We are not promised tomorrow
As much as I love my acreage at home — the hills, the trees, the sense of peace — I love to go to new places and take in the unique experiences that a particular area has to offer. I also love the challenge of seeing how much I can fit into a carry-on bag! I recall asking one farmer where he and his wife liked to travel, whether they were the Las Vegas or the Florida type. A big smile spread across the gentleman’s face, and he said, “Las Vegas? I farmed for 31 years. I gambled more than enough for me and everyone in my county!” Isn’t that the truth? As a farmer, you are in the only industry in which you don’t control your price and you cannot control the elements. If anyone deserves a vacation, it’s a farmer!
And yet, too often, farmers hold off on taking a vacation. Too often I see clients who wait, planning to “take the trip when …” When the mortgage is paid down, when they hit retirement age, or when things otherwise slow down. That’s like saying we’ll have children when we can afford it. You all remember those days, right? There was never enough money in the budget for diapers and formula and day care, and yet somehow we made it work — and for the most part, don’t regret a minute of it. There will always be reasons not to take a trip, just like there are “reasons” to wait to have children. But just like having children, the rewards of taking a trip with loved ones are often intangible and priceless.
Farmers are busy. There is so much to do. And yes, in certain operations, tasks need to be completed daily, so arrangements to be off the farm need to be made. Even so, I urge you not to let “too much work to do” be your reason for not taking time to rejuvenate. If we allow it to, work will always fill our schedule. I have found if I carve out the rejuvenation time, then somehow the work gets done. I am more focused, and I am more efficient when I have a trip on the calendar. But if I do not make time for rejuvenation, it does not happen. I have met with too many people who waited too long. They intended to travel, to get off the farm a bit. They really wanted to go (or their spouse did). But then, life surprised them with a different journey: a cancer diagnosis, a broken hip, a sick loved one who needed care. The trip was put on hold and often did not happen.
Now, to be fair, I also know many, many farmers whose idea of a vacation is to be in the tractor. They are rejuvenated by being in their element. There are many wives I know who would love to travel, but getting their husbands off the farm would require a crowbar! Guys, if you are married, please listen to your wife and consider the contributions she has made to the operations. A trip may not be as bad as you think. It may give you an even greater appreciation for life on the farm, or it may show you that the “outside world” isn’t all bad. You have survived the unknown gamble of farming successfully for decades. I’m pretty sure you can handle a weekend trip to Florida, right?
Another fun idea to consider is taking a family trip. I have heard many great stories of adult siblings and their families traveling together. One family told me they rented a bus and took every child, grandchild and in-law to Branson, Mo. Grandpa announced the rules of what would happen if there were troubles on the bus (which involved hitchhiking home). Don’t think anyone will come? I always say, pay the bill and the kids will come. Yes, taking the whole clan will cost your estate, but it’s not just an expense, it’s an experience. I promise you that the experience you have is far more valuable than a little more cash in your child’s inheritance. So, whether you book a trip to Germany to find your roots, rent a bus to Branson to take in great shows with the whole family, or take an extended trip to visit your kids or grandkids — make it happen. Set the date and get in motion. We are not promised tomorrow; we must live today in a way that we love!
Thompson, Sioux Falls, S.D., is an estate planning attorney. For more information, call her at 605-362-9100 or see cathompsonlaw.com.
This article published in the February, 2015 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2015.