Spring Break: Strategies for Meaningful Vacations

Spring Break – a brief escape from the unholy workload piling up exponentially atop a university student's desk. Spring Break – a departure from the nine-to-five, a deliverance from the shackles of all that is mid-term exam week; a sweet, sweet interlude before the solemn death grip march towards finals.

Do you want to make this sacred week, this holy handful of days, a time waster? An alcohol-induced coma.  A “Spring Break –woohoo!” as Friend's Joey terms it. Or do you want a meaningful vacation? A worthwhile interlude that you'll actually remember and cherish for years to come.

Keeping with the tone of your creative writing class (you've probably fine-tuned this tone by now), let's form a meaningful spring break as though we're crafting an effective and powerful creative essay. By following some basic literary constructs – setting, character, plot: intro, rising action, climax, conclusion –, together we'll form a step-by-step strategy for a meaningful spring vacation.

1.   1. Setting – Choose a setting which inspires you. Whether it be the normal “Spring Break – woohoo!” setting of sparkling sea, sandy beaches, hot hot sun, and balmy palm tree weather; or a tropical forest with all matter and shapes of wildlife. Whether it be a harsh jagged mountain cutting into the sky; or even the deserts of Egypt, with their Sphinx and great three-dimensional equilateral triangle pyramids whose circumradius is calculated by the square root of – *cough, I mean the Great Pyramids of Giza...sometimes it's difficult to leave math-brain at home.

Anyhow – when choosing your setting, keep in mind that the background of your meaningful vacation should reflect your ideals. You know your landscape, you know what charms you, so choose accordingly. If your ideal is soaking up some culture, then you're probably none too interested in a beachside resort. If your ideal is soaking up some sun, then you're probably none too interested in the historical quarter of a far-flung district in the arctic. Your setting will set the scene either for the best, most fulfilling spring vacation of your life...or a futile disappointment where you won't feel “vacation”ed at all.

2.   2. Character(s) – Which literary device really makes a story jump off the page? What part of a story paints the most colorful picture, allowing us to identify with the story, to relate? You – in the back. Speak up, can't hear you. “Conflict”? Well, yes – but I was going for character. Good try though. I'll give you an A for effort.

Character. Our characters are the feet to the pedals; they're what move the story along. So people your setting with characters who will move the story in a direction preferable to yours. If you want your vacation to be wild, crazy, spontaneous, then people it with travel-mates who are not stuck on an itinerary, who will push your limits and challenge you. Would you rather the plot stay on task, intriguing to the core, but with minimal bumps of unplanned-for spontaneity? Then choose those travel-mates of whom you're like-minded and comfortable. Are you up for a solo character-driven adventure? Travel on your own and meet a colorful shock of strange characters along the way. Whatever your ideal cast of characters, don't bog your spring vacation down with characters who'll train wreck the plot.

3.   3. Plot – which brings me to the movement of your story: plot. Any literary major will tell you that a plot generally consists of an exposition – where the primary characters are introduced; the rising action – where conflicts develop and characters either rise to the occasion or are snowballed uphill to the summit; climax – where the conflict reaches its max, the height of the story; and resolution – where the conflict is resolved and the story, of course, ends.

  • Exposition – the introduction to your spring vacation should be composed of a strong cast of characters, an intended goal, and a whole lot of excitement. A story's exposition is what GRABS the reader, as should be the exposition to your vacation – it should GRAB you! Don't allow your characters to roll off a plane, grim and glum. Bottlerocket off that plane and into the plot, “in medias res” or “in the middle of things.” Throw yourself enthusiastically into the middle of things to start your meaningful vacation off right.

  • Rising Action – a meaningful vacation's rising action should be full of spark, intrigue and excitement. Sludging through a story's mud-thick and overwrought rising action is no fun at all; and neither will be sludging through a vacation. Hit all your pre-planned vacation highlights, but leave plenty of room for movement. If there's character conflict (which, on vacation, there likely will be), shake it off and rise to the occasion. Know that conflict can, and likely will, happen; but instead of allowing yourself and your action to be steam-rolled by it, remember that it moves the plot along and also can be quite stimulating to the working parts of a meaningful vacation.

  • Climax – There will be a high point in every meaningful vacation, and you're likely to know it when it happens. If you've chosen to take a volunteer vacation, then the climax may be connected to the fulfillment you feel as a result of your humanitarian efforts. If you've chosen a culturally-centered retreat, you may feel the high point while inches away from the brushstrokes of a master, while gazing, mouth agape, at an iconic architectural achievement, while taking in a heart-wrenching opera at some spectacularly ornate opera house. If you've chosen to thrill-seek on your vacation, you may feel the climax literally at the climax of a mountain's summit, the cascading valley spread before you. Whatever the case, the climax is the most intense and meaningful moment of the story, as it will be for your vacation. So cherish it...the feeling is fleeting.

  • Resolution – And, finally, your conclusion. The resolution of your spring vacation may be sweet, but melancholy. On the plane ride home, you'll have time to reflect upon your adventure – the stunning setting, the cast of colorful characters, the beginning, the middle, and finally the end. Though the resolution of a meaningful vacation can be the toughest pill to swallow, if it was truly meaningful then, like any good book, you'll probably pick it up and read it again.

    Happy Spring Break Vacation!