A Real Vacation: If A Junkie Can Do It, You Can Too

At Tanner Friedman, one of our core company values is Work/Life balance. Although we bring passion to our business every day, we believe that time away from work allows us to focus with the appropriate energy level for our clients for the vast majority of the year.

Two years ago, for the first time in a decade, I took a vacation that was a getaway in every sense. I wrote this post about how difficult it was, as an admitted information junkie, to go “cold turkey” with no cell phone and no email for a full week.

A year later, I did it again. And last week, I did it for a third time in three years. In conversation, I have become something of an evangelist for a week “unplugged.” So please allow me to make the case here.

Americans get fewer vacation days than most of the rest of the industrialized world. According to the World Tourist Organization, Americans take 13 days per year of paid vacation time, on average. Japan averages 25, Canada 26, the U.K. 28, Germany 35 and
Italy averages 42 days. So, it’s up to each of us to make the most of what our culture allows.

For 51 weeks of the year, wherever I am, I rarely go more than a few hours without checking email. It’s tough, frankly, for me to go more than a few minutes, if not otherwise occupied, without getting a news or sports fix via Twitter or another app. Really, it doesn’t take much down time (a line in the grocery store, a walk from a parking space, some time on hold, for just a few examples) to have me reaching for my phone. I make an effort every day to answer emails and voicemails same-day. It’s just who am am or, maybe, who I have become. While I am essentially addicted to the steady stream, I usually enjoy it, recognizing that it can divide my attention and cause some stress during “off” hours.

So, for one week of the year, originally because of the prohibitive cost on a cruise ship but now out of bona fide desire, it has become essential to turn off the laptop and put the phone in the room safe and focus attention on family, experiencing new places, relaxing and reading books.

To make it possible, I took steps ahead of time, preparing with clients and the Tanner Friedman team and also picked a week when many would be vacationing. Those factors helped me come back to limited email and client objectives met in my absence. I’m now back refreshed and ready for the next 51 weeks (with some more vacation days, of sorts, thrown in).

If I can do it for a week, then you can, and should, do it for a week.