In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we came face to face with our society’s obsession with entertainment. It wasn’t Hollywood stars or pop icons hounding our dollars, but entertainment of the “tourist attraction” variety.
Everywhere we turned we were promised family fun by the tons.
I had been given a media pass by the CVB, a professional courtesy that makes it easier for visiting members of the media to evaluate local attractions. The pass entitled me and a guest free admission to numerous Myrtle Beach businesses, including amusement parks, museums, theaters, mini-golf courses, aquariums and other various attractions. Without this type of assistance from local tourism organizations, I couldn’t afford to do my job. I am, to be clear, hugely grateful for all the help I received from Myrtle Beach’s Chamber of Commerce.
But, it slowly became clear to me that there is such a thing as too much fun.
Or rather, there is certainly such a thing as too much structured entertainment. Too much paid fun. Too much doing! and seeing! and tourism!
We spent so much time and money running from one attraction to another – receiving two complimentary passes left us with two admission tickets to purchase for the remaining family members – and very little time just being together. I anxiously watched the money pour out of our wallets, frustrated to realize that we didn’t seem to be purchasing a greater sense of togetherness or relaxation. We had moments of fun, but they were fleeting, like the short-lived enjoyment of a straight-sugar pixie stick.
It seemed the quantity of entertainment didn’t directly correlate to the sense of fulfillment I had at the end of the day. Nor did the expense.
It had never occurred to me before that we might, as a society, be overly entertained. But boy do we have a tendency to demand more. We want to be entertained while we eat with pirate shows and mystery theaters. We want to be told what there is to do in the places we visit. We want to be razzled, dazzled and amused at all times.
But are we giving up joy and peace in exchange for all this amusement?
The best time we spent together as a family in Myrtle Beach was at the beach and Brookgreen Gardens. The beach was free and the Gardens cost less than $20 for 7 days of admission. Neither came with advanced technology or flashing billboards. These “attractions” were simple, quiet, and inexpensive – and it was here that we all seemed to experience the most joy.
We walked. We talked. We played. We laughed. We learned.
On our last day in Myrtle Beach, Jared and I talked about the stress I’d experienced and what kind of decisions we’d make for ourselves in the future.
“I understand now why people say they need a vacation from their vacations.”
We haven’t been selective about where we would invest our free time and entertainment money. We’d bought into the idea that we should be entertaining our children constantly. I was measuring my success as a parent and provider by how many admission tickets I could purchase. Every single no felt like a failure, no matter how many times I’d said yes previously.
We had to slow down and rethink how we look at entertainment.
I believe we need to be just as conscientious about how we spend our free time as we are about how we spend our money. We choose quality over quantity in other areas of our lives, why not family entertainment? Why do we let marketers tell us what will be fun, instead of making our decisions based on our values and personal history? Why don’t we pay attention to what actually brings our family joy instead of assuming everyone else knows best what will amuse us?
Our time, whether it’s spent together or alone, is one of our most precious commodities. It is, I think, even more valuable than our money. I need to start being a little more vigilante about what influences the decisions we make about how we spend that time.
Do you put much thought into what your family does for entertainment? Have you ever invested a lot of time or money into something that was supposed to be fun and later regretted it?