26 September 2014

Be a 'Vacation Taker'

Remember when you were a kid? You'd wait all year long counting down to the last day of school. Then, with great anticipation the last bell of the year would finally ring. You'd run out, blasting through the double doors, and immediately begin unabashedly celebrating the SWEET FREEDOM that is summer vacation. 

Every. Single. Year. 


Man - being a kid was the best.



Adult kid showing thumbs up for school's out. Helmet for adventure safety.

So what happened to us? When did we lose our enthusiasm for summer vacation? 


It's the beginning of autumn after an absolutely gorgeous Seattle summer. Sunshine is forecasted for this weekend and we know pasty Seattleites will be out en mass blinding people with their whiteness while soaking in the last summer rays. And now is the prime time to be thinking about a winter vacation to get outside. But most of us aren't. 


Instead we're stuck inside attending to our endless supply of electronic responsibilities. Kids enjoy 3-months of freedom from school "jail" but we adults continue suffering through the never ending work-year. Even when we do get outside, 97% of us have our cell phones within an arms reach. How is that time away?




Picture of a picture. This is how you enjoy Wilderness.

Work always seems to come first. We've adopted this martyr attitude of "I work harder than you" or "I put in SO MANY hours last week". It's an overworked culture of overworked people overworking ourselves into the ground. We have begun to distinguish ourselves with a badge of honor for being so terribly overworked. "Hey Johnny - I put in 83.26 hour last week, where's my merit badge?!" We're adorning ourselves with badges of suffering in the name of...what? Suffering?


American workers get less vacation time than the average first-world country (yes, we have a first world problem). Most of us only get 2 weeks off a year - I am lucky and get 3 weeks - a far cry from the 6-8 weeks that is MANDATORY in much of Europe. But even with just two weeks, we have a much larger vacation problem on our hands. Mainly: people just do not take their vacations. That two weeks just sits in this vacation vault to be used at another time. How about...now? I say - SUFFER NO MORE! Let us take our goddamned vacations! 


This mantra is less for me than for most. I actually hear with some frequency, Wow, you sure get a lot of vacation days.


My response? I don't get a lot of vacation days. I'm just better at vacations than you are. 



My last vacation. Skiing in Norway. Did not suck.

I get three weeks a year. I also have a generous employer who understands I work overtime and, as I don't get paid directly for those days, trusts I will build up comp time and use it to "flex myself out" as appropriate. And since I am good at vacations, I use it! 


How do I afford it? I mean, a trip to Norway ain't cheap and I work for a nonprofit. But, by prioritizing activity-based travel over pretty much everything else, I can make do. My priorities are thus: TRAVEL - Travel to ski, Travel to climb, travel to run. ALL of my days off are used for those things. 


To make it happen, I make a lot of other "sacrifices". I don't buy clothes. I'm thoughtful about gear purchases. I rarely eat out and make my own lunches. I bike when I can, and always try to carpool. I plan trips around locations where my friends live. I watch the prices of airline tickets like a hawk. Oh, and my proudest achievement is paying my neighbor for her internet. Let's just say it's better than any deal you'll ever get from Comcast.

In the past year and a half I have taken vacation time only thrice: once to Croatia for a weeklong climbing trip (I missed 6 days of work), once for a ski adventure in Norway (6 more days), and once to celebrate my sister's graduation in Montana (2 days). That's 14 out if the ~20 days earned, not accounting for the 15+ days of comp time (real number, I (happily) work a lot of overtime). I take those extra days off in the form of mid-week or end-of-week "hookey" days to ski big mountains, mostly with my badass tutu-skiing accomplice Theresa, or take long weekends to be outside. Because, you see, I know that time outside, away from technology, makes me incredibly happy, and a richer more well-rounded human being.



Well rounded. Or something.

Now I'll get to the point of my rambling, which is simply to say: you deserve a vacation. You've been working hard champ and it's time to get away. The vacation days stacking up on your paycheck are doing you no good and by god it's time to GO somewhere and DO something! Look in the mirror and say it with me! "I. Deserve. A VACATION!" 


Go to Kayak or Priceline or Expedia or whatever the hell else and just book something. ANYTHING! To anywhere. Then feel the sweet relief wash over you just knowing, for a few days at least, you won't have to answer to anyone but yourself.

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