Taking Vacation, Personally

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

I’ve been working at my job for almost 4 years, and I am currently on the tail end of my first proper vacation. I have taken days here and there for long weekends, weddings, family obligations, holidays, etc. In these situations, I always find myself half-tuned in to what’s going on around me, doing the under-the-dinner-table peek at my phone to check email. This is the first, tried and true, off the grid, no-access-to-email vacation I’ve taken since I’ve worked in my current position.

It was so easy to justify why I couldn’t take a vacation:

  • “Who is going to carry the weight?”
  • “Who is going to put out the potential fire(s)?”
  • “I’m the only one who knows how to handle (fill in the blank).”
  • “I don’t want to disappear on my clients.”
  • etc…

Expectations can be crippling. At times I feel that it’s my obligation to be online 24/7/365, but in reality, I know that the entire team and my clients fully expect me to take my time. We are not built as machines, and we need the personal time to separate and detach from the work we grind through week after week, and month after month.

It may be a bit morbid, but recently I realized that the world will always continue to turn, with or without me. Obviously, this applies to things greater than vacations, but it was a reminder that if I took the time to train team members, give the proper notice to clients, and remind the team that I would be away, there should be no reason why I couldn’t take the time.

One of the reasons I love my job is the team that I get to work with every day, and a strong team means a capable team. I tell people I work with all the time that we are a team for a reason. When they need to be out, they trust me to step up, and if I need to be out, I should trust them to do the same.

My biggest fault in thinking about taking vacation time, was that I was waiting for someone to push me to take the time; for a supervisor to say “you should really take time off”, or a client to grant me permission to check out for a while. Outside of a rough stretch where I might be encouraged to take a “mental health” day, I realized that this would never happen. This is not to say I do not have supportive people in my corner, but rather, it’s to say it’s my time, and it’s my responsibility to take it. I’m the only one that has the ability to schedule the time, buy the ticket, and go.

The trip I’m on has been one of the liberating experiences I can remember. My phone has literally been locked away in a safe for 95% of my trip (I had to post something on Instagram to prove that I actually went), which has probably been the longest I’ve been away from my email and social media, ever. This put a lot into perspective, as it allowed me to be truly present while I was out, rather then aimlessly looking for a fire to put out.

Without giving myself too much credit, I work really really hard, as I’m sure you do; and my weeks are always packed, as I’m sure yours are. Ultimately, it’s 100% on us to take take off the time that we have earned, and once we do it, we’ll wonder why it took us so damn long.