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How to Vacation (Without Feeling Guilty)

“The basic instinct of a human being is the search for freedom…the search for freedom is within all of us”

-Jon Long

Humans are built, mentally and physically, to explore, to travel, to crave new experiences and adventures.  Of course, everyday can’t be an adventure when we have real life responsibilities like, families to take care of, jobs to do, and bills to pay. However, it is important that we set aside time for ourselves to have these experiences, because the need to have them is so much a part of who we are as a species and as individuals. Rest and relaxation, taking a break from the everyday hustle and bustle, are detrimental to our health and well being — as well as our productivity at work and in our daily lives.

Would it surprise you to know that 40% of Americans leave paid vacation time unused each year? 42% admit to feeling guilty while relaxing. Worst of all, a third of us feel guilt just at the thought of relaxing! How can this be? We as humans have physical, mental and emotional “batteries” which need recharging in order to function properly and successfully. It’s becoming harder and harder for us to function as we should  because  we are increasingly overworked, over stressed and undercharged. We can’t let these depressing statistics define our lives. Life is far too short to spend it all in a cubicle or in front of a lap top without ever taking a little time for ourselves. It is easier said than done, and so many of us find it easier to let the limitations of our own excuses control our daily lives. Here are a few common excuses people use for not taking vacations, and why we should disregard them.

I just don’t have the money to take a vacation…

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of our expenses and cut out the things we view as over indulgent or extravagant (like a vacation).   Even on a tight budget, there are plenty of creative ways to work in a vacation inexpensively. Create a savings account just for vacation money. You don’t have to spend a lot of money all at once on a lavish vacation. In fact, you shouldn’t. Doing so would only add to the stress from which you are trying to escape.  Instead, start at the beginning of the year and put away a little at a time. A few dollars a day, $10-$20 from each paycheck, whatever you can comfortably set aside and forget about.

Cut a few things out of the budget that may not really be such a necessity. You can even sit down as a family and discuss what things you are willing to do without in order to afford a fun trip to the beach this summer. Does your son want new basketball shoes or would he rather be able to go to Disney World or see a live NBA game? Maybe, you could go out to eat one or two less times a month and put that money straight into your vacation fund instead. That could easily add another $100 to your vacation fund every month! Just think about what extra things you are willing to do without in order to find yourself, scuba diving in Costa Rica or hiking.through the Rocky Mountains.

To save money on transportation, lodging and activities, use bargain sites, such as: ExpediaTravelocity, CheapFlights.com, etc. Also, try calling your destination directly. Often, companies will match the bargain prices of travel sites to avoid paying fees. Another great thing to take advantage of is the “sharing economy.”  Although this concept is still in its infancy, people are quickly realizing the value and potential of sharing and trading goods and services. Some great resources to use are Airbnb and Uber.  Airbnb is a network of people from all over the world who open up extra bedrooms or entire homes to tourists at lower rates than conventional hotels and rental homes. Travelers can even find unique accommodations, like castles and igloos! Utilizing these unconventional networks, will help you save money and leave more room for activities during your vacation. It can also add an enriched cultural experience to your travels.

I can’t take the time off from work

For those who have paid vacation time built into their work contract, this is not an excuse! Not taking paid vacation time (which we now know almost half of Americans are guilty of) is like saying to your boss, “I’ll come into to work this week, but you don’t have to pay me.” That’s absurd! No one in their right mind would make that kind of offer, but by not taking a vacation that you have worked for (and are being paid for) you’re basically doing this very thing.

If you are worried about work piling up while you’re gone, try to get some things out of the way in the weeks leading up to your vacation. Talk to your co-workers and see if they can cover some of your duties while you’re away (you will happily return the favor, right?). Leave an automated response on your email/voicemail  that you are away from the office, and date you will return. That way, you aren’t ignoring clients, customers, patients etc. and you don’t have to feel like you must respond to emails on your vacation, although you can if you want.

Whether you are taking a paid or unpaid vacation, it is a good idea to plan your time off far in advance to avoid stress or guilt; sit down at the beginning of the year with a calendar and figure out when is the best time for you to take your vacation(s).  Let your boss, clients, co-workers, patients etc. know far in advance so they have ample time to make other arrangements for the time you will be out of town.

The prospect of vacation is a motivator to work harder. It offers something to look forward to which can minimize the monotony of work. Punching the clock is a lot easier when you know soon you’ll be sitting on a sandy beach. When you return to work, you will feel rejuvenated, happier and ready to rock any project ahead with fresh motivation.

What if I miss out on a promotion or get fired?

Some people are reluctant  to take time off because they’re afraid their bosses might see them as disloyal or not dedicated to the company, which could result in missing out on a promotion, being demoted, or being let go.  Mostly these fears are irrational. If you are dedicated and hardworking, then your boss will know that. If you regularly prove your worth at work, your boss will see that you are an asset to the company and will probably be happy to give you time off for a vacation.  Worst-case scenario, let’s say you do get fired for taking a vacation. Would you really want to work for a company that would treat an honest and hard working employee that way?

In order to be the best versions of ourselves, we need to take vacations!

Humans are the most curious and exploratory species that has ever lived on earth. Evidence of this exists in the the migratory history of the human race. Throughout the life of our species we have managed to spread throughout every inhabitable part of our planet (and beyond). According to new scientific research, exploration is literally built into our genetic make-up. The physical evolution of the human body (our bipedal, upright posture) makes it possible to walk/run long distances. Our large, curious brains don’t only make exploration and adventure possible, they make it an integral part of a complete human life.

An allele to the dopamine receptor (DRD4-7R) makes people crave new experiences by giving them a hit of dopamine whenever they have a new, exhilarating experience. Psychology Today defines dopamine as:  “a neurotransmitter which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it allows us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.”  While only 20% of people have this special allele (DRD4-7R), sometimes called the “wanderlust gene”  or the “thrill-seeking gene,” everyone’s brain has dopamine activity. Therefor, everyone craves new experience and adventure to some extent.

In the documentary “The Search For Freedom,”  one narrator says of adventure, “It somehow manages to free you from a lot of the things in life that are going to try to sink you; it somehow allows you to leave all that behind for, maybe just a moment, but sometimes that moment is enough.”

Without these moments, our lives are a cycle of monotonous chores, work, bills. Even if we don’t travel far from home to do it, we need to allow space in our lives for these moments; without them, are we really living to our fullest extent or potential? Are we truly enjoying our lives, or just going through the motions? Even if your “adventure” is getting up a little early for work and going for a run through the park, or going for a swim in the ocean. Do it! The truth is, those few moments will most likely be the best moments of your day.

Traveling, exploring and seeking new experiences is literally a part of being human, by denying yourself a vacation, you are denying the authenticity or your genetic construction. This should make us feel guilty for not taking a vacation!

Work will always be there when we get back, there will always be money to be made, and next year, or even next month, you won’t think about the money you spent on your vacation or feel guilty about the time you took off from work. Certainly none of that can compare to the feeling of indulging an urge that is built into the fabric of our DNA.

 

 

 

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