How to Take a Proper Vacation

Here's looking at you America. You are doing it all wrong. In fact, many of you aren’t doing it at all, or frequently enough, according to a recent article on MarketWatch.

About 40% of Americans leave vacation time on the table, representing about $52 billion dollars of income. 61% of Americans will actually work while on vacation. Since we can work anywhere, we do. And it ain’t healthy one bit.

So you are contributing to the bottom line with longer hours and by not taking paid leave. Congrats. You are lining the pockets of the already rich CEO’s and company owners who will never reward you for your loyalty.

This is insanity. The reasons are many and varied for why people don’t vacation, but I’m not here to solve your “work martyr complex” or shove numbers in your face. I’m here to help you learn how to properly take a damn vacation.

1.     Turn off your fucking phone. We aren’t talking about emails here, although 1 in 4 people are contacted by a co-worker or boss while on vacation. It’s Facebook, Instagram, and texts. There are studies about the constant desire and need for human interaction, and we are trying to find it on a micro level via social media. Well, if you turn off your phone, you will actually have to talk to people. IRL.

2.     Ok, can you just turn off your notifications? These are constant pings of instant gratification, of a little bit of cheese at the end of a maze. I know I get panicky if I have too many emails unread in my inbox. Same goes for notifications on apps, and other pop ups. It’s a triggered response. Think Pavlov only works on cats and dogs? Think again my friend.

This is clearly not a problem (dogs know how to relax)

This is clearly not a problem (dogs know how to relax)

3.     Take a Friday afternoon off. Go to a movie. Have a long lunch with a friend. You know, the kind where you sit down and order and they bring you food and drinks? Especially drinks. And talk about stuff. You'd be surprised at how much you don't know about your friend if you only know their Facebook feed. Because if they posted the worst most painful parts of their life all the time, you likely would have unfriended them long ago.

4.     Stay at HOME. Take a weekend. Read a book. Drink some tea. Don’t do anything you “should” do. Put the tent up in your backyard. Act like you live on a desert island. You’ll be amazed at how long your day feels, and it's not because of the booze. 

5.     Start small. Go camping for a night, get in the car and drive. Go to the nearest body of water. Sleep in your car. It doesn’t have to be the perfect-best-most-amazing-my-life-is-perfectly-photographable trip. It can be shitty. You can get rained on. The restaurant can be closed. Or out of scampi. Hmmm. Scampi. But really, this gets you out of out of your normal environment where not everything is planned and perfect. And when that happens, you have the foundation on which memories are made.

6.     Stay Domestic: After traveling thousands of miles to hike in Nepal, my dad asked me what our next trip was going to be. I laughed and told him the Wisconsin Dells. This wasn’t true at all, but the point is twofold. One: you don’t have to go far or anywhere to have a good time and Two: America is a vast and beautiful place and is filled with amazing mountains and lakes and forests to explore. So go explore them. Pick a city you’ve always wanted to visit. Fly there for a few days. You won’t regret it.

7.     Go Big: For years our travel strategy was to hoard all our vacation for one big vacation. First we went to Spain and drove around to various cities. Then we hiked Machu Picchu. Then we saved up and went to Norway and Sweden. Then we decided to sell our house and all our stuff and just travel all the time. But you are only at step seven here. You don’t have to sell your house and live out of a bag. Yet. What I’m trying to say here is that you learn more about a culture if you settle in and act like you live there. And you can’t do that from a week at an all-inclusive Mexican resort.

8.      Be [Less] Specific: Instead of thinking about a country you’ve always wanted to visit, think of something you’ve always wanted to learn or an experience you’ve always wanted to have, and let that guide you to a place. Or to many places. For example, maybe you like to knit, and always wondered where your wool came from. If you do a proper Google search, you’ll find a list of countries where you can visit a farm during their shearing! Whatever floats your boat as they say. 

See, you can do this! It’s not that hard, right? So stop giving your money away to your boss and use that damn vacation!

As a good friend of mine once said: “When I’m on my deathbed am I going to say “My only regret in life is that I didn’t spend enough time in a cubicle”?