Are you in need of a vacation and the opportunity to disconnect and recharge? In our always connected and overly busy culture, never has there been more of a need to power down. But according to Glassdoor, two-thirds of Americans report working while on vacation. This is a problem and I have some ideas about what you can do to fix it.
This is the fourth post in my series on the importance of travel and how to make it happen. It all started when I shared three ways I’m living a more meaningful life after visiting Mexico. Then I shared some tips to save cash for your next vacation and say bon voyage to debt. My last brand new post shared 5 tips to stay motivated while you work to make your travel dreams a reality. And stayed tuned for one more post in a couple of weeks about bringing that vacation feeling home.
I’m passionate about travel because I’ve experienced firsthand how it changes you. And I believe that most of us don’t do it enough. Our internal and external expectations to always be on are causing stress, depression, and chronic illness. That’s why I decided to make it a priority again after putting travel on the back burner for a couple of years.
I’ve always felt a little guilty for taking time to disconnect and recharge. Then last summer I had an epiphany. I realized that none of this is a waste. It’s part of my journey and my story. It’s a deposit in who I become and what I create. It’s never a waste! It’s so much easier to achieve your goals if you allow yourself time and space to heal your mind, body, soul, and relationships. You can read all about it in this Instagram post.
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only six in 10 Americans took a vacation away from home in 2017. It’s estimated that 200 MILLION vacation days are forfeited annually costing workers $66.4 BILLION in lost benefits. EVERY YEAR!
That’s assuming employees are even allowed vacation time. The US is the ONLY developed country in the world with ZERO legally required paid vacation days. I was shocked to discover that a quarter of Americans get no paid time off. The average number of paid days off for a private sector employee is 16 days. This is barely a drop in the bucket compared to Austria and Portugal which both require 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays annually. That’s more than double!
I completely understand how we got here. I’ve worked for plenty of bosses who openly discouraged taking time away from work. Those bosses even more openly encouraged (or demanded) working while taking time off. Knowing the importance of disconnecting while traveling, I refused to give that up for a demanding boss. Not only did we take vacations, but we also made sure that there was no way we could work. We did this by leaving the country, booking hotels without Wi-Fi, and going into the wilderness where there were no cell towers.
What started out of necessity has become something we choose to do and look forward to. Here are some of the ways we’ve benefitted from disconnecting while traveling.
- Helps uncover your inner strength and builds confidence by stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Challenges your beliefs and biases and makes you more empathetic.
- Helps you feel connected in this increasingly disconnected world by asking for help and accepting the kindness of strangers.
- Improves your adaptability by learning to let go of the need to control every variable and expecting predictable outcomes.
- Reduces stress and improves overall health.
- Inspires you to feel grateful for all that you have and be more generous with others.
- Improves your relationships by disconnecting from technology and normal routines so you can spend quality time reconnecting, working as a team, and building trust.
- Creates lasting memories through shared experiences and trying new things together.
- Improves communication skills by working together to solve problems and navigate high-stress situations.
- You’ll allow yourself to let go, have fun, laugh and heal.
Now that you know some of the benefits, let me help you with the how. The most common reason people tell me they don’t disconnect is fear. I believe you can tame these fears by laying the proper expectations and framework before you go. Here’s how to do that.
Recognize that most “emergencies” aren’t actually emergencies.
The last organization I worked for was very reactive which meant EVERYTHING WAS AN EMERGENCY. I’d always laugh when I came back from vacation and see all the fire drills that two weeks later had long been forgotten.
Know your why and what’s really important.
My health and my marriage come before any job. These are two of my non-negotiables. Figure out what yours are and go into your trip having them clearly defined. Check out this post if you need some guidance.
Set the expectation before you go. Be upfront about your plans. Let everyone who may need to contact you what they should expect. Tell them that you’re going into the wilderness and won’t have cell service. Ask them if there’s anything you need to address beforehand. Then ask someone to step in and address any emergencies that may arise.
Clear up any loose ends before you go.
I make sure all of my work is taken care of for up to a week after I plan to return home. It’s so much easier to relax when you don’t have work tasks to worry about.
Set up an out of office with clear language and instructions.
Say that you’re out of the office and when you’ll return their message. Share your why and use the opportunity to inspire others to do the same.
Leave your work phone and laptop at home.
You can’t file a report you don’t have access too, can you?
Choose hotels without Wi-Fi or select destinations with no wireless coverage.
I’ve already mentioned this, but if you’ll be tempted to check in, make sure you can’t. This is becoming increasingly difficult, but I still know plenty of places where you can get off the grid.
Stick to your plan and stay firm with your boundaries.
If this is new for you, know that people might try to get you to break the promise you made to yourself and your family. Figure out how you’ll hold yourself accountable before you take off.
Turn off the notifications on all your devices.
I turned off most notifications in 2012 and never looked back. I know some of you can’t do this in everyday life, but the least you could do is enjoy a vacation without constant interruptions and requests.
If a nice long getaway isn’t an option for you right now, set a goal for future travel. Then scrape together as much time as you can for a nice staycation. Stay in a local Bed and Breakfast or plan a tropical vacation at home. Crank up the heat, power-down your phones, grab a good book, mix a tropical drink, and enjoy. Or go out and be a tourist in your own town and visit museums and restaurants you wouldn’t normally visit.
I’ve been fortunate to experience firsthand the healing and connection that accompanies disconnecting while traveling. I hope this post has inspired you to disconnect too. At the end of our lives, these will be the little things we remember most. Stop waiting and start creating memories that last a lifetime.