Summer vacation or a time to work?

May 29 2010 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

For Americans, the Memorial Day holiday (May 31) brings with it the onset of summer and visions of "getting away from it all." But, truthfully, when you intend to get away from it all – for a day, weekend or a summer vacation – ask yourself how often work will blend into your "away time?"

How often will you choose to allow your work to carry over into your leisure time? How often will you feel incapable – yes, incapable - of separating work and play?

Do your Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, notebook and the like keep you tied to the office? Do your electronic leashes disrupt, your quality time with your friends and family? Are you taking care of business while you're on vacation? Or, truth be told, is your vacation but a minor distraction or inconvenience that interferes with your work?

Guilt, Fear, Addiction and Social Neediness

The four underlying factors that result in folks blurring the work-play boundary are guilt, fear, addiction and social neediness.

  • Guilt – I feel that I'm "bad" or "wrong" in some way, shape or form if I don't stay in touch with my workplace.
  • Fear – I feel that something "bad" will happen to me if I'm out of the workplace loop.
  • Addiction – I just can't help myself overcome my need to constantly connect with my workplace colleagues.
  • Social Neediness – I need my online, workplace "friends" to make me feel that I'm not alone, so I can feel liked, loved and needed.

The interesting phenomenon about these four factors and work is that none of them points to the actual "meaning" or "fun" of work. Just the opposite. They point to work as a heavy weight one carries on their back, implying that work is actually an unpleasant life issue that one is so connected to that a vacation from it is akin to dying.

Staying connected on vacation is not so much about "having fun on vacation" as it is about "not being anxious, afraid or fearful" on vacation. So, folks often go to work on vacation, usually in a state of denial about why they often choose work over fun.

The downside of "the working vacation"

"No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one". - Elbert Hubbard

When we sell out to "work" on vacations, we are abdicating the important, precious "me time," relaxation time that is critical to maintaining a healthy state of well-being – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological. Sadly, the stressed out, overworked and overwhelmed pine for time off yet "go to work" during that longed-for free time. The unfortunate result is the sense of overwhelm and exhaustion many folks experience not long after returning from a "working" vacation.

The psycho-emotional-mental-physical effects of a "working vacation" are disturbing. More and more folks are experiencing stress-related diseases and illness, family dysfunction and disruption, and rough times holding it together at work.

Meanwhile, growing numbers of disengaged, unproductive, underperforming, exhausted, unhappy, depressed and electronically-addicted employees are showing up at work – to the detriment of the quality of their work. Blurring work and vacation is one reason.

Take a vacation – a real vacation!

"Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures." - Susan Sontag


  • When was your last "real" vacation?
  • How do you define "vacation?"
  • Do you feel nourished and replenished by your vacations? Be honest.
  • Do you prepare for vacations?
  • How do you transition from vacation to home to work?
  • How is the first week back after you return from vacation?
  • What did you discover about yourself on recent vacations? Did you take time for personal exploration?
  • How do you experience yourself on vacation? Do you enjoy being away from the everyday routine?
  • Are you able to really disengage from "work" or electronics during your vacations?
  • What role do guilt, fear, addiction and/or social neediness with respect to work play in how you experience vacations?
  • Has your relationship suffered because you blur the boundaries between work and play? Be honest!
  • What were vacations like for you and your family when you were growing up?
  • Can you visualize a world where you can take a vacation and truly leave work behind? Would you choose to?

Taking time for one's self is a non-negotiable "must" to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit. It's impossible to run a car engine on all cylinders 24/7, 365. The human body, mind and spirit are no different - dependency on energy drinks, and denial, notwithstanding.

Leisure time and vacations, spent consciously, are preventative medicine. They allow time for de-stressing, decompressing, rejuvenating, replenishing and re-connecting with one's self and one soul. When we consciously allow a genuine opportunity of space for relaxation, we can discover the unconscious level of tension and stress we've been carrying.

We know this because we usually need the day or two of vacation just to unwind – the telltale signal of our need for rest, relaxation and a deeper settling of our body, mind and spirit.

So, when was the last time you spent time "doing nothing" on vacation? Or does doing nothing make you feel anxious and guilty?

Maybe this summer you'll choose to take time to be free, really free, from work on vacation - to experience openness, spaciousness, and stillness.

Rest is not laziness. Rest is not a waste of time. Can you visualize a vacation this summer that is not about finding fun when you're not connecting to work, but is actually taking time to restore balance and nurture yourself without blurring the work-vacation boundary?

"And so we take a holiday, a vacation, to gain release from this bondage for a space, to stand back from the rush of things and breathe again. But a holiday is a respite, not a cure. The more we need holidays, the more certain it is that the disease has conquered us and not we it. More and more holidays just to get away from it all is a sure sign of a decaying civilization; it was one of the most obvious marks of the breakdown of the Roman empire. It is a symptom that we haven't learned how to live so as to re-create ourselves in our work instead of being sapped by it." - Evelyn Underhill

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.