(The Wall Street Journal, 18 June 2001)

Karen K. Dils, 53 years old and co-owner of Four Corners Rafting, a river-tour operator in Buena Vista, Colo., spends much of her time on the beautiful Dolores and Arkansas rivers. So when Ms. Dils has time off, what does she do? Surprisingly, she often goes on river-rafting trips — but with family and friends instead of guests. It’s a vacation because “you don’t have to entertain them,” she explains. “You all pitch in, help wash the dishes.”

Other travel-industry entrepreneurs make similar confessions. Vacation doesn’t necessarily mean leaving work behind — just changing their state of mind.

THE ZOO DIRECTOR: As general manager of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Fla., William E. Puckett, 64, works in a lush park surrounded by large numbers of rare reptiles, exotic birds — and tourists. In the summer, “the population of St. Augustine doubles with vacationers,” he notes. So, Mr. Puckett says, he tends to head for sparsely populated, “wide open spaces” on his own vacations — states such as New Mexico, Montana and Colorado. Bu, “wherever I go, I check out the local zoos,” he says.

THE TRAVEL-GUIDE PUBLISHER: Lonely Planet Publications Inc., the series of books for adventurous travelers, keeps Tony and Maureen Wheeler on the road six months out of the year. Tony Wheeler, 54, admits that he fails miserably at separating work and vacation. “Even just in day-to-day life at home, I wouldn’t think of eating out at a restaurant without taking notes on it,” he says. In January, the Australia-based Wheelers spent a week lazing at a beach house they rented outside Melbourne. “That would have to be defined as vacation,” says Mr. Wheeler, “but then I also did some scuba diving there, and I’m working on a scuba-diving guide.”

SURFING INSTRUCTOR: Living in a surfer’s paradise, Jeremiah J. Dillberg, 26, a former professional surfer and co-owner of the Kauai Surf School in Kauai, Hawaii, is able to catch the waves when he’s not teaching students or helping to manage the business. So, Mr. Dillberg says, when he goes on vacation with his nonsurfing wife, he looks for a different experience — culture shock and city life, such as he’s found on recent trips to England and France. Still, Mr. Dillberg admits he rarely leaves his surfboard at home, even when visiting a destination like Europe, “because you never know” when you’ll stumble across a good beach.

SPA MANAGER: True, when he’s tense, Mark T. Wilkinson, 44, the general manager of Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort and Mud Baths in Calistoga, Calif., can take advantage of the de-stressing treatments — including volcanic mud baths, steam rooms and massages — offered at the family business. But, he says, “it’s like the chef going to his own restaurant — your ears are always open, you’re noticing things” about the enterprise. To really relax, he vacations at other resorts with spas, like the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., which has a massage center. “I’m a firm believer in the concept,” he says.

BED & BREAKFAST HOSTESS: Karen Spell Shaw, 42, innkeeper at the Governor’s House Inn, an 11-room B&B housed in an 18th-century mansion in Charleston, S.C., makes it a point to “put the day together” for her guests — suggesting sites to see, organizing boat charters for them, making dinner reservations. When she has a few days off, she heads for South Carolina’s Folly Beach — “an old, hippie beach,” as she describes it, where there’s very little to do, and “when the phone rings, it’s not for me.”