Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 26, 1999
Get away from it all
Vacation break offers many ways to get grounded in God and oneself
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Vacations are about getting away from it all. It's about taking that time off from the daily grind of work or school and doing something more enjoyable.
Not to say that work and school don't have their enjoyable moments, but isn't it amazing how much happier we are getting out of bed when we realize we have the day off?
Vacations are no longer synonymous with burying your winter chapped feet in the sands outside the rented tiki-tiki hut. Time off doesn't have to be a strain on your bank account.
Last year, Cathy Brough took a Friday off from work, not to sit home and enjoy one of those "Calgon take me away" moments. Instead, she made a three-hour drive from her home in Calgary to join her mother at Providence Renewal Centre.
"It was my first retreat," said the mother of two children. "I'm not a practising Catholic, so I was reluctant at first. I thought it was going to be something religious. But I found out it was something wonderful. I really enjoyed it."
Since that time, Brough has taken time off and opted for the retreat atmosphere over the brochure enticements of tourist attractions.
She's been to additional retreats at Providence and another in San Francisco. She plans to attend a retreat in San Diego this summer.
"I think most people, like I did, associate retreats with religion," Brough said. "So if they're not associated with a religion, they stay away. So many of (the retreats) in Calgary are at convents, so you can't help but think that way."
The retreats are Brough's time to empty her life of the buildup from her daily responsiblities as a student, a pre-employment coordinator and owner of a management consulting company. And as much as she adores and loves her family, it's also a time away from them.
"That's a big part of these retreats," she said. "No phone calls, no kids, none of the pressures from work. You really get grounded when you come here.
"I guess you can see it as a vacation in that sense."
Brough recalls a retreat she recently attended at Providence. One of the participants lived only five minutes away from the centre, but opted to live in for the weekend.
"You really have to completely get away from it all," Brough said. "You lose that effect if you don't totally immerse yourself."
For some, the vacation definition of amusement parks and guided tours in foreign lands have been replaced with a slower pace atmosphere. The 1,000-stoller obstacle course at Disneyland that winds around Sleeping Beauty's castle and Splash Mountain is taking a backseat to a more lackadaisical spiritual journey.
A new breed of vacationers are finding productivity in their time off. Whether it's taking summer liturgical classes at Newman Theological College or a weekend retreat focusing on the wellness and caring for one's mind, body and spirit at Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, relaxation comes in many forms.
Retreats and summer classes might spell anything but vacation for high school students. But summer vacations don't have to mean parking yourself on a bench at the mall with a dozen of your peers or catching daily matinees with . . . a dozen of your peers.
When the lockers are emptied at Archbishop MacDonald High School, marking the beginning of the summer break, Grade 11 students Jean-Marc Stelter and Lily Wansink pack their bags and head to the country.
They spend that time swimming, boating and making papier mache art projects. Unlike some of their fellow classmates who make their mark in the minimum wage service industries, Stelter and Wansink use their time off school to volunteer at the archdiocese's Camp Encounter near Gunn.
"It's almost like I feel I have to be there in the summer," said Stelter, 17, who attended as a camper for four years. "There's people there I've grown up with, it's like coming back to see them every year.
"It's never work, it's more like a vacation. But it's not always relaxing."
As a counsellor, Stelter leads and cares for as many as 11 young campers. Being a parent to rambunctious campers for a week, is not always a walk on the beach, but Stelter calls it rewarding.
Spirituality does not exist only in a retreat setting. Wansink, 17, found it at camp.
"I had lost my faith awhile ago," she said. "But being at camp as a counsellor, I found it again. Being away and finding yourself, I guess that's what a vacation is for."
The journey back to her Catholic roots was assisted by a daily reflection period and the camp staff.
"For me this isn't volunteer," Wansink said. "I wanted to be (at camp) more than anywhere else in the world."
Despite the leisure activities surrounding it, camp counselling may seem more like work. And retreats may be too sedate for those seeking a fast pace sightseeing holiday. But it's not to say neither can be relaxing in their own right.
"I think there's misedu-cation about retreats," Brough said. "I think we all need that time away, that really quiet time for ourselves."