Americans have a lot to learn from the Europeans with regard to time off. Having recently taken my first 2 week holiday, I have come back refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. The time away allowed me to make some decisions about my life, and have the energy to execute those decisions. Work issues are easier to solve with a clear head and clear priorities. 2 weeks of recreation allows the mind and body to re-create themselves.
The Value of Time Off
Let’s talk about the value of time off. Last year, for the first time ever, my wife and I took a two (2) week vacation. We have never taken two weeks in a row. It was wonderful. We came back wondering how we could have spent our entire working lives – 30+ years – and never spent 2 weeks doing what we wanted – spending time outside, hiking, sightseeing etc.
Europe vs. the US
The Europeans routinely take a month off – generally the month of August – to travel and vacation. Europeans tend to take vacations that are geographically more distant than Americans because they can afford the time to be in transit for 3 days to get there, and then they can afford to stay there for a while – even a few weeks. No wonder Americans sometimes have a poor opinion of Europe. When you go in August, the regular employees are taking vacations!
Time Vs. Money
When you have more time to spend, you can spend less money doing it. For example – my wife and I like to take our trailer to remote locations. It takes longer to get there, and the gasoline costs more. But once we are there, the food is cheap, and the hiking is free. We do things at our own pace.
When we compare traveling with a trailer vs. hotel or Bed and Breakfast, the cost of 2 nights in the hotel might be the entire gasoline bill for two full weeks in the trailer. Another expense is doggie day care. It can cost 25-50% of the cost of a night in a hotel for the cost of one night with doggie day care. Alternatively, the dog can stay with us in the camper for free!!
The Value of Time Away From Work
I like to say that most people go south to sun and sand, but we go north till we have no bars on the cell phone. Only when I get out of range of the cell phone do I feel ‘free’. No one can reach me. Therefore, there are no expectations of anyone trying to reach me. This gives my mind and body the opportunity to ‘digitally detox’ and spend focused time with my life partner, the outdoors and the people we meet along the way.
Upon my return to work, I may feel like it takes a few days to get back to ‘work speed’, but the truth is, priorities are much clearer. For example, after our first 2 week trip, we pulled our 250 sq. ft. living space on wheels (camper) into our 3,0000+ sq. ft. home’s drive way. Our first thought was “what do we need all this for?”. We sold our house and move to a smaller place within 2 months.
I find it takes several days to get the work stuff pushed to the back of my brain. Then I can spend a week or so with work in my subconscious brain. When I get back to work, some of the tricky problems are so much more clearly focused when I get back.
Now that we have taken our second 2 week reprieve from work, we are dedicated to doing it every year. Some day we hope it will be even longer. We would love to take 2 months to drive to Alaska to explore Alaska and some of the areas between here and there. We have truly found that 2 weeks allows “recreation” to become “re-creation”.