Is Vacation Really Vacation Anymore?

The countdown is on until vacation with my husband.  I’ve got exactly one week to get loose ends tied up and details delegated so that I can disconnect for a week.  But I can’t shake this haunting feeling that it’s impossible to truly disconnect.  In fact, sometimes I feel like vacation is more work before and after I’m gone.

An article entitled “Traditional Vacation Is Dead. Long Live Vacation” in Fast Company affirmed my fears,

“There are a number of studies that indicate that vacation isn’t a surefire way to eliminate stress. In fact, it can sometimes mean that a worker returns to the office more stressed, which has been my experience if I don’t engage for short periods of work time now and again to keep up with my work flow.”

The article also says,

“thanks (or no thanks) to handheld devices and widespread Internet access, the reality is that for many workers it’s hard to turn off. According to a recent Good Technology survey, 57 percent of respondents checked work emails on family outings.”

Support like this can lull my achiever nature into making excuses for why I can’t fully disconnect from work for a few days.  I hear the excuses start to play in my head,

“It’s just too busy of a season”

“I have to keep up with email”

“I really need to check in every day”

But as much as I am tempted to believe my own excuses, I can’t reconcile them with God’s design for us to rest.  Rest is part of God’s design for us.  It’s part of the rhythm that keeps us healthy and more importantly dependent on Him.

How do you truly rest on vacation?  (I may need a few tips!)

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  • Larry Baxter August 1, 2012  

    I definitely rest on vacation! The key is to break the link with home. Don’t check in – not at all. Empower those around you to lead while you’re gone. To think you have to check in or things will fall to pieces is to believe a lie. Second key – doing fun stuff on vacation is good, but also have some intentional “don’t do anything” time. Yes, your week back will be hectic, but that’s ok. Our most type-A staff member just had a wonderful never-check-in vaca and I’ve never seen her so refreshed and energetic on her return.

    If someone thinks they are too busy or “needed” to take a vacation, they’re choosing to see things opposite to God’s perspective. You’re so right in saying that a rhythm of rest is absolutely essential for us and is a part of God’s great design!

  • Hilary August 2, 2012  

    Jenni, I worked a high-profile and extremely stressful career for 10 years without taking a real vacation, unless you count two maternity leaves as vacations. (!) I finally had a wake up call sitting in a doctor’s office sicker than a dog; my immune system completely shot from stress. One doctor wanted to start screenings for cancer, I was that sick. The other doctor wanted me to take a 6-month sabbatical from life. (Her exact words.) 

    If you get the opportunity to take a vacation, be responsible and take that vacation! It is the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your husband, your co-workers, and your church. No one likes a grumpy, stressed-out leader – that just grumps and stresses-out everyone else. 

    How do you truly rest on vacation? Leave the internet at home – all of it! I dare you to not even take your phone. 😀 Leave the TV off. Eat, sleep, play, talk. Walk barefoot. Watch the sun rise or set. Talk to God. 

    You can do it! 🙂

    • Jenni Catron August 2, 2012  

      Thank Hilary. I hate that you had to learn this the difficult way.

  • Heidi M August 2, 2012  

    We just got back from our vacation. We went on a cruise out of the country so I didn’t put international on my iPhone and I brought 3 books and layed out and read. As a control freak I panicked a few times seeing messages and worrying something was wrong. But it worked I read all 3 books and got a tan. It was a forced disconnect not have it accessible but what worked for me.

    • Jenni Catron August 2, 2012  

      Good for you Heidi! What did you read?

  • Laura Anne August 2, 2012  

    Hi. From a previous workaholic who got really sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (I was one of those people who went into school/uni/work choked with the cold or whatever. Now that just isn’t possible!)

    First of all, having a restful vacation is preparation. Making sure people know in advance you’re going to be away – so is there anything they really need you to do NOW before you head off. I make sure I’ve got my holiday response set on my e-mail – both personal and work! I usually have a contact number for the office ‘if your enquiry is urgent’ so if there is something super important, it will hopefully be dealt with or managed until I get back by our team. 

    Switching off my phone for at least some of the time so NO ONE can contact me and making sure I’m logged out my e-mail (my friend with a smartphone made sure she wouldn’t get ‘new e-mail’ alerts) is also key once I’m ON holiday. 

    Not having my alarm clock set and listening to my body. Or having every single day of my holiday packed with ‘doing’ things. This year, I went to Cornwall and me and my friends all had daytime naps, mornings in pyjamas making breakfast last about 2 hours as we read books/watched Wimbledon/read the newspaper/ took turns keeping an eye on the kids! We did ‘something’ for a few hours every day, but had so much rest too. We all needed it!

    Eating healthily. It’s amazing the difference fresh fruit, salads, fruit juice, water, chicken, fish make. With a little bit of chocolate or cake for after of course. 🙂 Evenings with a cheese board, crackers and a glass of wine. Oh yes.

    And making sabbath a weekly event. My sabbath usually results in me doing my laundry (I love laundry – having a stock of freshly clean clothes and bedsheets and towels somehow energises me!), reading a book, watching a DVD. I don’t pay attention to my phone or e=mail and it’s AmAZING how much more efficiently I’ll work the next day once I’m refreshed – physically, emotionally and mentally.

    • Jenni Catron August 2, 2012  

      So good, Laura Anne. Thank you!

  • Chalane August 2, 2012  

    I agree with these good suggestions others have written!  Here are a few of my own:   
    Prepare.  Put an auto-response on your email a few days before you go alerting people to the fact that you will be gone after a certain date.  Still personally respond to the emails, but the additional heads up is good for people you are working with.   If you have a co-worker that will “run interference” for you, keep him or her in the loop the few days before you leave – don’t just pile a bunch of info on them the 1/2 hour before you leave.  Additionally, ask if that person will monitor your email for you – give your password over to this trusted co-worker and see if they will handle any striking situations that arise in your absence.  Then you don’t return to a full “in box” and lots to catch up on.  And, schedule out meetings and appointments for a couple of weeks.  You’re gone for a week, schedule a “get back into the swing of things” week, and then put appointments and meetings on the week following…the 2nd week after you get back.  Disconnect.  Turn off the phone. Don’t check your voicemail or your email.  Tell a family member where you’ll be staying and give them the number for the hotel or resort.  If an emergency comes up – they can contact you through the hotel. Work is covered. Personal life is covered.  You’re with your husband.  So, turn off the iStuff 🙂 Relax.  Where ever we go, there are usually new sites to see, new venues to visit, new activities to try.  Don’t simply go, go, go.  That sounds too much like our work week!  It’s vacation! Stop, stop, stop.  Plan for down days – no excursions, no activities, no plans.  Wake up late, relax all morning, hit the beach, enjoy the deck, soak all morning in the hot- tub.  Give your mind and body a chance to slow down and rest.  It will be wonderful.The Pastor who mentored me taught me this years ago:Divert Daily.Retreat Weekly.Abandon Annually. Have a bit of down time every day.Keep your Sabbath.Get away – far away –  at least once per year. Thanks for encouraging us and…have a wonderful vacation!   

    • Jenni Catron August 2, 2012  

      Chalane, I love this “Divert Daily.Retreat Weekly.Abandon Annually” Love your intentionality to vacation well!

  • Kelly J Youngblood August 2, 2012  

    Ironically, working part-time for a couple of years WAS my vacation.  I am primarily a SAHM and for a couple of years I had a 10-hour per week job which was a lifesaver for me.  It energized me and gave me strength to get through the main job of being a mom.

  • Margaret August 2, 2012  

    I have a friend who believes we should all become Europeans. Depending on where you live, you might receive 6 weeks of vacation a year and work only 30 hour weeks.  Maybe she’s on to something….

  • Tim August 3, 2012  

    Years ago a fellow judge asked if I’d left a contact number for my upcoming vacation; I told him that if the courthouse burned down I’d probably see it on the news, and anything short of that wasn’t worth disturbing my vacation over.

    Here’s how I make it a complete break from stuff that demands my attention: I stop doing that stuff. Simple but effective.


  • Bryan Entzminger August 4, 2012  

    The biggest key for me on a recent (long weekend) vacation was that we had no internet access and I had people and processes to cover nearly everything while I was out. We only had one interruption that was a friend wanting some advice and counsel on a personal issue (and he didn’t know we were on vacation).

    My recommendation, which is supported by several posts by Michael Hyatt and lots of research – find a way to unplug. Let everybody know if you’re able. Set your out-of-office notifications and change your voicemail (I should have done that).