Congratulations. You are gainfully employed. The primary focus of your organization is growth, and you have some knee-buckling goals to deliver. If you fail, darkness will cover the earth, the stock value will plummet and chaos will reign. Meanwhile, a talented colleague is vying for your job.
And you could sure use a vacation!
Hence, a few suggestions:
1. Take one. Dammit! When your body and brain are running on fumes, you can't do your best work. It's important to step away from time to time - physically and mentally - so that you can return refreshed, energized. In fact, schedule three trips for the future. Each time you take one, add on another so that you always have something wonderful to anticipate.
2. Check the dates with your boss and then put them on your calendar for all to see. Don't cancel or reschedule your vacation just because others' priorities end up competing with yours. What you want and need is as important as what others want and need.
3. Save up for your vacation. Every time you're tempted to buy something, think about the adventure you could have instead. It is possible to admire things without needing to own them. Value making memories over acquiring possessions. Let experiences be more important than things. A new car or a pair of Manolo Blahnik's won't change your life. Time spent in the Masai Mara will.
4. Get out of the usual vacation rut. If you always go to Hawaii, go to Iceland. Exchange run-of-the-mill escapades on mediocre beaches, cruise ships or hotels for something rare. Leave your golf clubs at home. Take cooking lessons. Walk in the Swiss Alps. Stay in a tree house, a lighthouse, a cozy mountain lodge, a rolling hut in Washington's Methow Valley. A change of scene will expand your thinking, expand the possibilities for your life and your career. New vistas will help reprioritize your life, shift your perspective about what this precious thing called - your life - wants and needs to be about.
5. Travel light. Don't fill your suitcase with all the clothes you might need in case... Don't fill it with touristy trinkets. Unless you are an avid collector, you don't need a snow dome with the Eiffel Tower or a Keep Calm and Carry On coffee mug. Look for one thing to bring home, that one piece that will give you pleasure and bring back memories every time you look at it, like the mortar and pestle you find in the I'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Sunday market. It may weigh a ton, but it will be worth lugging it home.
6. Don't buy stuff for other people; otherwise, your vacation will be followed by a period of financial instability and if you buy a gift for one person, you must buy something for everyone. Besides, you don't have room in your suitcase for wine from France or another gnome statue for Uncle Hank's collection. He can buy his own damn gnomes. If you must bring gifts, bring a pebble, a shell, a feather, a seed pod. This isn't about shopping. This is about you - being - which brings me to...
7. Practice keeping yourself company. That may mean doing nothing at all. Your body and mind need a rest. Rather than scheduling lots of activities, allow at least a third of each day to be empty. Rather than going from city to city, stay in one place for awhile. Leave some days completely unscheduled. Nap, read, walk, sit, look, breathe. Tell your busy mind to shut up. This is hard. You can do it.
8. Come to terms with the fact that you are not solely responsible for success or failure. Tell your direct reports that you hold them able to put their big girl/boy pants on and get along without you. Inform them that vacation means:
- Off work
- Not to be disturbed by anyone from work
- Not bothered with work
- To be left alone
As in: Don't call me on vacation!
9. In order to hold off the temptation to check in, leave your laptop at home and silence your cell phone or better yet, put it in a locker you can access in an emergency and spend a day without it which means...
10. Don't post a gazillion selfies to Facebook. It is possible to take lots of photos and miss the beauty entirely. Besides, the world isn't really that interested in where you are and what you're doing. We're all kinda busy with our own lives. Furthermore, if we can't take a vacation just now, we'll hate you for being on a beach in Thailand. Just be there.
Finally, it's good to take a vacation all by yourself from time to time. Years ago, a client told me about his decision to go to Hawaii by himself for a few days. He had left Seattle stressed, overburdened, and obligated to make an important decision. Walking along the beach, he came across an inviting spot beneath a palm tree. He sat down and simply looked at the ocean and the beach. He explained:
After a while, it seemed that my breathing matched the rhythm of the waves, and then it was as if I could see all my obligations sticking up through the sand. All the decisions I needed to make, the hundred things crying for my attention, the phone calls, the e-mails waiting for me when I got back, the meetings, all sticking up in the sand. But then it was as if a wind came up and steadily blew the sand away. And when the wind stopped, there were only two things remaining. And I knew exactly what those two things were, and I could see that if I moved those two things, everything else would fall into place, sort itself out. I tell you, from this point on, I'm advising anyone who's got some priorities to sort out to go to a beach or to the mountains or someplace where they can take a walk, where they can just sit quietly and breathe.
In short, you know that trip you've always wanted to take? That experience you've always wanted to have? That place you've always wanted to go? What are you waiting for? Go there!