacation into our home this year.

    Good and thought provoking post. Love it!
    Deb

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  6. My first reaction to this post was, "are you nuts?" Because I don't see vacations as self-indulgent or selfish. I see them as necessities. Does that mean we should go into debt to have one? No. Does that mean we should not take care of necessities before we spend money on vacations? No. But if we can afford it without putting ourselves or our family members in trouble, why shouldn't we enjoy a break from our normal lives and see and experience new things? Hubby and I love to travel, and have done so extensively since we got married. This year, we are going to 3 national parks (Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton). We will be driving our new Hybrid, bringing much of our own food, and hiking in our beautiful country.
    Karen

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  7. I jump in here with some comments on your comments so far:

    Jen -- My vacations usually involve family related events and visits and I love them.

    Marvin -- My wife says she wants to go to Europe and I wouldn't mind going if I could afford it, but I still never tire of traveling the U.S. I think a cruise would bore me, but I wouldn't mind going on one if I were being paid to do it. In fact, I love paid travel.

    Diane -- I with your philosophy. I like to get something out of my vacations and take advantage of resources I am near. If I'm just laying around somewhere I'd better have some books to read or something to do. We put all of our "vacation" expenses on a credit card but pay them off before any interest accrues. I like to accumulate points on the credit cards to get free hotel rooms for the next trip or gift cards.

    Yvonne - I'd say as long as you can afford it, go and have a real good time. I love travel and do it whenever I get the opportunity. Someday I hope I can go to England to see where my ancestors came from and visit wonderful historical places like London.

    Deb -- I loved your response -- that's what I look for on "debate day". You encapsulated it pretty much as I believe it: Balance.

    Karen - I envy you. I say go and have a great time. Those are wonderful parks to visit. Travel and enjoyment of life are a big part of what living is all about, the way I see it.

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  8. Some vacations are wasteful. Going somewhere for the weekend just to party and drink is dumb - you could stay home and do that.

    Which reminds me... I think I need a vacation!

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  9. Lee,

    If someone sluggs off to work all year long, or even works at 2 jobs, and doesn't buy the toys, clothes and "STUFF" as many others do... so that they can save up for an enjoyable trip, then why not? Of course...I fit the above description to the tee. Who has the right to begruge me that or tell me I should be doing something else with my money.

    The tourist industry is important to some countries. Many people have jobs that depend on it. I have seen this time and time again during my travels. The bus driver, tour guide, hotel employees, restaurants...etc last year were all fearful of losing their jobs, or at least getting wages/hours cut due to lack of tourism. So it toursim is not seen as a negative thing.

    Also...it is a way of learning about a culture, being "Ambassadors" if you dont travel as an Ugly Obnoxious American" as many Americans unfortunately do (I often pass myself off as Canadian..to avoid that stereotype).

    While working to help rebuild/mission etc is noble...if you wish or have a religious conviction, I dont see it as something that is an only choice, especially trying to convert people into a religion which I think is really wrong...but dont get me started on that...

    While my idea of a traveling vacation does not include laying on beaches and drinking fuity drinks (ok...maybe 1 day would be fun) I would rather explore cuture, arts, museums, history and the people, as much as I can. And to share with them, that not all Americans are "Ugly".

    And I never do it with guilt

    Sig

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  10. I have been very blessed and have seen nearly 40 of the 50 states and have been in 5 countries, which include Canada and Mexico.

    I use to live for vacations. But you pose a very intriquing question.

    I will take the side that for believers they are irresponsible.

    First, let me establish the fact that we all must take sometime periodically, a hour, a day, a weekend, to "come apart" from out daily responsibilities so that we don't "come apart." Retreats, whether with a group, church, friends, co-workers, spouse, or alone are vital. Jesus is our example of that. He often got alone with His Father for prayer and fellowship.

    Second, let me remind us that the Bible teaches we are pilgrims or strangers, we are non-citizens living in a hostile territory engaged in horrific spiritual warfare. This world is not our home.

    We should not live as if we are citizens since it can hinder our effectiveness, readiness, and combat worthiness. We would never expect our military personnel stationed in war torn areas to settle down, buy houses, get jobs and live like the natives.

    The harvest is great Jesus said, He lamented the fact that the laborers are few. He also said the hour is coming and that night is coming when no one can work.

    I think we who have the wherewithall, health, finances, time, etc., need to consider how to use our resources, time off, skills, etc., to spread the gospel since that is our commission.

    Consider, short term missions or even long term projects. The monies that we spend on vacations, trinkets, pleasure, etc. could be used to travel to mission fields in order to share the gospel, encourage missionaries, build buildings, provide medical or technological services.

    We here in America who have so much will be held accountable for so much. Many of us have been given "ten talents" and we are like the guy who was given one and buried it. We wil have nothing to show the Lord when He returns.

    Forget, carbon footprints, going green, that is mostly hooyey, God is not going to allow us to desgtroy His earth when He said that He will destroy it by fire and re-create it.

    We as believers have been likened in the Scriptures as farmers, soldiers, runners, athletes, pilgrims, strangers, etc. We need to think and live like them.

    When we as believers stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat (I Cor 3:12-15) God will not ask us if we saw the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Carribean, The Alps, Greec, Rome, Disneyland, or Magic Mountain; but did we visit him in prions, feed him when he was hungry, share the gospel.

    So, this is a great debate. Very controversial. My side will not be very popular. But let me challenge you this year instead of spending 2-5K on a "vacation" visit the missions work of your local church or fellowship.

    Thanks for allowing me to share.

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  11. Alex -- you should go, indulge, and have a great time.

    Sig-- thank you for stating another side of the debate. You made many of the points that I thought about doing and then realized the post would get too long -- better the points come from a reader. And in reality I'm more on the side of the debate you presented. I just wanted to say what I though would sound controversial -- and they are kind of good points in a way. But me? I want to go on a fun vacation where I get learn stuff too--Whoohoo!

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  12. Lee thanks for your comment on my comment. I have saved very hard to go wherever I have travelled, luckily I have a son in Spain where I go a couple of times a year. My family are first and foremost in my life and if it meant the 2 who live here in England needed help my holiday would go by the wayside. Having a son here in remission from cancer
    life for him was hard for a while
    but if he can arrange to take his children on holiday this year
    saying "Life is for living"
    Then I shall take a leaf out of his book.
    Take care.
    Ps hope your buses in the US are not like the ones in my latest poem
    Yvonne,

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  13. Great question! I think, as with anything, as long as you do it in moderation it's fine. If you go over the top every month... that might be a bit much!

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  14. If I could afford to go on vacation I would- hands down. If I could afford to go a more than once a year I would. My family and I deserve to enough one another and the experience of travel.

    Call it whatever- we work and we minister so I don't feel bad to want to relax in a brief stint of luxury. And it's okay if I have to wait until Heaven to get it.

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  15. Life isn't only about responsibility. It's about fun too!

    I'm all for vacations--as long as families don't go in debt for them. We tend to camp, which is tons of fun and budget friendly, but I plan on saving up to go to England, Maine, and any beach in warm climates.

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  16. Ironically, my husband and I just got back from vacation, to Vegas. We had a blast. We don't have children, so we decided the next best thing is to travel, so we do quite a bit of it!

    Hi! I just wanted to stop by and thank you for visiting and following my blog. I really, really appreciate it! I'm following you back, cheers!!

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  17. Vacations are an essential need for all of us, even if they're just a little mind-vacation we take from our everyday stressors. Great, thought-provoking post. Thanks for writing, Lee.

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  18. `
    In the words of BOCEPHUS:

    This is the coalition
    To ban coalitions
    I ain't a politician
    But I've got views
    Some folks want to ban cars
    Some want to get rid of Fender guitars
    Why don't you do your thing and we do our thing too?

    Now they want to take my cigarettes
    And all my good whiskey
    And these damn coalitions
    They are after you and me
    They want to get rid of my forty-fours
    And all the R-rated films
    If they only knew how much we'd all
    Love to get rid of THEM!

    And this is the coalition
    To ban coalitions
    The views of a musician
    Yeah, I've got some
    Some folks want to ban cars
    Some want to get rid of electric guitars
    Why can't everybody else leave everybody else alone?

    Now the latest thing they want to stamp out
    Is violence on TV
    And worst of all is that Oscar-winning
    Rabbit, Bugs Bunny
    Farewell, Foghorn Leghorn
    So long, Yosemite Sam
    They're messin' with our heroes
    And we got to stop them now!
    And this is the coalition
    To ban coalitions...

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

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  19. Hi, Lee,
    Oh Wow! Vacations have always been important to us. We are both retired teachers, and when we traveled it was mostly to see our children (later) our grands and great grands. We have traveled to the Grand Canyon and other places of interest. In 1975, before I got married to my present husband, I took a trip to the Holy Lands, and put it on my credit card. It took me the next three years to pay it off, but it was worth it to me. I have gone on two mission trips to Brazil in my 60's, and paid mostly for both of those. I believe that any time one goes to a tourist place, one is helping out the economy in those places, because many of them depend on tourist dollars for a living. I vote yes, for vacations. It refreshes one's body and soul, and gives a wonderful opportunity to witness to people (which we do)as we go. Thanks for a really neat post! I enjoy reading comments, too. Best regards to you. Ruby

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  20. Guess I'll jump back in here and catch up:

    Greg --- great counter response to some of the other views. You've kind of sided with the arguments I posed in my original statement. Not to appear wishy washy I do agree on both sides of this debate which is why I could argue either side. AS you said a firmly committed Christian who espouses the value of mission and commission might see their free time as a time for committing to the Lord's work. On the other hand, the vacations we have from work are like God's sabbath day--sometimes we need a break. But that, as usaul, was a great response, Greg.

    Yvonne -- If you're going to be taken buses on your U.S. vacation I hope their the luxury sightseeing busses. I'm sure you'll have a great time. I'm in agreement with you about the importance of family---visiting mine is usually my vacations.

    Talli -- Moderation in everything!

    Tamika -- I think you do probably deserve a vacation with your family.

    Jill -- I'm in favor of fun also. I used to camp, but that's not for me anymore.

    Anything Fits -- Vegas is fun and can be relatively cheap if you don't blow your money on gambling. It's about a 3 hour drive from my house and we usually go a couple times a year.

    B. -- gotta get away every now and then-- I agree.

    Stephen -- Are you on a singing vacation? I don't think there's any conspiracy to stop us from taking vacations yet-- or is there?

    Grammy -- Grand Canyon is a great sight to see. I'd love to do a Holy Land tour. And just so you don't have to go bankrupt or anything -- I guess the credit vacation can work.

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  21. Vacations were a very important part of my life when I was in the work force but since I retired 5 years ago vacations aren't as important to me as they once were. We have a trailer stored at a local 5 star campground that we have been members of for the past 12 years. It's located in the mountains less than 100 miles from where we live and we try to get up there at least 3 or 4 times a year. We have a 2 week family vacation every July or August at our campground and some years we've had up to 50 people attend. Given the choice of a cruise or a high priced vacation I'll take the family camping trips anytime.

    I believe if people can afford it and they have earned the money honestly it up to them what they do with their money and not someone else to make them feel guilty how they spend it. If they have a clear conscience... I say go for it.

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  22. My hubby & I don't make tons of money. I come from a very Scottish background. I refuse to buy anything on loan other than a car or home. Credit cards are paid off every month. Our kids are our first priority - their sports, activities, schooling etc always come before us.

    For all of these reasons we rarely go on big vacations or trips. We've never been more than 8 hours driving away from our city. But we've had tons and tons of fun on short trips, and day trips around our area. Once we've retired, we have bigger plans. :)

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  23. Interesting thoughts and questions.

    I don't have hard fast answers because I think it's between each person and God as to how they & their family will approach the vacation thing. I would however say that, as a rule of thumb, if you do not have the money to do a vacation, it's better to come up with a creative, fun, things-you-can-afford-to-do from home time off plan. I've certainly enjoyed those type vacations lots of times.

    I know plenty of people whom God has blessed with the money to be able to enjoy lots of travel and who are blessed and nourished by those times and, when it's all said and done, who am I to say they are wrong?

    I've never had a lot of money and have sought to live without debt (we're blessed to even have our home paid off) so we haven't had a lot of luxurious vacations. We have been able to enjoy Yosemite a few times and spend some days staying right on the southern California beach. This year we are traveling to New York (we live in So Cal) to my son's graduation from college and then his wedding the following day; due to schedules we won't be able to do much more than see his college and attend these two events, but I'm excited about us having the financial resources to all go together and celebrate.

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  24. Ron-- You're right, we each have to decide for ourselves. God is really my judge, not the nosy person that wants to have a say in everything I do.

    Jemi -- You're gonna deserve a nice big vacation someday. But somedays those little trips close to home are the most fun. It's nice to know what's nearby.

    Tracy -- I totally agree with you. We live with our decisions to do what we want to do. And if you've got the resources and God blessed you with abundance, then you have the right to decide what to do and hopefully you've used wisdom in making your decisions. Sometimes the simple vacations are the best and for me nothing trumps time spent with family.

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  25. Well, I've been saving up for a trip to Australia for about a year now. Why, you might ask? To live on a few farms and vineyards to learn how to grow grapes and other various foods. This way, not only am I avoiding the "typical" American vacation, I'm helping out by volunteering, and becoming immersed in the culture in a deeper way as well.

    I can't WAIT to go.

    I believe that vacations can be so much more than a vacation. They can be a chance to learn, to try something new, and to relax too, if you are into that kind of thing. But I see them as an essential part of who I am, and something that I need to do. I also don't really think of it as a vacation, but more of a study-abroad experience, without the college stuff to get in the way.

    Thanks for a lovely topic! Very insigntful comments.

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  26. Ginny -- I think you have the right idea. Using a vacation as a learning experience and getting away from the life you know about to learn about a life you have not experienced. After all, a vacation is about getting away and doesn't have to be about rest, recreation, and indulgence. What you are planning is pretty cool in my opinion.

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  27. "Said travel uses up fuel for no practical goal oriented purpose"

    Whoa! Quite the topic. How brave you are.

    As one who won't do anything exciting this year due to child monetary commitments, I'd love to sit on a beach and have someone bring me a drink. Not a fan of Disneyworld or cruises, I've traveled to 49 of the 50 states, our dear Canadian and Mexican neighbors and several countries in Europe. Travel opens up the world to us - exposes us to different cultures, different ideas, different ways to do things. Never would I advocate not exposing my kids nor myself to understanding the world.

    Albeit, your ideas of giving of ourselves indeed has merit. But aren't we supposed to do that all the time? Not just on vacation? Bravo to you for opening up this discussion.

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  28. I think vacations of any sort are okay if one can afford them. People need them, and they're a learning experience.

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