Travel is More than a Trip
In today’s burnout culture, 1 out 4 professionals never or almost never take all their vacation days. 1 in 3 feels uncomfortable requesting vacation time. 77% of professional employees say that they experience burnout and over 40% of workers have left jobs because of it (Deloitte Well-Being and Burnout Surveys).
Essential Benefits of Travel (Time Off)
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. And it is always more than a trip. Travel is taking your earned time off; it is disconnecting from work; it is reconnecting with life; and it is staving off the burdens of burnout. Taking time off in today’s busy world, whether to some far away exotic locale or right in your hometown, is increasingly important.
- Travel promotes rejuvenation
- Travel provides time and space to think
- Travel builds curiosity and creativity
- Travel helps stave off burnout
The decision to take a trip should be about taking a break. Allowing your mind and body to stop thinking about the day-to-day activities of work. I like to get lost on a long hike where cell service is non-existent or escape into the rhythmic sounds of my inhalations while diving eighty feet below the surface of the water. But you don’t have to go to the depths of the ocean to take a break. You just have to find activities that you enjoy where you leave your phone behind.
Rejuvenation comes from the decision to disconnect to re-connect. Sometimes I even leave my electronics in my car, in my garage, buried in my purse when I first get home from work. It is more than just deciding to not answer a call, an email, or a text, it is the decision to disconnect for a specific window of time – I need to it to be out-of-sight / out-of-mind. Research has shown that just having your phone next to you on your desk, even if it is not going off, can be a mental distraction. It also shows that students taking tests perform better when they leave their phones outside of the room where they cannot get access to them.
The disconnection of travel provides time to do the deep work of deep thinking. Something that is almost impossible to do when surrounded by others at work. Interruptions are commonplace in every work environment. Many studies show that the average manager, doctor, lawyer, executive, etc. gets interrupted every 10-20 minutes throughout their day. If you are attempting to do deep work – thinking that requires tremendous focus – it can take up to 23 minutes to get back into the rhythm of your thoughts. One study found that it takes a minimum of ten minutes to get into a groove and for most people, another interruption has occurred. This is what leaves you feeling like you’ve gotten nothing accomplished even though you spent a full day at your office. (Mark Murphy, Forbes, 10/30/16).
In addition to rejuvenation and time to think, travel builds curiosity and creativity by exposing travelers to new cultures, new perspectives, and new experiences. When I travel, I always encounter some piece of news, a conversation, or an event that enhances my understanding of the world. It puts me in a growth mindset – an important component of leadership and innovation. Traveling abroad used to be my biggest savior when I needed a break from an exhausting work schedule. With limited or no cell service, I was considered unreachable. People understood that being out of the country meant out of touch. But with today’s technology, it is virtually impossible to claim to be unreachable. So, I adjusted. To make sure I appreciate the experiences of being abroad, I turn off my ringer and put my phone away for a good portion of the day. I set the expectations before I leave, and I craft an appropriate away message for my email auto-response. You can do the same – even if you aren’t leaving the country.
You are Worth the Investment
Travel (Time Off) is an investment. Financial investments insulate us from unexpected life events. They provide extra economic capital with which we can absorb unexpected expenses. Travel is similar. It is an investment in our mental and physical well-being. It is an investment in ourselves. Travel insulates us with social and personal capital that provides resources to combat stress and challenges at work, to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones, and to reboot and rejuvenate. Travel helps us to replenish our emotional reserves. If you don’t invest in time off, how effective will you be if you feel depleted and drained at work? How will the emotional spillover of depletion impact your personal life?
With 77% of professionals saying they have experienced some sort of burnout, travel (taking your earned time off) should be a priority for individuals and for companies. Company cultures that discourage vacation run the risk of fostering an environment where fatigue, reduced productivity and turnover run rampant. Companies that encourage staff to take time to recharge receive financial and social dividends – they are rewarded with a more engaged, energized, and productive workforce.
Managing 24/7 Work Environment
It is hard to rejuvenate when a company culture creates and maintains an expectation that we should be available 24/7 to our co-workers, management teams, and clients even when on vacation—answering emails, taking phone calls and responding to texts at all hours. The spillover is palpable. 24/7 culture inundates almost every aspect of American life and it has far-reaching consequences that are too numerous to mention here, but I must mention that setting parameters and guidelines to disconnect and to give everyone a break is paramount. We need to start thinking about breaking this cycle that feeds burnout and turnover.
Fight burnout. Reboot.
I recently spent a 3 month stretch where I was working 15-hour days 7 days per week. And this wasn’t just clocking hours – this was deep, intellectual work and analysis. This was time researching and crafting hours of talks while also writing and developing the foundation of a new company. At the end of the three months, I took a 10-day vacation, I was exhausted. By the time I took a break, I was already noticing the early signs of fatigue and burnout. My thinking felt labored, so the timing of the trip was fortuitous. When I got back from my travels, I had a fresh perspective. I felt rebooted. I haven’t had a vacation since that trip, but I have taken several breaks from the deep work of deep thinking for days at a time which spurred additional creativity and a desire to get back at it.
When you take a break from ideas – the ones that really matter – the ones that lead to opportunities – you gain perspective. There is something advantageous about time and space – seeing the same piece of information with fresh eyes.