Shifting Away From the Vacation Mindset

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A week ago Friday was my last day of work. I have been an employee for a long time, 13 years on and off at various companies and 5 and a half years at this one. Thus I have had a worker mindset to time and to money, now that I am free I am trying to change that.

Full days of work including lunch and commuting time mean that relaxing, hobbies and Ali-Time need to all get squashed into the amount of free time remaining. Although I get more vacation time in Germany than I did in the US, vacations still end up feeling like a rush of freedom. Do what you can to cram enjoyment into a few weeks and store it up like a mouse to live off for the next months of working. I want to get Beyond Vacation. I am now working on shifting my mindset.


Free Time as the Opiate Against Work

I have noticed somewhat in the past years just how much money and energy I spent trying to deal with the stress of work. Alcohol definitely is part of it. Beyond this, I bought DVDs and video games as something to enjoy while I was home. Downtime is important, but it was not really productive downtime. It was time filled with stuff. Eating out was a lot more pleasant to think about rather than to come home and cook.

The thought “I have worked really hard and long all week” coupled with “I deserve this” or “I have earned this” comes up often. I ran across an article last week which talks about this as well. The author compares his spending habits between working and backpacking for 9 months with some interesting observations. Check out “Your Lifestyle has already been designed.

I used to just accept these arguments and go for it. After all, I was earning money, why not enjoy it. Since last year when we concepted the Beyond Vacation idea, I have begun to question these thoughts. To work against them in small ways. To remind myself that the money I am earning at work is dedicated to travel. To something worthwhile that we can enjoy and remember rather than a meal that gets forgotten.

We still go out and still buy things occasionally, but it is tempered by the idea of travel.

Vacation as a Worker

Deep in the stretches of daily trips to the office, the routine seems to collapse into a cycle of working and recovering from working with a few periods of doing the things that life requires like laundry on the weekends..

My experience with vacation time is an extension of this in a way. For me, it is a week or so when you blow a lot of money on a trip knowing you have a limited time. The vacation and the joy of travel it offers gets planned and hyped in my mind. Every day at work where it feels like a slog, the image of the vacation is used to get through it. The last week before I leave it begins to take over and even itself makes the work difficult.

The reward for hard work and good work at the office is often more responsibilities and more work. We even talk about vacations as a time to “recharge the batteries”. This is still making work the center of things, with vacation another way of getting you to do even more work. Work then becomes “the price” of travel or a necessity to keep work flowing, not as a reward for doing well.

Turkez, Greece, Croatia, Portgual

Inertia of Mindsets

It has only been a week or so. I still find myself with a bit of the worker mentality, but slowly getting out of it.

The first week I was still tired from working the week before and spending the weekend doing cleaning in preparation of our trip. With this tired, I just wanted to go out to eat. I wanted to spend money on rich foods and beer to relieve myself of work thoughts and try to make myself feel better. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out. It is just that I notice that the reason I wanted to was not that I had a hankering for something specific, just that I wanted someone else to cook it for me.

Another week later and the longer term plans are prevailing over the short term exhaustion more. Thinking about money for travel instead of meals out, calories versus the extra walking needed. Although it still feels surreal to be leaving on the trip in a week, that trip is feeling more real.

Moving Beyond Vacation

I have lost some of the longterm thoughts in the job, reacting to e-mails and working weekly if not daily deadlines., so I want to nurture these longterm planning feelings that are coming back. I will still need to work when we get back in July and am working on lining up contracts already. At the core of Beyond Vacation is the urge to make travel a part of our lifestyle and not an escape from work. It might take me a few cycles of travel and work to get it cemented in my head, but I feel confident now that even after a week out of work that it will be worth it.

18 thoughts on “Shifting Away From the Vacation Mindset

  1. Pingback: Struggling to Get Back Into Traveling - Grounded Traveler

  2. Congrats on finishing up at the job. It’s interesting the point you make about filling your life with things like alcohol, video games, etc to escape the stress of work or wanting to eat out instead … that’s really interesting. I had never thought of it that way, but you’re right. So much of that extra “stuff” in our life is really just an attempt to escape work stress or derive some sort of little pleasure out of life for ourselves. I hope you both find the Beyond Vacation project and lifestyle to be much more relaxing and rewarding. Looking forward to following along!

    • I find it an interesting cycle. We have this stuff to forget work and then because all that stuff gets expensive, we need work to pay for it. We need work to help us deal with being at work.
      So far we are realizing that it is going to take more work than we expected to shift mindsets and make real changes. Though it is nice to feel free again.

  3. For the last four years, I have been location independent and once per year I visit work for about 2 – 3 weeks. I’m on my annual work trip now and this year has been even tougher than in the past. I spend nearly 3 hours each day just commuting to and from work, 10 hours in the office running from meeting to meeting, and then more hours are needed at home in the evening just to stay on top of the day’s emails. It’s exhausting! I can’t wait to get back on the road at the end of this week just to get back into my normal groove.

    • That commute time sounds completely awful. I can get to nearly Cologne in 3 hours on the train, though can’t even imagine doing daily work up there for weeks. It will be over soon.

  4. Of all the wonderful aspects of your new lifestyle, the change in mindset is the most important–and the most difficult, in my opinion. I have taken several extended “sabbaticals” in the last 6-7 years, and the one thing that strikes me as counter-intuitive is that you actually need MORE structure in your life when you’re not conventionally employed. It’s so easy to procrastinate when a boss or a client isn’t controlling your time. Or in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Liberty means responsibility. That’s why most men dread it.”

    • That is a good line. It is totally true given my few weeks of experience. It is hard to get myself into a routine without some form of structure. Going to have to start putting my alarm back on. Also definitely need to make sure I get out of the house more. Home has its own feelings and urges that encourage relaxing, which is great, just not great for work.
      Even still I am happy with this turn of events overall. It comes with its own challenges which is perfectly ok. It also comes with rewards like extended trips to Italy.

  5. I can totally relate. We’re 3 months from our last day at work and I know it’ll be a strange transition to not-vacation-but-not-work mode. This is why we gave ourselves 5 weeks between quitting and leaving. I knew I’d need the downtime.

    “We still go out and still buy things occasionally, but it is tempered by the idea of travel.”
    When we first started saving, it felt like such a sacrifice to not do some of the things we wanted to do, like eat out more or go to more concerts. Over time, it’s become so much easier because I think of the payoff.

    Looking forward to seeing what your first days of travel will be like!

    • 5 weeks is a long time. We had 2.5 weeks. It is good, but in ways it feels almost too long. The sense of “wanting to go now” is pretty strong. Partly, I am not very good at relaxing. That is part of the mindset switch that I need to work on. The ability to be ok with doing nothing on a day and not needing to be productive to feel ok.

      • We have to move from Portland to Seattle and we have a mini-road trip and vacation lined up in there, too. I’m sure it won’t feel like much time after all that!

  6. I’m looking forward to a life where we don’t feel the need to escape quite so much. We will always have to make adjustments and find the right balance, but having a different perspective on how we want our lives to look helps.

  7. It looks like somebody seems to get closer to nirvana:) I wish I could do the same, I often feel get ins tuck while being an employee in a small hole on the border of the city.

    • It is about trying to make changes. We will see exactly how effective the changes really are. What is keeping you from getting yourself unstuck?

  8. It’s interesting to read about your transition from work to a travel lifestyle. I know exactly how you feel about working, getting tired, and looking forward to that next trip. During times of work and frustration, you indulge yourself in things for downtime. While they are needed escapes, it’s also such a waste. I’m eager to follow your new lifestyle but also interested in your psychological transitions to a non work life.

    • Thanks. That need for escapes seems to be an indication that something is wrong. There is however somehow a line between needing a change of pace or different scenery and really needing an escape. As you say, the escapes do seem to be a waste. Especially if the escape feeds on itself and creats another system to have to work with.

      • Quite simply, the escape is just exhaustion. With work, home, and travel, I just get so tired I don’t want to do anything else. I think it also has to do with being me. As an introvert, I need that downtime every day.

        • Exhaustion is a problem. I have been fighting it for many years. To get through everything I want to do, there isn’t enough time (or discipline to use that time right) so I sacrifice sleep and/or my alone time. This ends up making the exhaustion worse. I am still not so good at that balance, but getting better to realize that I do need sleep and my own downtime. That this is not wasted time.
          I am an introvert as well. Downtime is something we will need to very explicitly build into this trip. It is part of my worry about the balance of time. We will see. I have a draft about downtime in the blog. Will finish that at some point as well.

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