By Megan Hottman, follow her at www.meganhottman.com
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
— Tim Kreider, “The ‘Busy’ Trap” for the New York Times
This statement right here captures the essence and magic of van life so perfectly:
“Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.
Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.”
Source: The Busy Trap, Full article HERE.
#Vanlife and van excursions can be somewhat involved. There’s quite a bit of packing and prep that go into them. While it’s always worth it- sometimes I’ve found that a simple day escape is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a chance to get out of the daily mundane and into nature but without the fuss. Done midweek when parks and trails tend to be less-populated, these one-day excursions can really recharge the batteries and leave me feeling motivated for the days ahead.
Earlier this week that’s just what I did. Zero packing or prep later, I loaded Ramsey into the van and we went off for some nature time. No agenda. The weather was moody and my energy was quite low, as it turned out. But it felt SO good to be out there. A break from the home office and house chores and daily routine. Sometimes that’s truly all we need to shake things up a bit.
After our hour long hike we returned to the van- just in time as it turned out, as it began to rain.
I love being in the van when it is raining. LOVE it. So I laid down on the floor of the van, put my legs up on the bench seat, propped a pillow under my head and fell asleep. I slept HARD out there. When I woke I enjoyed a few of the snacks I had in the van while listening to the rain and then drove home.
Just that short outing changed my mood and my day- it slowed me from rigor to rest. Apparently —rest that my body really wanted and needed.
I highly recommend the day trip whether you have a van or not. Take a personal or mental health day or PTO day or half day- whatever you want to call it. And get out there. No fuss.
That reminds me — did you know….
“The average U.S. employee who receives paid vacation has only taken about half (54%) of those days n the past 12 months, a new survey of over 2,200 workers by careers website Glassdoor found. This is relatively consistent with how much vacation time employees reported taking in 2014 (51%), when Glassdoor first conducted this survey. ”
So why aren’t we all taking every single second of our sacred and deserved vacation time ? Those hours could be spent sprinkling half-day or day -long trips into our weeks to mix things up and keep us recharged? 🤷♀️
…well, fear, mostly. Fear of getting behind or of being fired or of seeming like the lazy or greedy one at the office… loathing of the post vacation “re-entry” inbox nightmare. (Amen to that).
So, it’s crazy to me that we fear these things enough to skip our paid time off ESPECIALLY when we know it makes us feel better when we do —
Here’s a solution I LOVE:
“Recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation.
Yes, that’s right — an entirely new approach to managing vacation. And one that preliminary research shows works much more effectively.”
“Designer Stefan Sagmeister said in his TED talk, “The Power of Time Off,” that every seven years he takes one year off. “In that year,” he said, “we are not available for any of our clients. We are totally closed. And as you can imagine, it is a lovely and very energetic time.” He does warn that the sabbaticals take a lot of planning, and that you get the most benefit from them after you’ve worked for a significant amount of time.”- HBR, What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time (HERE).
Last year, in 2020, I had planned to take a one-month sabbatical in March. It was the 10-year anniversary month since I’d formed my law firm and after 10 years of being in the day-to-day of the business AND serving clients, I was ready to punch out for a month. I’d spent close to a year putting this plan into action and as it got closer, I was over the MOON about “clocking out” of work and letting my mind be free of its demands. The elation I experienced in the leadup, despite the worries about how it would actually unfold, was super revealing to me about just how BADLY I needed the time off. I was “crispy,” as they say.
Enter COVID, March 2020, and the sabbatical never happened, per se… but instead I got a year of doing so much less in general, that it felt sabbatical-esque even though I was actively working. All of the extraneous stuff like travel to events and seminars were deleted from my calendar, my email inbox noticeably quieted, the legal profession calmed down, and court hearings, depositions, work functions and networking events all went virtual. The need to dress up, drive places, park my car in parking garages, go through security, manage traffic and that kind of logistical stress, essentially vanished.
The experience of Covid, 2020 in general, and the way it slowed us all down paired with my excitement as my planned sabbatical had approached, showed me just how powerful this model of taking one year off every 7 years, or of making employees take forced vacation or working for an employer who mandates time off, is and can be. We are ALWAYS better when we come back from a day outside, a recreational activity, time away from our norm. We are always better after we’ve napped, or sat outside sipping coffee and reading a book. We all KNOW this about ourselves. And yet we do not prioritize it. We wait for that long-from-now aspiration of “retirement” to “truly live” and to experience the freedom of taking time now and then to step out for a day hike or a nap.
I challenge us to adopt these concepts now, as the world begins to wind back up this spring, 2021— we cannot unsee what we have seen with the covid-related slowed down pace of life. Let us NOT knee-jerkedly, systematically, automatically, return to the way things were. Let us instead contemplate taking time off in the MIDDLE OF OUR WEEK JUST BECAUSE, and if we employ people, making them do the same thing. (As an aside- if you hire me to be your coach, I’ll be after you repeatedly and recurrently to take time off)…
Less chasing money… more enjoyment of free time.
Less chase, more rest.
Less vigor, more surrender.
(As an aside, we may be pleased to realize that with more rest, more ideation, more brainstorming in the moments of boredom, we actually do end up making MORE money AND having more free time, both).
I am talking about INTENTIONAL breaks in life’s madness and calamity: Pausing from passwords, logins, inboxes, apps. If we choose to forget what we’ve learned in the last year, shame on us. We were ALL dealt a rough hand with this global pandemic, and many suffered, including those who lost their lives, jobs and businesses. If we fail to adopt some of the positive takeaways from this experience, then I say again, shame on us. Globally we may never experience such a pause or forced slow-down again. If we simply rebound to the old ways, if we don’t make ourselves be BETTER now in this new way of doing things, if we do not FORCE ourselves to remember how the slower pace in business, life, law, bike racing, has BENEFITTED us, then we aren’t as evolved as we think we are. I want us to be better. To implement these new ways for the long haul. Let us learn from our mistakes, from these massive changes and upheavals, and let us proceed forward, better. More time off, for starters!
For incredible reading to challenge you, I highly recommend reading Patagonia’s current magazine/catalog article, “A Letter from 2030.” (Print only, I can’t seem to locate it online).
Oh, and— be sure to watch this video;