I stood on the bobbing paddle-boat-slide-thing we’d rented for half an hour, watching my seven-year-old climb the tall ladder and ready himself to slide into the cold Atlantic. The weather in late August had already turned a bit, with the temperature dropping and a slight windchill, and I saw my husband and daughter shivering in the ocean as they waited for him.
My youngest has always been the careful one. Tentative, wary. But once he overcomes his fears, he is all about it. This was no different.
I counted him down in Portuguese: um, dois, três. His expression changed from scared to hesitant determination, and he slid into the water, splashing loudly and bobbing with his red life jacket. His face wore a combination of thrill and chill as he took in the shocking temperature of the water and reached out to grasp the arm of my husband.
From the beach, I spotted my parents standing and watching. I waved widely with both arms, and they waved back.
This, I thought. This is what it’s all about. Not work. Not the to-dos. This moment. This present moment with my family. With my parents nearby, with whom we will gush all about our paddle-boat-slide-thing fun after we return to shore.
And the truth is, I don’t know if I’d have been able to fully experience that moment if I hadn’t stepped away from my office to recharge. Not for a weekend or a measly once-a-year vacation. But three full weeks, without emails and distractions and deadlines. Three weeks to be totally present with the people I love and to be all in for them every day, from wake to sleep.
Of course, it shouldn’t take three weeks away to remind me of this need to be present. But the truth is I’m wired for work, and sometimes I need a reset and reminder. If that’s true for you too, read on. I’m sharing three lessons I learned from my three weeks’ vacation that I hope to carry into my everyday life.
Lesson #1: Work will wait. Life won’t.
Back when I was a new business owner, I believed I had to be on all the time. Responding to emails at ungodly hours, working weekends, starting early and ending late on weekdays. I basically never took a vacation unless it was to have a baby (which is anything but a vacation, y’all).
This isn’t the first time I’ve taken an extended vacation, and it won’t be the last. In fact, next year my goal is four weeks! And every time I step away, I’m amazed at how I can hit “pause” and then press “play” when I step back into work.
Yes, I had nearly 800 emails when I returned. Yes, I may have missed out on a few opportunities. Yes, a few projects were delayed.
But also yes, I signed a new client the afternoon I went on vacation. And yes, I had potential clients book with me while I was away. And yes, my audience grew substantially because I’d done the planning and prework to nurture my platform while I was away.
And all that happened while I was taking my dad to the “end of the Old World” in Sagres, Portugal, for the first time. And road-tripping with my mom to Spain. And eating homemade popsicles each night with my family. And hanging out with my husband while the kids played.
Work will wait. Life won’t.
Lesson #2: Time away does not impact the bottom line. In fact, it supports revenue growth!
When we moved to Thailand in 2018, I had to take several weeks away to prep, travel, and resettle. All in all, I probably took about five weeks off that year, plus worked half days for a while.
I was worried that my business would suffer, and that just when we really needed our income to hold steady—after all, moving internationally is expensive—it would drop.
But guess what? It grew!
Since then, I’ve taken about three to six weeks off a year. And my business has grown steadily. I’ve seen this time and again with my clients and colleagues too. Once they start prioritizing rest, not just vacations but also their daily and weekly schedules, they make more money, not less.
If you’re a business owner who is holding off on that trip because you’re worried about the financial impact, let me reassure you: with the right planning and preparation, your business will prosper!
Lesson #3: Space, rest, and a break from one’s routine are creativity’s best friend.
During my break, I limited social media and watched only one movie and one episode of a kid’s show with my family. I also didn’t read much because my parents were visiting, and I wanted to spend all the time I could with them. One evening, my parents and I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. talking. And my mom and I routinely talked until midnight during her two weeks here.
On a normal evening, you’ll find me reading or working on a project around the house while watching television. Last night, for example, I laminated items for school while watching Lightyear. I, like you, am a creature of habits and routine. Every night, I follow the same bedtime routine with my kids and then head downstairs to do whatever it is I have planned that night. I go to bed around the same time-ish and wake up around the same time. Rinse and repeat.
Breaking my routine was powerful. Rather than my quiet mornings of stretching, reading, and getting to work, I had breakfast with my family and then spent stretchy time doing that day’s activity, whether heading to the beach or simply enjoying time at home.
And let me tell you: I came up with 100 ideas. I found clarity on some personal challenges we’re facing. I even came up with a great idea for a tech company.
I found the answer to world peace!
All jokes aside, I was able to access creativity and clarity in a way I haven’t been able to in a long time. And I know shaking up my day-to-day, being present with my family, and having space from work were part of the reason for that clarity.
As I return to work this week, I am committed to keeping these lessons fresh and present in my life. However, we all know that time has a way of pushing us back into our routines and ruts. That’s why I already have my next three vacations on the calendar, including two more this year.
What would you add to my list? There are so many other lessons I’ve learned, and I bet you have some too. I’d love to know your lessons from time away, whether it was a longer vacation like mine or even a weekend away. Share with me in the comments. I love learning from you!