“I can hear you smiling!” My VP laughed through the phone to me. It was my first day back from vacation last week, and I felt great. I was smiling, and I was eager to jump back into work. Energy and enthusiasm radiated from me. In my current role, I enjoy coming in to do my work every day, but coming back from a week in Ireland with my husband I was kinetic. A week spent exploring the entire country of Ireland left me feeling only physically exhausted and on an emotional high.
Passing through the countryside with the stone walls and fields filled with sheep, and into the towns with the Christmas decorations lighting up the quaint yet lively streets, we drove about 1,000 kilometers (or roughly 620 miles) on the left side of the road (okay, my husband did all the driving!). While we paid in Euros and snacked on Dairy Milk, we found the best seafood chowder (Cronin’s in Killarney) and best fish and chips (The Lemon Tree in Blarney, right across from the Castle). We discovered Galway Bay Brewery for the first time, that Guinness does taste different in Ireland (I found it slightly sweeter/less bitter), and that Jameson’s Irish whiskey triple distillation is what makes a difference in the flavor. The Cliffs of Moher are more majestic than any photo or video can document – the colors are more vivid, the wind is fresh in feel and smell, and the mist makes it an iconic Irish experience. Dublin reminded us of Boston at home, but much more old worldly in all of the best ways. Each night we were drained from our adventures, but we slept well and woke up refreshed and with anticipation of what fun was to come that day. We fit a lot into a small time frame, and will definitely be back.
Upon return, I didn’t expect this feeling of relaxation. In my entire career, I had only taken two other week-long-plus vacations – one to Cape Cod where I felt like I had to check in everyday via email, and the other was my honeymoon to Costa Rica. The first versus the last two was a drastically different experience. I was stressed, even as I was at the beach and feeling the ocean breeze. The emails I read through in the morning kept piling up and stayed in my mind as a reminder of all that I was missing and how far behind I would be when I came back. For Costa Rica and Ireland, I changed my behavior and was happy to have the support from work to truly separate.
If you have the means to travel, by all mean, get out and get away. Explore a different corner of your country or the world. If travel funds are tight or non-existent, try new corners of your town or a short drive to one you haven’t been to. Growing up, my dad and grandfather would pack my siblings and I into the car and take us out on adventures. It might have been the Quabbin Reservoir, touring a college campus, a free sporting event, a shopping trip to BJ’s, or visits to family in neighboring towns, and not only was it a chance to give my mom some “me time” after dealing with three wild children the whole week, but we all learned more about where we were from. The connections you make with people are even more important than the connections you make with the new places you visit. Take a friend or cousin or parent with you. Build stronger bonds, whether it is your hometown or a new town. Feeling connected with the ones you love makes you ready and more engaged for when you reconnect with work.
Being that ready and engaged meant eliminating work stress and creating a feeling of being refreshed. A successful vacation is one where you are relaxed and fulfilled. This takes intentional action, and there are some practices that can help make a difference.
- Completely ignoring work email – truly being out of office! Take the app off your phone if that helps you stay true.
- Setting up contacts for while I was out – this allowed work to continue in my absence since someone else could answer any questions.
- Plan activities that help you separate from what is normal – outdoors, dancing, at the beach, or the mountains. Use a different part of your brain.
- Get out and explore. Maybe you don’t plan every moment, but go on a journey (a walk across town, or a flight across the world) that not only separates, but opens your eyes to wonder and possibility.
- Connect with people you care about. I spent time with my husband, maybe you want to see your parents or an old college roommate or your best group of girl friends.
You might have heard the benefits of taking a vacation, and they bear repeating. Do not ignore these – take them to heart!
- Stress reduction
- Increased productivity
- Intentional connection with loved ones
- Feeling Happier
With the holidays and New Year upon us, the end of the year is a great time to use your vacation time. Here are some reasons why:
- Your vacation may not carry over until the next year.
- Your personal life is busy, and you need time to get all of the personal things done
- You need a mental health day, either just because, or because you’re hosting the whole family
- Your spouse or kids or friends or nieces/nephews are off of school for the week and it would be great to spend time with them
- Take time to reflect heading into the new year – set goals and decide where you want to take yourself moving forward
- You’ve worked hard and flat out deserve a break!
- Seemingly everyone is taking time off, so no one is answering their phones or emails, preventing you from making much progress.
Take time for you. Your work, your loved ones, and especially YOU will be better off for it. I highly recommend going to Ireland if you are interested and have the time and funds because it was majestic and pictures don’t do the experience justice. Go live life. The work will be there when you return. Take your vacation, and take all of it!