I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Vacation

Summer’s almost over. Have you taken a vacation yet? If you haven’t, will you?

Acccording to a 2006 survey by Harris Interaction and Expedia, 36 percent of workers don’t plan to use all their paid vacation days, and 37 percent never take more than a week off at a time.

So to convince you to take a much-needed break, here’s my list of how vacations can benefit your health and mind. While relaxation and exposure to culture are obvious benefits, there’s a wealth of other rewards too:

  1. Live longer
    A State University of New York survey found that men who took annual vacations reduced their risk of death by 20 percent. Men who didn’t take any vacations in five years had the highest death rate and incidence of heart disease than any other men surveyed.

  2. Improve your mental health
    A study by Wisconsin Medical Journal found that women who took frequent vacations were less likely to become depressed, tense, or tired. Women who rarely took vacations were likelier to have stress at home and sleep less.

  3. Revamp your relationships
    I don’t have any fancy studies to back this one up, it’s just common sense. A real vacation is the ideal time to reconnect and revitalize relationships that have taken a toll from an on-call, always-on, and work-obsessed culture. My 9-hour work days and blogging duties have caused my relationships to suffer more than I’d like to admit. Yes, I too need a vacation.

  4. Recapture your childhood
    When was the last time you went out and play? I mean really play. Without worry of someone calling or interrupting you. Real vacations let you recapture that feeling of childlike exploratory freedom. You can wake up when you want, go to sleep when you want, and eat what you want. Most importantly, you can have fun without worrying about the consequences on work back home.

  5. Gain self confidence
    “Don’t put yourself on sale.” This is my favorite mantra from financial guru Suze Orman. While Suze’s target audience is directed to women, the advice applies to everyone. When you skip vacations, you put yourself on sale. If you have 2-weeks of paid vacation and don’t use them, you’re essentially working for free. By committing to a vacation, you declare to yourself (and to others) that you are important and deserve dedicated time for yourself.

  6. Find creative inspiration
    Most of the year, we live on a schedule. We eat at the same restaurants, see the same people, and experience the same environment. This monotony reduces the opportunities for inspiration and for new ways of thinking. By traveling to a foreign environment, we put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation, and allow our brains to think differently.

  7. Become more productive
    What? You can more productive by not working? Yes. By scheduling two weeks of vacation a year, you force yourself to make the other 50 weeks more efficient. Your scheduled becomes an award–a carrot. This means more incentive to eliminate distractions, work more efficiently, and get things done.

How to take a vacation

So now that I’ve convinced you, here’s how to do it:

  • Create a vacation fund
    Put money into a vacation fund every time you get your paycheck. For a $2000 vacation, you only need to set aside just $77 dollars each paycheck (if you get paid twice a month).

  • Let your boss and coworkers know early
    Aside from being nice and giving your employer time to make staffing changes, telling everyone at work makes your vacation concrete. It prevents you and anyone else from piling on work with no end in sight.

  • Don’t ask, declare it.
    You know the classic aphorism: better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    Instead of: “Hey guys, I’m thinking of going on vacation October 1-15th, is that a good time?”

    Say: “Hey guys, I’ll be taking a vacation and will be in Buenos Aires between October 1–15th. Let’s work together on making sure everything is taken care of before I leave.”

  • Book your flights and hotels early
    Yes, you’ll get cheaper rates. But since you’ve sunk money into it, you’re fully committed now. This makes it harder for you and your boss to delay or reschedule your vacation.

  • Pack light
    I’m always afraid of airlines losing my luggage, so I pack everything into a carry-on, even for long two-week trips. For the rare moment I forget something, like a toothbrush or a razor. I can pick it up quickly at a store once I arrive.

  • Leave your Crackberry at home
    The same goes for your laptop and cellphone. You’re not really on vacation if you’re on a leash. In other words, your boss is just letting you out for a walk.

  • Wear headphones
    Who can afford the quiet comfort of first class these days? Chances are, you’ll be in coach next to a noisy baby or talky grandmother. Make your flight more enjoyable and bring noise-cancelling headphones. It’s the polite and universal way of saying, “don’t talk to me.”

  • Try sleeping pills
    I’m not a fan of taking unnecessary pills, but its impossible for me to fall asleep on a plane. If I’m changing time zones, I’m wrecked for 3-4 days after landing. To counteract insomnia and jetlag, I take sleeping pills on long flights. Prescription sleep-aids like Ambien and Lunesta supposedly don’t have the groggy side-effects that over-the-counter drugs do.

  • Don’t plan every minute
    Vacations shouldn’t be about stress. So don’t plan everything to the minute. Make a general schedule and a list of what you want to see and do. If you don’t get to it all, it’s another reason to go on vacation again.

  • Don’t cut your vacation short
    If work calls and asks you to come home early for an “emergency.” Don’t. Most emergencies aren’t emergencies, and by saying no, you empower others to handle difficult situations without you. If you really can’t get out of it, use your return to negotiate for additional vacation days. Compensation for your return flight should be expected. Remember, don’t put yourself on sale.

Resources

My turn

So I’m taking my own advice. Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be on vacation–a real vacation. That means no blogging, email, or IMing. I’ll have virtually no access to a phone or computer. In short, I’m dropping off the blogosphere for two whole weeks.

But don’t worry, I’m not leaving you in the dark. I’ve invited three trusted bloggers to contribute a few posts while I’m gone. All are fellow friends from the LifeRemix blog network, and I trust them to keep you motivated and entertained while I’m gone.

Please welcome:

So where am I going? Germany, visiting the fine cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Baden-Baden, and Munich. It’s my first two-week vacation ever, so I hope to return fully relaxed, rested, and revitalized.

See in you in two weeks!

Are you going on vacation this year? Any additional tips on making the most of a getaway? Please share in the comments below.

19 Comments

  • Pepe

    gravatarSep 1, 2007
    12:55 am

    Chanpory, I’m sure you will enjoy Germany. Don’t forget another sweater in your luggage, it’s quite cold here. And leave your iPhone at home, everybody might get jealous here.

  • Miguel Marcos

    gravatarSep 1, 2007
    3:02 am

    When the average vacation time for workers in the US is 14 days, that doesn’t leave much leverage for going anywhere and really unwinding from your daily life. By the time you start relaxing the return trip is pretty close. There’s just no culture of vacation in the US as there is in the US. I think the same applies in large parts of Asia, little vacation time.

  • Chanpory

    gravatarSep 1, 2007
    3:42 am

    @Pepe, it’s nearly 4am here and I’m just about to leave for the airport. Thanks for heads up about the weather. i just took the shorts out of my suitcase and replaced it with a jacket. My iPhone won’t work in Europe, so it’s staying put here :-)

    @Miguel, yes it’s really a shame that Americans get less paid time off than Europeans. Here, it’s very much a “live to work” instead of “work to live.”

  • Miguel Marcos

    gravatarSep 1, 2007
    4:11 am

    This NYT article pretty much says it all: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/nyregion/31vacation.html

    IBM no longer tracks vacation time, it’s all based on trust. However, it turns out most don’t take all their available vacation time anyway!

  • Philip Foeckler

    gravatarSep 1, 2007
    4:32 am

    Chanpory, you call 2 weeks a vacation? In Germany, which you’ll be visiting, we get 6 weeks plus an incredible amount of public holidays ;-)

  • Pamela

    gravatarSep 3, 2007
    11:14 pm

    I agree with these benefits. We all need to get out of our daily routine and relax once in a while.

  • Paula G

    gravatarSep 4, 2007
    7:10 am

    This is a great list and I wholeheartedly agree with all the values of vacation. It is a must-have, not a luxury.

    Thanks for including my take via the Suze Orman perspective from the article on my site. Appreciate being able to contribute to the conversation.

  • Alan

    gravatarSep 4, 2007
    7:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. We know that vacation is a great way of relaxing from our stressful work, so we have every reason to take advantage of the benefits it offers.

  • Jamal Burress

    gravatarDec 27, 2007
    7:03 am

    Wow Phillip, I think I want to move to Germany! LOL That’s a LOT of vacation time. My old job only gave us one week.

  • Bobby Capps

    gravatarJan 21, 2008
    1:59 pm

    I hope you enjoyed your vacation in Germany. One day I’d like to vacation in europe. I do agree that vacations are essential to life.

  • sad and somber due to lack of traveling

    gravatarMay 16, 2008
    9:07 pm

    Life is a highway I want to ride it all night long. I wish I could just tour europe.

    I want to be 20 again and travel the world first than marry, go to collge and have a family.

    It seems I have only done the last 3 and I am sad I will not be able to travel anymore.

    My best advice is to travel when you are young, healthy and happy.

    Life is so rushed stop and enjoy the world.

    The only traveling I have done is on the travel channel.

  • Shannan Telford

    gravatarSep 25, 2008
    10:58 am

    A vacation should be a special time for yourself. It is amazing how the simple anticipation of going somewhere can begin the relaxation process and daydreaming. Last year it took my sister and I two full months to completely come back to reality after a spectacular eight days of pure pleasure in another country. We had such a great time we immediately booked the same time for next year and we leave one week from tomorrow!

  • WillG

    gravatarNov 20, 2008
    11:27 am

    I agree that taking leaving is very important, both physically and mentally. As Sunday has been the traditional day of rest in the Christian world, other cultures also maintain a day of rest, just on different days.

    I read a great article called “Use that Vacation!!” found at http://managerqanda.blogspot.com/2008/11/use-that-vacation.html

    Why people don’t take vacation is beyond me.

  • Aryz

    gravatarJul 10, 2009
    8:32 am

    I never thought that taking a vacation could have so many advantages. I sure hope I could take one this weekend, I feel really stressed from all the school work of a College student.

  • Aryz

    gravatarJul 10, 2009
    8:36 am

    By the way, Germany is a really nice place, I hope you enjoy all the way and feel rejuvenated when you come back. :)

  • ruth

    gravatarJul 10, 2009
    8:20 pm

    Vacation makes you recaptured your childhood, there are numerous benefits which you can find in taking vacations, you should try I if you want to freshen your mind.

  • Frugal Living

    gravatarAug 30, 2009
    6:53 am

    I believe everyone should have a vacation fund, even though I don’t!! However I did move to Canada for two years and am now in Cairo, Egypt for two years… The first year in a new place always feels like an ongoing vacation and I feel I am much happier in my life for it.

    Vacations make you happier, it’s official.

    Thanks for the post, Forest.

  • goingbacktocali

    gravatarMar 13, 2010
    8:59 am

    I’m gonna take a vacation. I’m not employed, just turned 26, and waiting to hear if I’m admitted into school for the Fall. I love the beach so I decided to rent out a room in California for a month and go to the beach every single day! Its a way of killing time and making some great memories.

  • Yousuf

    gravatarMay 31, 2010
    8:43 pm

    I love it. As a student at Kardan university, kabul I was planning on vacation as well. I persuaded all my classmates to go on vacation. Also, I copied the 7 benefits and sent it to them. Hope that convince them. Vacation is good for your life, health, and mind refreshment.