10 Reasons Why Vacations Matter

Wow, what’s with the furor about the first lady taking a vacation with her youngest daughter to Spain. After all she just went to Andalusia, a relatively inexpensive, unexplored by Americans, region in Spain (I wish she’d taken me with her). It’s not like she went to the South of France.

And by the way, she paid for the personal aspects of it herself including reimbursing the government for the equivalent of first class tickets for her and her daughter. Besides, not only is it her duty to get out there and spread goodwill, encourage consumer spending, and acknowledge other cultures, it’s also her duty as a mother, first lady or not, to expose her children to life experiences. Oh, and have you see the pictures? Her outfits are awesome. I bet the fashion industry gets a nice little kick!

But the big issue seems to be about taking the time and spending the money during this current economic downturn. I say “BS to that!” Just the other day someone said to me, “I haven’t taken a proper vacation in two years.” That same someone also told me they’d gained about 15 pounds in the last two years, was feeling depressed and overwhelmed, and really does need a vacation. When I asked why she hadn’t taken one she said, “there’s no one here to do the work but me.” Well, if you die because your health is affected…

I’d like to pose another perspective. You can’t be productive when you’re stressed. Depression and mental exhaustion are not conducive to creativity. Vacations are not only desirable but also mandatory for businesses, who are operated by people, to thrive at their peak.

I recently returned from what I call a “workaway.”

A view from my work station on Lake Melissa, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
I’m at a start-up so there’s no escaping certain tasks to keep the business moving forward. But that didn’t stop me from getting the necessary exercise, sunshine, play time with my children and change of scenery I needed to rev up my creative juices and renew my motivation and commitment to slogging through the toughest months of a new business. And, I guaranteed I’ll be much nicer for a few weeks starting Monday.

I have always been the kind of manager who insists that my employees take their allotted vacation time. Even to the point of bringing it up in reviews and insisting on a scheduled date for the event. Sure, they have to organize their departure so the urgent items that come up can get handled. Sure, sometimes it’s not convenient for me or my other team members and we have to carry a little extra stress. But that’s why there’s a team. And I’ve got news for those of you not paying attention, no matter what, when you get back, the things you thought would get done often don’t, and it doesn’t take long to catch up. You really don’t miss much in a week or two.

Oh wait, here comes another excuse, “I don’t have enough money to take a vacation.” Honey, vacations can be as expensive or as cheap as you want them to be. Use your creativity. Stay home and turn your house into a spa. Read 12 books and watch 10 movies. Go online and find a great deal for a camp or resort you can drive to. Call a friend who lives in a nice spot and weasel your way in. My vacation was at my family’s lake house, an inexpensive, yet rejuvenating retreat. Sure, there were family challenges to contend with but they were nothing compared to the chance to swim with may kids in a warm lake, watch Bald Eagles by the dozen, hunt for turtles with my 5 year old son and help my daughter perfect her water-skiing skills.

So for all of you who’d like to think the world stops when you go away and are riding rough shod over your life just to maintain a false sense of security that you’ll still have a job when you return, get over it. Do yourself and everyone else around you a favor and take a vacation.

If I haven’t bullied you into it by now, here are 10 altruistic reasons why you should before the summer is out:

  1. Everyone else is on vacation. At least it seems that way. Takes a long time to get phone calls returned during the months of July and August. It happens every year. Join the crowd.
  2. Your brain will work better. No really, the Dali Llama can’t be wrong. Changing your perspective and quieting your mind is the path to enlightenment. Enlightenment = a better working brain.
  3. You might have a kick ass new idea. (See reason #2) New ideas come when you’re relaxed. Removing the day-to-day urgent interruptions inherent in an office environment gives your mind space to release the ideas that are there.
  4. Your relationships will grow. It never fails. Whenever I go on vacation with my family or friends, we learn new things about each other. I always end a vacation with a sense of greater bonding and appreciation for the people I love. If you leave your loved ones at home, the same is true. The process of missing someone increases intimacy.
  5. You’ll get emotionally stronger by letting go. It’s true. Even if it scares you to leave your job for a while, just the exercise of doing it will make you that much stronger and more confident when you return.
  6. People will appreciate you at work. I know, I know, people act like they’re mad at your leaving. They’ll send you desperate e-mails reminding you just how much you’ve left undone and what a mess you’ll return to but it’s all a façade generated by reason #5.
  7. You might learn something. It’s hard to learn really new different stuff when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out. Learning new things expands your mind and your ability to adapt and boy don’t we all need adaptive skills right now?
  8. You might meet someone new who impacts your life. Get out of your rut and expand your universe. Who knows who you might meet.
  9. You’ll feel happier. No matter how happy you think you feel in your “secure” mode, you can always feel happier. Getting sunshine, moving your body, and experiencing new things is proven to increase endorphins and endorphins lead to feelings of happiness.
  10. Vacations are fun. Life is supposed to be fun. You owe it to yourself to have as much of it as possible!

7 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why Vacations Matter

  1. How very well expressed. Thank you for reminding us of something, I think we all know intuitively, but don’t always follow. I particularly like reason #3, you might get a kick ass idea…or be able to share one with a brilliant friend, you goddess, you! 😉

  2. Great post, Mary! Totally agree with you here. Reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere: “Only after unplugging can you fully recharge your batteries.”

  3. Claudia

    Yes, yes and more yes. Thank you. Will pass this on to all. You know what else is great? Having coffee with a new friend/fellow entrepreneur/foodie. P.s. I have the same pic of my toes in Hawaii from a few weeks back.

  4. Victoria

    Very, very true! Great post! I have a close friend that works for one of the biggest financial services companies in the country, and they require that 5 of their employees’ vacation days be taken consecutively. While this bothered my friend at first, she realized they WANT their employees to step away from the office for a week at a time and get some “me time.” It will improve work and take a load off of people that may be stressed/overwhelmed at their jobs. Happy employees = better work! It is good to see one company catch on.

    1. Thank you Victoria. Yes, it’s an important notion and so easy to for managers to forget that people need specific things physically for them to perform mentally and emotionally. I like hearing that big companies have specific policies in place to make this happen. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Peggy N.

    Well. You certainly are tone deaf when it comes to “public service” and the appearance of fiduciary responsibility and taxpayer money.

    Does it not occur to you that the vast majority of Americans may never be able to afford such a trip (with or without 40 of their closest friends)?

    Further, the documented costs of this trip are astronomical — more than some good folks will ever earn in a decade.

    I seem to recall the former President Bush and his wife took their vacations at their ranch in Crawford, Texas — and were unceremoniously heckled by the mainstream media and pajama pundits such as you for doing so.

    Double standard much?

    There was a term coined by conservatives in the 1980s to describe people such as yourself, Michelle Obama, Barbra Streisand, et al: Limousine Liberals.

    I think the term fits beautifully.

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