My good friend Jim would say “Vacation is too damn much work.”
Not that Jim was a stay-at-home guy. I went on several international travels with him where we recorded video and interviews for TV series, but also had a great time with R&R blended in. In that sense, Jim was the master of a working vacation. Nobody came back from those trips feeling overworked. Instead, we came back with much work accomplished and lots of experiences richer, feeling rejuvenated.
That said, there was the trip we made to Bavaria and Italy. Recording video, setting up meetings (often on the fly), always looking for something else to add to the content to make the shows better. At the end of the trip, we were going to have a few days to just unplug and hang out in southern Germany.
Except it didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, before heading to that vacation time, we took Jim to the airport so he could fly back to the US for a conference he’d signed up for months back, not looking too closely at his schedule. He got the work part of the trip and totally missed the vacation part that the rest of us went on after sending him home.
Quite a few of us either share Jim’s comment about vacation as being too much work or miss out on it because of schedules.
There’s trying to get caught up on work projects before being able to leave home. I’ve been there so many times I finally tried to build some buffer into the transition from work to vacation by inserting sacrificial time, at home as well as on the road. We might leave a day later than planned and cut the first stop shorter. Which adds to the stress you already feel.
Or there is concern about what will happen to all my work while I’m gone. Will it be sitting in a huge pile on my desk when I come back? Will my coworkers take it over and my boss finally realize I can be made redundant?
And then there’s coming back and having to jump back into the old grind, catching up on all the things everybody else in the office dropped while you were gone.
Plus inevitable phone calls and emails while we’re on vacation, because we’re in an always-on society.
So, yeah, vacation can indeed seem like way too much work.
And yet, there are very real benefits of taking a vacation — of getting away from the daily routine.
We weren’t made for never-ending work
The harder/longer we work, the less productive we become. Our bodies need a cycle of spending and recovering energy. Short term, week schedules do that. We don’t work 7 days straight and then start over. There’s the weekend that offers some change of pace and a bit of rest.
In a bigger perspective, vacation does the same thing for the year: Vacation is a change of pace and actually boosts our energy reserves. We turn out to be more productive when we return. Plus it’s shown that people who take vacations are actually less likely to leave their current job.
I heart vacation
Our hearts love a good vacation. Studies show that when we take regular vacations (as opposed to skipping vacation for years on end), we cut the risk of heart disease by about 30% for men and 50% for women. With those odds, could you “suffer” through a day at the beach?
Going on vacation simply takes us out of the perpetual lifestyle of stress so many of us are in. On vacation pace and focus change and our hearts love that.
Vacation is a mental thing
Which would you prefer? Electroshock or a week on Saint Lucia?
My point is that vacations boost our mental health and put us back together again. In fancy speak, vacation time improves our brain’s neuroplasticity, leading to more cognitive flexibility and depth. We can think better, come up with more new ideas and see things in a fresh light.
Think of it as a reset or reboot for the brain. We end up more calm, happier with our entire life, more positive feelings, higher energy and less depression.
When we come back, our increased well-being rubs off on people around us. Imagine the effect if the entire office were to go off on vacation around the same time. Might end up with enough well-being on coming back to blow off the roof!
Less stress and burnout
Because we change routines on vacation, our stress and anxiety levels tend to go down. You might wake up in the morning actually looking forward to the day, instead of anxiously wondering what ton of bricks is going to hit today.
Back home, one person in the family may be under higher stress or anxiety than the others. But the family vacation time will help boost everyone’s mental and physical health.
We tend to do different things from everyday when on vacation. Mary who has a quiet job in the back office might go for scuba diving or zip-lining. Joe who delivers packages everyday and wears out a pair of shoes every month, might prefer just sitting on the beach.
Picture low-key professor Jones in his classroom, teaching archaeology. Next picture him with his fedora and whip off in a jungle, searching out that long lost temple. That’s adventure!
Okay, so maybe not that extreme (because who wants to be chased and shot at on vacation?).
But vacation is our chance to try something different from what we do all the rest of the year. Go places that we don’t normally get to, be around people and cultures that are different from every day.
Doing that gives us excitement, natural highs and makes us feel good. For a long time after we’re back home.
Sleep loves vacation
I often find that I sleep better on vacation. And wake up feeling more refreshed and certainly excited about the day ahead.
It’s a chance for us to break bad sleeping habits and patterns that leave us not sleeping well at home.
With better sleep comes improved reaction time, which lasts long after we’re returned home.
We’ve all heard of vacation romances. But it doesn’t have to be with total strangers. Vacation improves relationships with those with us. Family or friends.
Yes, there may be some tensions when traveling together, but studies show that overall, relationships are improved by going on vacation together.
All that because we get to see each other in settings different from everyday situations. It’s can be like seeing an entirely new side of that person we thought we knew so well.
On vacation we have more and different time for each other. A long car, train or plane ride can be a great time to talk, really talk, about feelings and things we don’t get around to in regular everyday land.
At the end of the day, we really need to occasionally see each other outside the confines of usual life to fully appreciate each other.
Vacation of course also builds memories and shared experiences.
There’s good evidence to suggest that if you really want to live a long time, you should take regular vacations. Get out of the normal, do something different, experience, see, grow and live. Apparently significantly longer. Sounds like a good reason to take vacation.
Need to sort out the meaning of your life? Make a big decision? Go on vacation. Seriously.
Many major life decisions get made while on vacation:
- I became a Christian while traveling around Europe with my backpack.
- It was hiking in the Swiss Alps that I determined that I wanted to work in video/film and was going to head to the US for training.
- It was on an Amtrak long distance train that I finally decided to embrace my being a writer.
- A friend drove a couple days cross country while on vacation and out there, on the plains of Kansas, got amazing clarity on what she wants to do with her life.
We’re able to make those decisions because while on vacation we can see more clearly, with a fresh perspective. And with regular distractions out of the way, our mind has time for this extra processing.
That’s 9 reasons to take a vacation. Soon. Plus, there’s the benefit of planning and looking forward to the vacation. Sometimes that seems like half the fun. Just anticipating vacation will start to get us energized.
The key thing is to get started. Grab your calendar and block out time for vacation now. It could be a month away or it could be next year. But the time needs to be marked out on the calendar.
Then start figuring out what that vacation will look like. Which of the 9 benefits above do you need most? All other things being equal, what would your ideal vacation look like?
Keep thinking and planning and when V Day comes, enjoy your vacation. You’ve earned it.