Welcome to The Normal Girl's Guide to Freelancing! This is a semi-frequent blog series about the lessons I've learned while suddenly working for myself. You can read the other sections about how I got started, finding my community, and why money and I are friends now.
Today we're talking about one of my new favorite topics- vacation. When I was growing up it was rare that we would take vacations as a family, but the few times we did they were the highlights of my childhood. Disney World, California and going to the beach with my grandma. Those are all such special memories to me. Since I was in college I've always tried to travel. Living on the East Coast it was super easy to take a roadtrip and go somewhere you've never been before. I traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Boston, Washington D.C., Louisville, The Outer Banks of North Carolina, Nashville, Charleston, Chicago, and Austin -- all in a matter of five years, and all relatively inexpensively.
It's no wonder that when I moved to Texas, landlocked by only the gulf of Mexico, Mexico and more Texas, that I sort of forgot how to travel. Couple this with the fact that I was now thrust into working for myself and you've got a recipe for a no-vacation-disaster. We're figuring it out, but today I want to talk about vacations. Why you need one, how you should try and do it and what makes a good vacation good.
To me a good vacation is equal parts rest & exploration. Sometimes just seeing a new place by car is enough. Sometimes you need to hike something tall or eat something that you've never heard of to really feel like you're breaking from your cycle of normalcy.
But why should you do it? Here are a few tips.
- You deserve a vacation.
If you're like most Americans, a vacation isn't even on your radar. You haven't thought of one in a while, and you certainly don't plan on taking them regularly. You're a grown up now. And you work hard. But I'm here to tell you this: You deserve a break and you should take one.
That's right. I said it. And I mean it. You only live once. I don't mean this in a rap song kind of way (or do I) I do mean it in the since that you only get once chance to knock things off of your bucket list. Why don't you start planning on doing something you've always wanted to do?
- Your brain will be happier.
I don't need to tell you that your brain probably needs a break. Your mental health will benefit from you saying yes to rest.
- You'll do better work.
That's right. Plenty of studies show that after a vacation, you're more productive. Sometimes when you're reaching a creative block with your job, the best thing you can do is step away from it to re-center yourself.
So now that you're convinced, what now? One of the challenges I find myself facing most often is realizing that I don't know how to relax. I know that sounds silly, but for me down time or days off tend to make me feel more anxious. I have all this time and work that still needs to be done. Why am I not working? To counter that I like to have a routine-- I swim, I cook breakfast at home or eat something tasty out and I go see a movie. After that I'm generally good to go on days off. I've recently discovered that cleaning something or doing laundry on my days off helps me to still feel productive, while helping me rest. Vacation for me is similar. I did a few on my last trip to Marfa that I think translate well to any vacation.
Give yourself a few days. My husband was only able to join me to travel somewhere for 4 days, but I had 8 days that I could take off. So I took them and we planned our vacation in the middle. The first two days were spent getting ready for our trip, the next four were spent traveling in West Texas, and then the last two I spent slowly getting into the groove of work. This made my first official day back seem a lot less stressful.
- Vacation Responders
Use it. For me the vacation responder is the true tell of whether I'm actually on vacation or not. If the responder is up, I feel like my emails aren't a priority. Even saying that out loud here makes me feel nervous, because I feel like we all live and die by our inbox. Stepping away from email during the week won't kill anyone. For me I found comfort in still being able to check my inbox, but giving my permission to not respond unless it was a job I really wanted to book or a dream client. I responded to two emails (and politely ignored the rest) while we were on vacation, and I ended up booking both shoots. So win/win, right?
Unplug for at least one full day. For me this meant not taking my DSLR on our trip at all, and opting for film instead (to resist the urge of editing on vacation) and taking an entire day to be without electronic distractions. I had it on airplane mode and I snapped photos when I wanted to. I even Instagram-storied them later. But I took about 12 hours off of cell phone service. I found I was more aware of what was around me and I enjoyed the photos I was snapping even more.
- Try New Things
Whenever I travel I always try to do something or eat something I've never tried before, though to be honest it's usually eating. It gives me an excuse to be adventurous and it gives me something to associate with the trip. When I went to Fort Lauderdale in college it was a Pina Colada. When I went to Charleston it was trying apple on my grilled cheese. I learned to dive when I was on a vacation to California in middle school. Two weeks ago when we were in West Texas I tried a martini and Bacon Wrapped dates for the first time. Those things will always remind me of those places.
Vacation can be such a wonderful thing especially when you can streamline the stress of planning. What are your favorite vacation traditions? What vacations are next for you?