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.
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.