Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

73 Days of Summer Vacation

June 9, 2010 | 21 Comments

Mr. Keillor,
My dilemma is this: In a few days I am faced with seventy three days of vacation.

What to do? What to do?

Wringing my hands,
Katherine A.


A vacation of 73 days sounds more like unemployment to me, but of course it will all pass swiftly and sweetly, Katherine, and what you want to avoid is that feeling of guilt at the end, that you were a slug and frittered away the time and didn't accomplish anything. So make a list of five reasonable goals for the 73 days, including a book you think you really ought to read (The Book of Job, Moby Dick, Obadiah, The Robe, a book about the Gobi desert, the biography of Oprah, whatever you like), a physical exercise goal (a daily walk of 30 minutes), a home-improvement goal (paint a room, clean the garage), a spiritual goal (a half-hour of pure silence every day), and a goal of pure pleasure (make a feast for people you love). That's enough for anybody. The summer will pass pleasantly, so long as you don't step in front of a bus, and when you're done, you'll feel good about yourself. Which, of course, you already do, but this plan will stave off self-mortification. Happy days.


In sum, an ordinary life, well-lived, thoughtfully.

Aim-true-to-yourself, time flies, peace is a force of nature.

Dear Mr Keillor,
I have to tell you. Here in the UK we do also have a great tradition of public radio. As a medium i find Radio more comforting and entertaining than Television. I was born just after the war in a small country called Ceylon . Radio was the only medium available then and the type of programs we heard then in Ceylon on Radio Ceylon are exactly what you do now. As children we were greatly entertained. We had what was then a small Echo Radiogram as it was called . It contained a record player that played old 78 speed records and a radio. Thank you Mr Keillor for carrying on the fine tradition of that era and long may the type of program you and your team broadcast live on . I am a avid fan and listen to your broadcasts here in the UK every week faithfully .


You should use this time for self improvement.

This can take many forms:

1. A thorough physical and spiritual evaluation using ones best sources for guidance.

2. Go on an extended trip with no definite route.

3. Visit old friends that you have not seen in an extended period of time and renew old ties.

4. Take up Pinocle with Bourbon for a new social outlook.

I know that you will make a good choice.

Dan R.

In addition to Garrison's suggestions may I recommend picking up a copy of "1000 Places To See Before You Die". Try to visit as many of them as you can fit into your time schedule and budget. Not all of them are exotic, out of the way places. Many are truely gems tucked away like Historic Bethlehem in PA where PHC broadcast it's Christmas show in 2008. Enjoy your time...whatever you do!

I set three achievable goals everyday. You can always do more but, it is not advisable to do less.

Solitude Chosen

The silence teems
With possibility;
The air is charged with power.
How many solitary tasks
Can I fit within this hour?
Shall I write a poem,
Paint a flower?
Or shall I read a book
Or watch the woods for birds?
Or shall I sit
And think,
Or sit and play a fugue,
Or sit and hear one played?
Perhaps I’ll bake a pie
Or hem a dress
Or pot a plant
Or reminisce.
What bliss!

Barbara Schutz

It's a joke, right? No one has 73 days of pure unscheduled time anymore.

If I knew I had that kind of free time, REALLY knew, I would do absolutely nothing as long as I could. Until something compelled me. I would expect that to be a way to achieve some entirely new direction.

Anyhow, good luck. Just don't over-plan.

Having been retired for the past 21 years, I can honestly say that I don't know how I ever had time to work for a living. There are just too many things to do and to learn about for the available time. Sit back and think about the chance to do those things that you never before had enough time to do and pick a few to start on. Enjoy!

Contemplaint for 71 days what magnificent thing you will do. On the 72nd day, do it. On the 73rd day rest, since you have to go back to work, you need some unscheduled time to relax.

71 days

On day 1, I sat and stared at the trees, drank coffee, and sighed
On day 2, I made a list of things to do
On day 3, I sat and contemplated the list
On day 4, I googled every topic I wanted to know about
On day 5, I was shocked a week was almost gone
On day 6, I went shopping for garden items
On day 7, it rained and I watched the water drops dance
On day 8, I got half the plants in their pots
On day 9, I called my friends while I watched my new plants begin life
On day 10, I read a book, rain again, and ate chocolates
On day 11, I went grocery shopping
On day 12, I cooked my favorite meal and watched the family enjoy
On day 13, I was too exhausted to get to the list
On day 14, I cleaned one closet
On day 15, I watched all the morning shows on television; what happened to my old favorites?
On day 16, I dragged out all the family photos and committed to getting them in an album
On day 17, I pulled the weeds from those d**n plants I just got in
On day 18, this is exhausting; considering calling to return to work
On day 19, what was next on Garrison’s list?

dear garrison,
what ever you do i know it will be material for next season. also enjoy your kids your boy works on the show but take care of the little girl. also remember to have enough ketchup in your diet. have a great vacation. cu

73 days -- of course it depends on what was done preceding and what will be done after. I know someone who spent the summer sailing off Cape Cod with his children and then expired, as had been expected, of melanoma. No regrets. On the other hand, people suddenly detached from the usual responsibilities probably get very small very fast, sleep as if dropped from a great height, and then live on bread and water, awaiting the light at the end of the tunnel. "Vacation." "Retirement." Hah.
School teachers who have predictable vacations have amazing things to teach about swaths of unstructured time. Watch out for what comes out of their garages.
There are natural rhythms that can be learned, individual to each, that the regimentation of most working life eclipses. I think it takes more than 73 days to recover those. You may not need three meals; just soup and sandwich once a week at the mall. The rest is peanut butter. You may find the inner caveman in you still governs your sleep, and you need to sleep on a sheepskin mat on the floor by the window -- or else your entire spine rebels. Who knew?
But you have the flexibility to mobilize (various aspects of self) in new ways, to explore this or that when the tickle comes (without blaming your excursion on Attention Deficit Disorder), and to honor solitude, and then to balance out the ways of centering oneself amidst a community, however defined that community might be.
And crucially you have the flexibility to test out your particular breaking points, where one tends to go astray emotionally or physically, and you can seek out better ways of coping. If you were a plant, you would uproot yourself and test to see if you do better with a different combination of potting soil.

the sheer act of filling those 73 days with meaningful(?), uplifting, soul nourishing content is project enough. treat each one as it dawns, as a brand new adventure. Choose a word of the day randomly from the dictionary and let it guide you that day. choose a color of the rainbow and eat only that color! you will be amazed what a challenge it becomes and how much fun it is trying to stay within those parameters. Above all.... enjoy it, savor it and spend time with your grandparents. :-)

Oh, I don't know.... It just makes me tired thinking about it. I think I'll take a lesson from my dog, Fluffy, and sleep on it.

Treasure, I agree with you. I am a teacher and never, ever accomplish what I want to do with a summer off. If I am lazy and just try to enjoy, guilt sets in. If I plan too many projects, I feel like summer is flying by. GK's suggestions sound the best to me: a little of this, a little of that - doable but not overwhelming. Think I'll try it!


I just want to follow up and inquire how you are passing the 73 days.

How's your Pinocle play doing?

Dan R.

Just don't turn on the TV. If you want to make 73 memorable days you won't do it staring at the tube.

Full disclosure: I'm typing this while watching TV.

There is a new fashion in Chapel Hill which is taking a StayCation, and not transporting yourself anywhere. You can do it on a weekend or a Holy Day or any day at all for just as long as you want. (Even on a break at the orifice where you earn your daily bread -- if you get Mr. Keillor's daily message on your email.)

Today is GrandDad's birthday (God rest his soul), so I took a day off and went to the Carolina Inn and had free decaf with real cream on the porch. Watched all the students and professors walking by down on the road. The robins were out as well with their children, Mr. and Ms teaching the fluffy young things how to forage on the grass and realight up on the branches of the great willow. The willow on the corner is like GrandDad - mellow and full of tricks for the kids while he bounced us on his knees. If we did a drawing for him, he'd do one for us - a cartoon of his making, bears and boys throwing balls and Winnie the Pooh. GrandDad always had a limerick in mind -- we, the cousins, would have to guess the last rhyme. (The cousins were mostly older than me though, so they always won the prize.)

After coffee I went to church and I'm back at the hotel again for buffet - with more fruits than you ever imagined. And the Inn has the best computers - a vacation from worn out modems and access that's always out of range.

A happy boisterous wedding here right next door with music and dancing and lots of blushes on every side. When I get married there will be poems and just fresh food and Spunky the parrot singing Greensleeves. Like the trooper he is -- he'll give me away with many a tear falling on his breast and be proud.

Today is July 4th, my holiday -- I see guests and widows dining, children fighting over where to go next, people from out of town rushing to get airplanes...that I today don't have to catch, being just this once in my life a lazy stay at home....Could it last another 72 evenings...this StayCation? It might become a Shangri-La one knows where I'm hiding...I'll just call in sick. One day they will notice I retired, but by then I'll be gone, having flown with the robins into the willow branches. (Almost no one can find me if my cell's turned off.) But if you want to seek me out - I could become an oracle and speak in the rustling of the willow leaves...and tell you of what might or may never be in the years to come...Here I could share your thoughts of deep things, secrets still untold, of what in this sweet American life you loved and hated. Or even the wants you harbor that could one day...come true...Make a wish....It's really the birthday of our country.

What I would do is try a different scoop of ice cream each day. Graduate from 31 Flavors, to RiteAid (where scoops in California are still a buck!), on to frozen yogurt, and don't forget the liquor store favorites: drum stick, fudgecycle, eskimo pie, various ice cream cookies -- heck, you could even get crazy and make some of your own one day. Easy to reach a goal of 73. Then, towards the end of the vacation, you could search for an Ice Cream Diet! Have fun.


I'll bet those 73 are flying by.

It's almost September but what wonderful thoughts from GK and everybody, especially Katherine-Marie.
I realized earlier this summer that am I lousy at vacations. And I almost panicked as the time approached in August to spend 10 days with my young sons (who live most of the year with their Mom.)
And in my panic I came to understand that one of the reasons my marriage went south was that I was not exactly "Mr. Summer Fun." Of course, it's good to work, and in this economy, one is grateful to be employed. But I had almost treated vacations as something to endure without spending too much money.
So, this summer I decided that holding one's breath and being cheap and putting life on hold -- will not help avert a financial tsunami, if and when it comes.
There's just no point to being glum.
So, this summer I put a lot of thought and energy into planning fun things to do. (i.e., a baseball game at Fenway (although I almost felt unclean paying $30 a seat extra at the StubHub scalper site), a water park, extra effort into setting up time with the boys' friends, whom they had not seen for a while.) And I did OK with my guys. We had a lot of fun.
Their Mom could have done better. But that's OK.
I'm learning.

Previous Post:
« Help with a Eulogy

Next Post:
Going to the Big City! »

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy