I remember staying at the Four Seasons in Maui with my ex-fiancé on vacation. We were lounging by the pool and next to us were newlyweds from New York. The New York new husband kept saying, “I can’t wait to get back into the game,” rubbing his hands together as if he was super hungry and someone had just put a plate of ribs in front of him. “I can’t wait to get back to work. Back in the game,” he kept saying.
My ex-fiancé and I still make fun of that dude to this day. He was on his honeymoon, in Maui, and couldn’t wait to get back to work? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HIM?
I remember looking at him and thinking, “What the #*$# is your problem? You’re in one of the most beautiful spots in the world AND they treat you like royalty here and you want to back to WORK?”
Work. Yuck. It’s such an ugly word. Anyway, I love to travel and while most and many people save up for retirement, I work and save for vacations (and yes, I’ll be begging for a room in your house in 40 years.)
I work hard. I like to relax hard. I’m an expert now at turning myself into “Off mode.” As soon as I’m on the plane, and it takes off, I feel like I’ve just left a bad relationship. There’s a huge sense of relief. I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t exactly eager to get back into the “Game,” but I had a hard time shutting off my phone or not logging onto my e-mail when on vacation.
It became harder once Blackberries came into the picture when I could bring all my work e-mails with me to the beach. And, I don’t feel naked wearing a tiny bikini. I feel naked if my laptop isn’t near me. I always think, ‘I’m going to be inspired on vacation to write!” What ends up happening is that I bring my computer and it stays unopened for the entire trip. That’s because I’m an expert vacation-er.
I have many friends whose husbands are awful at vacation and will not get off their Blackberries. They, along with some of my hardworking female friends, just don’t know how to RELAX anymore. They THINK that because they’re on a patio and the sun is out and they are in a bathing suit cover up that they aren’t really working while answering e-mails. Guess what, people: You are working.
I talked to an expert. He’s a high powered executive who, after years of working on vacations said, “#%& that.” Now, when he vacations, he has learned to “turn it off.” (He has a really important job, gets about 50 emails a minute, and has many employees, so if he can do it, so can you!)
1. He never checks voice mails or emails now on vacation. How? He takes “activity-related” vacations. Meaning, if he’s on a surfboard, or bike riding, or scuba diving, he can’t take any technological devices. “I’m so exhausted at the end of the day. We’ll have dinner and a couple of drinks and then I’ll pass out of exhaustion. I’m too tired to think or worry about what’s happening back home.” So, take an activity related vacation. It will take your mind off work!
2. He realized that he doesn’t take vacations all that often. “So when I do, I really want to be in the moment. I work really hard. I realized that if I’m taking time off, then I really should take time off. I also realized that my batteries are recharged if I’m not checking emails. Because one bad email and my day is shot. So now I don’t check at all. It’s not worth it.” Especially since most of us only get a couple weeks off, we really do need to recharge our batteries.
3. He tells his assistant to only get in touch with him if it’s an emergency. “They usually don’t call at all. Once they didn’t and I lost a very lucrative deal. Was I angry? Yes. But shit happens. And I couldn’t do anything about it after the fact.” He says losing the client still seems less important than the fabulous time he had with his wife in Costa Rica.
4. He says he had a hard time at first but just kept saying to himself, “I’m on vacation. I’m on vacation. I’m on vacation.” It seems to work, like a yoga mantra.
5. He also says he always clears his desk of all work, finishes what needs to be finished (even if that means staying until midnight the week before vacation) and organizes what he needs to “attack” when he’s back. “It gives me peace of mind. And while I’m away I know all the important stuff is done and that all is ready for me to get back.
Mostly, you have to appreciate that you are ON vacation, that you are lucky enough to be able to vacation. So, yes, say to yourself, “I’m on vacation,” as much as you need to, every time that Blackberry or laptop teases you, or you think of getting back into the “game.” Because work will always be there. Vacations are not.