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Busy professionals finding time for summer breaks, trips

Looking for a meaningful summer break but can’t get away from the office for a long period of time? The solution could be to explore some of the best your home state has to offer.

“There is a lot to do out here in the state,” said Steve Martin, public relations manager for Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division. “Sometimes you take it for granted what you have in your own back yard where there is so much to do you can stay busy constantly. Recently two members of the staff and I took a day trip to Hot Coffee. I think everybody needs to do something like that. It wasn’t an overnight trip. It was just an opportunity to experience the attractions and sights that first come to mind when you think of Mississippi.”

They stopped at a blueberry picking farm run by German Baptists, shopped at antique stores and enjoyed lunch in Collins at a local restaurant.

“It was a totally different experience than a group going to an amusement park,” Martin said. “That was authentic Mississippi. It was a blast.”

Getting creative

Martin’s advice to spark your creative juices when planning a getaway is first visit the Web site www.visitmississippi.org that includes a calendar of events.

“One thing Mississippi is known for is the number of festivals that take place,” Martin said. “One coming up shortly is the Natchez Food Festival. Along with best chefs and food demonstrations, Princess Diana’s butler will be there. Female travelers might be interested in the cooking school at Viking Range in Greenwood that makes a great getaway. You can stay at the Alluvian Hotel and then attend different themed cooking workshops. There is Allison’s Well School of Art & Crafts in Canton, which is something interesting for the art-inclined individual. On the Coast, there is still a lot of volunteer work that can be done if you are looking for that type of experience. I know the recovery efforts are still underway and they would welcome any and all assistance.”

Another recommendation along the lines of outdoor adventure is to canoe the Mississippi River. John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company, (www.island63.com) offers escorted tours of various lengths. Martin took a trip on the river, and found it to be a fascinating experience.

“We put in at Clarksdale and canoed down to Greenville,” Martin said. “And the thing with John is he is also involved in preserving blues music and is a watercolor artist. He would do watercolors of the river when we stopped that we could take home with us. At night, he played blues music. It isn’t just someone taking you down the river. It is very entertaining.”

Exploring coastal waterways

Dave Burrage, Mississippi State University Extension professor of marine resources, has recommendations for people who want to explore coastal waters in a boat: make sure you are in compliance with the law. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Marine Patrol stopped 309 boats stopped, and 305 were issued citations ranging from driving under the influence of alcohol to not having proper safety equipment such as life jackets.

Some visitors to the Coast don’t bother to learn boating rules before venturing out.

“There is no AAA out there on the water,” Burrage said. “You have to assume if you break down, it could be some time before someone can come get you. Allow for that and at least know the basic rules of the road. Imagine if you and I got in the car and drove on the left side of the highway.”

While Burrage loves the water, he and his wife are going on a road trip this summer to visit family in Virginia. He said one of the benefits of the trip, besides connecting with family, is just getting away from the Katrina aftermath.

They will be taking their time on the highway.

“We are past the age where we try to get on the road and make time,” he said. “We don’t try to push it. We take time, stop when we get tired and get a hotel and place to eat. Even with the price of gas, road trips are still the way to go because you are in charge of your own destiny as long as you don’t have a hard and fast agenda.”

Healthy excursions

Lou Finkle, Ph.D., a retired professor who works as a technical writer and business consultant in Gulfport, recommends combining a vacation with exercise.

“Being around the office, you get very little exercise,” Finkle said. “We are in the process of buying two bicycles and plan to do more bicycle riding this summer and fall. We will put a bike rack on top of the car, and drive to the country to get away from the business stuff we do everyday. We will ride the Tuxachanie Trail or the Rails to Trails program, just something to get away from the office and telephones. I used to do backpacking and a lot of hiking, but now I’m getting older and have to do less backpacking and more walking. A bicycle is good for someone who is older. It is less stressful on the joints.”

Finding the time

For many busy people, it seems hard to find the time to get a real vacation.

Joe Farris, assistant to the president of Mississippi State University, said he is planning an actual vacation this summer for the first time in four or five years.

“I’ve had days off here and there, but this year I’m reassembling the family — we have two grown kids — and we’re going to rent a cabin in western North Carolina for a week starting on the Fourth of July,” Farris said. “We are going to spend a week or so enjoying what I hope will be cooler temperatures, do a little hiking and river rafting, horseback riding and whatever else comes along combined with a lot of porch sitting and reading interspersed in that. So, that is going to be fun. That will be the best part, having everyone together for a few days with recreation and relaxation at the top of the agenda.”

Farris recommends taking the time for vacation — although that isn’t advice he has followed in recent years. He believes a good break enhances productivity.

“One of the obstacles seems to be that you have to work twice as hard before you leave to get ready, and twice as hard when get back to catch up,” Farris said. “That can be an impediment. But I think it is important to make the commitment and stick to it.”

Heading abroad? Get
going on that passport

If there is even a remote chance of foreign travel in your future, start work on getting a passport now. Peggy Shamburger, a leisure and group consultant with Avanti Travel, Jackson, said with the new regulations passed in January of this year, it is taking longer to get a passport, an average of 12 to 15 weeks. Previously passports haven’t been required on cruises leaving the U.S. for destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico. But starting at the end of the year, passports will be required for cruises.

“You never know when a trip is going to come up,” Shamburger said. “A lot of incentive travel is out of the country. You never know when your sales will reach a level that you win a trip. Passports are good for 10 years, and we are all going to have to have them if we travel outside the country.”

Another piece of advice is to tack on a few days before or after a business trip for a short vacation.

“For instance, if you going to New York for business, add a few days and fly over to Bermuda,” Shamburger said.

Using technology wisely

Another piece of advice is to use technology to feel more comfortable leaving the office for a summer vacation.

“My BlackBerry will be an essential tool as I enjoy time with my family,” said Heath Hall, vice president for external affairs and marketing at the Mississippi Technology Alliance. “Technology is a bridge that can take you from work to vacation. I will be able to monitor deadlines, track e-mails and become aware of any issues that may require my immediate attention. Now, I do have a rule about using my BlackBerry on vacation, I only look at it twice a day, once at lunch and once at the end of the day. “

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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