What I Learned from my Winter Vacation

In my last newsletter, I pledged I would truly vacation for the last week and a half of December.  Not a working vacation.  

Time off from all work, including email, planning, phone calls, product development, team check-ins and professional writing of any kind.  (Am I the only member of this community for whom this vision seems a distant fantasy?)  Well, I’m here to report, in 700 words or less, that I DID IT!  So now seems to be a good time to reflect on what made this endeavor successful, so I can be ready for the next time I take vacation.  (And oh yes, there will be more in 2011!)

Living as a single mom and entrepreneur for over 2 years now has given me quite the opportunity to play full-out at taking care of others.  In 2010 I finally acknowledged my deep desire to be taken care of too.  When I first became aware of this desire (dare I even consider it a need?) I felt shame.  I’m a strong 21st century feminist!  I can do it all myself!  And yet I wasn’t.  Perhaps I couldn’t.  I can admit this now.

My main physical goal for last year was to be able to run 3 miles at a time, on a regular basis.  Check.  Achieved that and achieved 2 sprained ankles too.  Why?  Because I was so determined to accomplish my goal that I powered through, no matter what – travel, injury, weather interference, lack of hot water.  I powered through until I ran out of juice altogether mid-fall.  Came down with bronchitis and couldn’t shake it for 2 months.  Yay, me. I ain’t powerin’ through no more.  But that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyhoo – by early December I knew that this holiday season I would need to take restorative time off, not just work in a different location as per usual.  By choosing downtime, I wouldn’t need to attract sickness (a recurrence of bronchitis, for example) to take me down.  I decided I would proactively take care of myself, and to do so I would accept and even request offers from others to support me.

Note to self, and to any others who may benefit from my experience, here’s what I learned from my winter vacation.

  1. Plan to commit and commit to the plan. As usual, I blocked the days on my calendar months ago as “Off”.  Typically I then fill those days with many of the activities I did not accomplish up until that point – calls I couldn’t squeeze in, emails I owed to people, projects begging for completion.  This year I notified my team, my clients, my e-community, and my family and friends that I would not be working.  Making such public declaration increased my sense of accountability
  2. Leave a strong team in place.  I knew that while I was away, connect2 would be moving forward thanks to my amazing and dedicated team.
  3. Go away.  Especially since I work from my home full-time now, escaping my home and office felt very important.  The kids and I went to Scottsdale to visit family and friends.  We stayed with my parents.
  4. Read.  I escaped even further by reading a variety of books – a mixture of novels and personal development (nothing professional!).
  5. Take naps.  Daily, if possible.  I successfully ignored anyone who remotely suggested I may be a sleep glutton.
  6. Ask for support.  Asked my kids not to crawl into my bed at night so that I could experience the restorative power of REM.  Asked my parents to stay with my kids so I could go out on my own – twice!
  7. Find a hot tub with a waterfall and sit under it.  Accepted my friend’s offer of bringing the kids to the resort where she was staying. Just visiting the resort for a few hours felt like a vacation within a vacation.
  8. Play games.  We played chess, Blokus, crazy eights, and Cranium.  We laughed.
  9. Watch movies.  We saw an Imax one about scientists who explore caves to find new medical treatments.  Also, my six-year-old daughter and I watched Annie for the first time.  (She loved it).
  10. Spend time listening to loved ones.  Of the friends and family we visited, children and so-called grown-ups, all had messages for me, whether or not they knew it.
  11. Plan something fun for the return.  We arrived back in town Friday night, New Year’s Eve, with a special treat of dear friends picking us up at the airport, with fresh groceries!  Immediately we felt grateful, supported and connected as we prepared to step back into our typical routines.
  12. Come home a few days before school and work start again.   Arriving home Friday night allowed plenty of reentry time over the weekend.  I was able to unpack, open the mail, return my phone calls and reset the house before it was time to get back to the routine.

If only I had caught up on all my emails it would be a perfect system. Knowing I still have something to master about vacationing makes me want to try harder next time.  🙂

What did you do for your winter vacation?  Did you let work sneak in? How do you feel about your choice?  I warmly invite you to respond in the comments below so we can dialogue.