As we prepare for the Christmas vacation in the U.S., my mind wanders to vacations and family gatherings. These are sometimes combined and often separated.
I remembered, as a kid, that traveling to see cousins in another city was just was much fun as driving to see a national park or an old fort. For us these were both chances to go somewhere and do something.
Vacations are opportunities to “get away” and relax. Don’t work. Don’t worry. Just enjoy life.
We all know that we need to do these things to maintain balance. But somehow we feel guilty.
In these days of technology, it is easy to stay in touch with work, keep up on email, and never actually escape while we’re on vacation. Should you feel good about combining work and rest, or should you feel guilty? I, for one, feel very good about it.
I’ve worked very hard to combine my vacation time and work time. For about fifteen years now, I have been traveling a lot. Sometimes as few as five business trips a year. Sometimes ten, fifteen, or even twenty. As a way to create a little balance, I started added days to the beginning and end of my business trips.
So, for example, I travel to the business city a day or two early. Then I have my meeting. I might travel back right away or add another vacation day at the end of the trip. When I’m going from city to city, I might add vacation days in either city, or even in the layover city.
In this way, I accomplish three things. First, I never have a quick fly-in and fly-out that’s 100% business. Second, I always have a more relaxed business trip. I get to take vacation days. I get to visit friends. I get to actually SEE the cities I visit. And, third, I get to have some very relaxed time to catch up on reading, playing, and putting my toes onto sandy beaches.
Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally take a good five day vacation all at once with no business. But I don’t feel like I’ve taken less of a vacation if I take five days off between two business cities.
For example, 2011 started out with me on a plane at 6:30 AM on January 3rd. I went to Charlotte, NC and spent the next day with a friend, visiting sites and wandering into South Carolina for BBQ. Then I had my business meeting. The next day, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. There, I hung out on the beach, visited friends, sat on the beach, wrote poetry, and had a BLAST for five days.
On one of those evenings, I attended a business meeting.
Then I hopped on an airplane and flew to Portland, OR. Almost as far as you can go from one end of the contiguous United States to the other. I did another show and then headed home. I landed back in Sacramento on January 12th. In all I had eleven travel days. And while I had plenty of time meeting with friends and relaxing, I had exactly four true “business” meetings. The rest was travel time and relaxation time.
That wasn’t the norm for the year, but it was sure a great way to start the year!
In all, over the last twelve months, I’ve made 18 trips to various cities. I had a total of 76 travel days and 48 days of vacation. By vacation I mean a whole day off work with no business meeting scheduled.
I’ve seen New York City at Christmas Time. I’ve been to Atlantic ocean beaches on three different vacations, and Pacific ocean beaches on three different vacations. Somewhere in the middle I’ve visited half a dozen lakes. I’ve gone on boat cruises, fishing trips, and family get-togethers.
So, for me, the question of whether I should feel guilty is very simple. I do not feel guilty about checking my email between bar hops in Vegas or after spending the day hiking around Lake Tahoe. Email helps me feel confident that the world keeps spinning and that my businesses are going along fine without me.
It’s not cheating to check in and make sure things are fine.
Stopping the vacation to deal with a problem is different. If you do that, you can’t count it as a vacation day. But you have to keep it in perspective. That job that wants to invade your holiday is probably the same job that makes the vacation possible in the first place. Respect it, but keep it in its place.
Many people are taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For many of us, taking off all that time is nerve-wracking. So don’t feel bad about checking email and tuning in to work once in awhile. The key is balance. Are you on vacation with an occasional email check? If that balance works for you, don’t feel guilty about it!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all!