We Americans have less vacation time than any other developed country and even when we are taking time off, we are still checking in with work, responding to emails, taking phone calls, texting, checking social media, well, you know…
It is questionable whether you checking in with work is actually lightening your work load once you come back. It is equally questionable whether you are actually relaxing and recharging on a beach in paradise, while your mind is at work.
Let’s think about the “F” word for a minute, “F” as in fear:
If you are like me, taking time off creates quite a bit of fear and anxiety. In my case, it’s fear to lose a client by not responding to inquiries right away, fear to burden my co-workers with extra work and/or that work not being done correctly. There is the fear of being judged for vacationing in the middle of Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, when we are so busy. There is also the fear that my absence may not be noticed, that I may be – gasp – replaceable. And then there is the fear of not knowing what to do with myself, not having a purpose, without my phone in my hand.
Let’s look at those pesky fears and overcome them, San Juan Island style:
1. Plan your “out-of-office” procedure
Delegate your potentially urgent tasks, like responding to client inquiries, to a trusted, well-trained co-worker. Formulate a comprehensive “out-of-office” reply on your email. Circle a memo clearly outlining what constitutes an emergency for you and how to reach you. Know, that cell service in Friday Harbor is just like on the mainland. Once you leave town though, cell service can get spotty. Enjoy that. If you simply can’t afford going without, set yourself a screen time limit, an hour per afternoon. Be otherwise on “island time”.
2. Deal with feeling judged
You are doing an excellent job. You owe it to yourself and the people around you, to be rested, relaxed and focused. You achieve that by taking breaks and taking good care of yourself. You deserve that. It feels right. Other people may have opinions about you, your work, your behavior and may express them in hopes of getting an emotional response out of you. That’s on them though. People can’t make you “feel” anything. Ultimately the only opinion which matters is your own.
3. We are all replaceable and that’s okay!
But what if going on vacation and leaving your job for a few days just doesn’t feel right? Maybe it isn’t and maybe that’s a good thing. On your island getaway, set some time aside to sit on top of a mountain, in the blooming moss, surrounded by madrona trees. Look at the glistening sea and sit with that feeling for a bit. Is it time to step it up, step down, change careers? Observe your thoughts and feelings, while being present of the wind, the salty air, how the moss feels under your feet and allow a solution come to you.
4. So how do you relax?
No matter if it’s work or family life keeping you busy, we all know that slight panic when actually nothing is going on after things were rather busy. My husband and I recently became empty nesters and found ourselves quite lost with all that extra time on our hands. When nothing has to be done, no homework to be checked, no crisis to be solved, no meals to be prepared, what is worth doing? I found it incredibly helpful to spend time on San Juan Island, with its slower pace and friendly natives, and let my days unfold. Allow yourself to do whatever you feel like, just for a day, just for fun! Plan nothing and be open to all. Stroll down to the harbor for coffee and stumble upon an artist collective. Meander along the dunes of American Camp and observe a Bald Eagle couple. Visit the Westcott Bay Seafood Farm, shuck your own oysters and have a beer on the beach in the sun.
Explore the historic resort of Roche Harbor before attending an outdoor Shakespeare play in the woods.
Be a tourist – one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture!