Are Family Vacations Therapeutic?

Take time out of your busy schedule for something more important: family!

Despite all the frantic shopping, planning and stress during the holidays, Christmas is a time of the year where for many it's about family. Well, it should be anyways. We often get caught in the whole craziness of what we have turned each holiday into. I just read an article about the difference between Christmas in the 1970s and today. I'll have to admit that I am guilty of some of the stuff listed in the present version.

But in this high paced, stressful world of ours, do we not deserve some time out? Should we take a step away from everything and just relax and enjoy each other company? The answer is an absolute YES.

This past summer I was fortunate enough to do exactly that. My father-in-law from Toronto invited all his grandchildren from across Canada for a houseboat trip on Lake of the Woods with Lake of the Woods Houseboats. The 8 grandchildren ranged from age 5 to 17 and had actually never all been in the same room at the same time before!

Cruising Lake of the Woods aboard a houseboat.
Cruising Lake of the Woods aboard a houseboat.

Since the houseboat trip was near where I live, my husband and I were also invited on the trip. I am so blessed to have gone on that vacation. Everyone flew into the Winnipeg airport where I picked them up and drove them to our house for a couple of days before the trip. Two cousins were from Edmonton, my two girls from Kenora, three from Toronto and 1 from Montreal.

It's hard to get together being so spread across Canada. There are only so many vacation days, there are sporting tournaments, there's time you have to spend with your other side of the family. You know how it is. It's hard to find the time to fit everything in and to see everyone. Well, I have to say I am glad my father-in-law made the effort and made this trip to Sioux Narrows happen. Otherwise we probably still would have not gotten all the grandkids together.

I'll admit the couple of days before we got on the houseboat were a bit hectic. Hosting 12 people at your house while getting ready, and making a meal plan and packing for 5 days on a houseboat is a bit chaotic. One of the boys was definitely a 'city boy'. He was concerned about the bugs, the wood ticks etc. Being one of the older boys I was somewhat amused and surprised. I guess we take a lot about the wilderness for granted since we have grown up with it.

We had a fairly late start on Tuesday and basically just drove to the closest beach to set up for the night. That night there was hundreds of some sort of flies that looked like mosquitos flying about the boat. All the boys were panicked trying to kill all of them swarming around the lights. All I could do was smile, knowing they weren't going to bite us and chuckling to myself as the kids were freaking out about some harmless bugs flying around.

Exploring our first morning on Lake of the Woods.
Exploring our first morning on Lake of the Woods.

In the morning, everyone piled out onto the beach in their pajamas. The laughter I heard as they explored the beach reassured me they were going to have a great time. They saw some crayfish, a beaver dam and maybe a "bear" (which I'm thinking was my black Bernese Mountain dog in the distance).

It was Canada Day. We travelled to another beach which I think was my favourite spot. We moored at one beach and then there was a sand bar leading to another beach just across the way, perfect for setting off fireworks that night. I had brought Canada day tattoos, hats, etc to help celebrate Canada Day. At first, the kids were hesitant, but 20 minutes later the kids were flying around the houseboat all decked out in red and white having a blast. Two of the boys had never really celebrated Canada Day with all the 'props' I had bought, and the Quebecer said they don't really go crazy on Canada Day. I'm happy to say that they really enjoyed the day and was pleased I could show them how we do Canada Day in Sunset Country.

Canada Day Celebrations with family
Canada Day Celebrations with family.

As we lit the bonfire and got ready to roast marshmallows and have some Smores, it became clear that one of the teenage boys had never roasted a marshmallow! Wow! Time to get out of the city. I felt honoured to be the one to teach him how to roast marshmallows for the first time. It made me realize how fortunate it is to be raised in Northwest Ontario and to be able to have a lakeside fire and roast marshmallows and experience nature any time we want. That night with an almost full moon in the background, we lit off fireworks over Lake of the Woods. Everyone went to bed happy, relaxed and grateful for the wonderful day.

The next day was rather windy. I'm not sure what I was thinking on that windy day, but I said, "Let's stop the boat and jump off the top". Cool idea, just not on a day with 30 mile an hour winds! My husband cut the engine, but restarted it after I said wait let's get ourselves ready first. Unbeknownst to us, we had let a long rope that usually ties us to the shore fall into the water. When my husband restarted the engine the rope dangling in the water got wound up around the prop!! Needless to say, it took a couple of hours and the owner of the Lake of the Woods houseboats to get us free. (Sorry about that Dan! LOL) Luckily we all worked together to keep us from getting washed up along the rocky shore. What would be a vacation without a few fun stories to tell right?

We stopped at a beach in a sheltered bay for the night. The kids got out the kayaks and paddled around to explore the bay. Some went fishing, some went swimming. It was a really relaxing time. Gone were the days of freaking out about the bugs in the houseboat or wondering if they were going to get Lyme disease or get eaten by a bear. They were having a blast. Although the grandchildren didn't know each other all that well before, you would never know it. It was a great day that I will always be thankful for even though there were some tense moments early on.

Happiness is watching the children hanging out and having a great time.
Happiness is watching the children hanging out and having a great time.

Our last full day on the houseboat was a gorgeous day. It was sunny and about 30C. We cruised around the lake a lot that day and showed everyone how beautiful Lake of the Woods really is. There are over 14,500 islands on the lake, making it one of the most beautiful lakes I've been on. I really wanted to jump off the houseboat, but this time we were a bit smarter and pulled into a sheltered channel. Other than my 5 year old, all the kids jumped off, most more than once. What a fun experience!

Having a blast jumping off the houseboat!
Having a blast jumping off the houseboat!

Pulling into our last mooring spot was bittersweet. I really enjoyed the time with my nieces and nephews and Nana and Grandpa. I didn't want it to end. Again, the kids got out the kayaks and explored. The older ones really enjoyed the fact they could go around the corner to another secluded beach and have some 'time way from the adults'. Lol. As cool as us adults are, teenagers need their alone time.

We woke up the next morning quite early in order to be able to make it back to the base on time. While the children were still sleeping, the four adults had a chance to talk and reflect on the absolutely fantastic vacation we just had. I would not change a thing, well maybe that we do it more often!

So, in this fast paced, busy world we live in, be sure to take time out to be with your loved ones. Whether it be a vacation to Sunset Country, a houseboat trip, or just getting the family together to spend some quality time, do it, you won't regret it. Don't be like the family on the viral video with the lonely grandpa everyone is talking about right now.

To find out more about vacationing in Sunset Country, order the free vacation guide and map or visit Lake of the Woods Houseboats for more pricing information about renting a houseboat on Lake of the Woods.

About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

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