The backbone of financial wealth is built on hard work. Yet, physical, mental, spiritual and financial wealth cannot coexist with uninterrupted labor. Every business owner knows, or should know, the power of a vacation. And if you want optimal health and wealth, you better know, as well.
There is a misunderstanding in society of what a vacation really is. Americans think of it as a two week power getaway. (As an American I admit my culture burns at a higher heat and needs to slow down, at least when we take time off. Much of the world already understands this.) The Continent shuts down for August.
Many countries around the world have extended holiday opportunities for employees. Yet, we idolize the hard working business owner that never takes a day off.
The employee who never takes a day off is not only less effective, but also the employee most likely to embezzle from your firm. (You can’t take a day off over fear of being discovered.)
We idolize those perceived as working endlessly. Who can forget the dedication to detail of Steve Jobs? Does anyone work harder than Elon Musk? Or Bill Gates in his younger days?
While some can work for longer at higher levels of efficiency and creativity, that is not the default for most people. As much as we idolize the accomplishments of Jobs and Musk, each found time to get away and relax. From Albert Einstein to Bill Gates to Jobs and Musk and every other great accomplishment prodigy ever created by the human race, it was the moments of quiet where the magic happened.
Elon Musk is famous for saying he hates vacations or even the idea of vacations. Yet, Musk steals away when he can to focus his thoughts and increase creativity. Bill Gates has “think weeks”. Einstein would think quietly and alone. This is how he imagined such wonderful things that help us understand our world better and is the basis of so many of our modern technologies.
Long time readers of this blog are quick to point out my disdain for travel. The truth is I don’t mind traveling. I much prefer a quiet retreat, unrushed, so I can focus on ideas and creative endeavors. Still, I know deep inside when it is time to pack my bags and visit folks outside the backyard.
So why does a guy that limits his vacation time write a blog post on vacations? Well, it is personal and I would like to share the story.
There are five distinct types of vacation. Each type can be sliced and diced into smaller and smaller components, but in the end there are really only 5 to choose from.
Where you are personally will determine the most appropriate vacation for you at this time.
My youngest daughter, Brooke is heading for her fifth surgery since early December. (For people reading this much later, I am writing in mid-April at 4 a.m. the Monday before the surgery.) She heads UW Health in Madison late Wednesday for a very early surgery Thursday morning.
Brooke had a series of strokes the past few years and she had very serious strokes last autumn. What started as two surgeries opening her head turned into six due to complications. This week they are replacing the large piece of skull removed from an infection that set in from two surgeries ago. You can read more of the background here.
It is these personal events that have me taking an unscheduled vacation and where we will begin our discussion of each type of vacation and when each is most appropriate to take.
The Five Types of Vacation
The Long Weekend Vacation
Needless to say, time off daily is a necessity. A good night of sleep is vital to good health. And since fatigue does not bring out our greatest productivity, time off, rest and a vacation can actually help you get more work done than if you never took a minute of rest.
Tax season is brutal for me. Long hours with few days off take a toll. I often get to the office at 4 a.m. and go all day, and sometimes even work into the evening.
Outside tax season is a different story. I work the early morning hours from home as often as possible. The office is closed on Friday, for a 3-day weekend.
Just because the office is closed for a 3-day weekend all summer doesn’t mean I can’t think about work. I still read books that educate, answer emails and talk with clients. There are fewer interruptions and the pace is slower so my mind is settled. Just as time off should be.
A subset of The Long Weekend Vacation is The Unplanned Vacation. That is where I am at this week personally.
The Unplanned Vacation usually involves the unexpected. A death, illness or other unplanned event surprises us.
In my case, we knew of, and planned, Brooke’s surgery. It still falls under the “unplanned” column because we have no choice in the timing and the time off is not voluntary.
I will be in the office Monday through Wednesday, probably with shortened hours. Thursday will begin my weekend this week. The early week in the office will keep my mind distracted and Thursday I will be unable to focus while my family awaits news from the surgical theater so I’ll sit and wait.
The Long Weekend Vacation, planned or not, is a short-term break from the routine. It doesn’t have to be every week, or seasonal, as it is in my business.
The important part to remember is the power of the pause that refreshes. When you can walk away and clear your mind, the best ideas will bubble to the surface. The extra day or so of down time can super charge your effectiveness and efficiency the following week.
The Two-Week Vacation
Let’s call this the American style of vacationing. Two weeks crammed full of as much as you can stuff into it as you can. Maybe it is a power job around the house or a hyper-planned vacation. In either case, it is filled with as much as can be packed into it, plus a bit more.
The week-long, 10-day, and two-week tour package fits nicely into this category. Several years back my parents invited Sue and me to a 10-day tour of Costa Rica. It was very nice, but waaaay too rushed. You really can’t really see an entire country in 10 days! I prefer to bed down deep in a community and really get to know a few people.
The Two-Week Vacation doesn’t have to be rushed. Too many Americans use some hectic version of this type of vacation, in my opinion.
Two weeks is long enough to start to unwind and relax. If you fill too many spaces it becomes your new job, stress and all, for a few weeks before you are happy to be back to the old grind.
Work should never be a grind! The Two-Week Vacation can offer plenty of relaxation and recharging. It is a real opportunity for undivided family time, reading and reflecting.
Don’t underestimate The Tw0-Week Vacation. Just slow it down a bit from the American Style.
The European Vacation
My friends across the pond really know how to take a vacation. The Continent comes to a stop during August (except for those in travel, food and entertainment) as people of all ages take a collective deep breath.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but in Europe, August, or any vacation time for that matter, is at a much more relaxed pace. While The Long Weekend Vacation and Two-Week Vacation have a lot going for them, a full month at a slower pace does more to revitalize.
This brings up a good point. Short vacations are important, but a longer, deeper vacations periodically are also a requirement.
The American Style vacation wasn’t always so rushed in America. My grandparents took extended time in Hawaii and Europe in their younger days. And we were farmers where cows had to be milked every day! If there is a will, there is a way. My frugal grandfather proved you can slow down, enjoy, without breaking the piggy bank. American need to get back to this.
The Australian Vacation
I hope I am not crossing a line with something stereotypical. Many years back I made the mistake of identifying a man as Oriental (as he also introduced himself as) in a blog post. The outrage was swift and deafening until I asked what I was supposed to say? “Asian!”
When you live in the backwoods you sometimes don’t understand or know what the rest of the world thinks about phrases used “when I was growing up.”
No offense is intended if this is one of those cases.
I was told on more than one occasion that when you travel the world you will meet a lot of Australians. I don’t know if it is true or not, but since I heard it more than once from different people I think there might be something to it.
My understanding is that the fine folks from down under take vacations and travel seriously. As in 6-weeks or longer serious!
What I like about the extended (my term for what I consider really long vacations) time off is that you can really settle in. This allows you to really get to know people on a more personal level. With time, people share more things about themselves and their communities. The slow pace has massive advantages.
My oldest daughter, Heather, enjoyed a full summer in China. She stayed with a host family as she taught their daughter, Dora, English as a second language. It has been years and Heather still talks with her host family and Dora on a regular basis. There is a connection between our families that runs deep. Sometimes our eyes wander to the East as we contemplate friends far away.
A subset of the Australian Vacation is the Gap Year Vacation. This extended vacation runs to a year or longer.
When people in high stress jobs burn out they frequently take one of these Quasi-Retirement Vacations, only to discover they miss the excitement of the battlefield and head back to the mosh pit after extended time off to gather their thoughts.
A Gap Year (or three) is valuable for young people, too. Immersing in a culture or a personal project for a few years brings life-long benefits. Traveling the world, if that is what excites you, gives you multiple perspectives and worldviews. (Might I suggest to my American friends you don’t only hang with Americans. If you bring home with you, some of the benefit is lost.)
The ultimate vacation is retirement, where you leave and don’t come back. I know too many people that rush this type of vacation. Unfortunately, it is a one and done. (Unless you made a mistake and it was only a Gap Year/s.)
There is an American flavor to retirement, as well, where you rush to get there as early as possible only to rush to travel the world only to rush to. . .
You get the point. Slow down, take a break and enjoy. Retirement is overrated. Desires of retirement usually mean you are in the wrong profession or just need one of the vacations listed above.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the long walk (retirement). Just make sure it is what you really want.
Now my mind drifts to personal issues again. The surgeon is opening Brooke’s skull for a fifth time with a guaranteed sixth time in a few months. Of course my thoughts as distracted.
I will enjoy many three-day weekends this summer. I will read and write and plan and work around my farm and. . .
I’ll have fun, is what I’m saying.
This weekend will be a 4-banger, four days filled with a lot of sitting, waiting and praying. It is an important vacation, if you can call it that.
And you, my kind readers, all vacations are important. Make sure you don’t skimp. It is as important, or more so, than the work we fill our time with.
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