This isn’t completely travel-related, but for some, it might be.
Like many other Americans, I am a hoarder of my accrued time off. It is a combination of a million “just in case” mental scenarios as well as a general environment that we cultivate here in the States that taking time off for anything that isn’t an emergency or family-related is equivalent to laziness. The only time you get a ‘social’ pass is for that one-week, all-inclusive beach trip you planned eight to 10 months in advance where you will likely still find yourself working remotely.
Why do we restrict ourselves from utilizing our time off? Correction: why do we restrict ourselves from utilizing time off that we worked for and is paid? And when we do use time off, why don’t we fully enjoy it? I understand I am in an ideal position where my only responsibility at the moment is myself; I don’t have to worry about having a safety stash based on kids’ schedules, an elderly member of my family that depends on me for care, or even getting sick (*knock on wood*). But it is also no secret that I struggle with a mental illness and I have to face the fact that I might need a day here and there to just re-stabilize.
The idea for this post came to me because I am currently saving my time off for a long birthday trip I am taking to Europe at the end of May. With the exception of two pre-planned days, I have not taken time off, or been on a plane, since this past October. Working in operations, I didn’t get the holidays off so it has been nonstop for me for the last six months. I finally took a trip this weekend to break the fly-atus for which I did not have to use any time off, but even waiting for this weekend to arrive has shown me that maybe it is time to start investing in time off at home.
Like many other people, I feel not only lazy, but also guilty to be sitting at home while others are working. I also get that feeling around mid-afternoon where I think to myself, “You’re wasting a whole day.” How can that be if my intention for that day was to relax and reset my mind? Naturally, I then take myself into a downward spiral of how I could have saved this time for a trip I have always wanted to go on, but this is why I used the term ‘invest’ in time off. It is going to take more than putting my physical self in a different space–I have to remind myself that I worked for these days, I am entitled to these days, and understand that I will ultimately be a better person to others in my social and professional settings because of it. No matter how much sleep you get or what you do when you get home from work, everyone experiences burnout from the rotating demands of everyday life.
Think about it: what benefit do you get from hoarding your time for one week (or a little more) of vacation when you have to work the other 51 weeks of the year? That’s a long time to go without a break! I have explained many times on this blog that my work schedule is not a traditional schedule. So while I would love to just take a day every month to tack onto my weekend to go on a trip, the people I like to travel with have to bend to their own struggle with time off to coordinate with me. This is partly why I have been trying to find new things to do here in Dallas, but also why I need to find solace in the silence of not having anywhere to be or anyone to talk to.
Travel will always be my preferred way to regroup, so I understand more than anyone that saving up your time to go on a vacation is a higher priority than one day’s rest on the couch. But the point is that if you ever feel you do need that one day’s rest or just a mental escape from the monotony of the daily routine, you should indulge and not feel guilty for it. Hopefully nobody reading this is as close to the edge of burnout as I am currently and can instead pick and plan a day to take care of themselves in whatever way they see fit. Remember: you worked for it, you are entitled to it, and you will ultimately be a better person to others when you take a break every now and then for yourself.