First of all I LOVE my work. Don’t tell my clients, but I would do it for free. (And, I often do.) So, vacation without work would be like vacationing without getting up early and going for a run. It would be like vacationing without sticking to my keto diet. It would be like vacationing without my family. It would be a few moments of life in an exotic locale without the things I love best. And, yet, when I tell someone I’m working on vacation they sometimes chastise me.
For me, vacation is a game where I seek out the “me” living in a kind of parallel universe. If I lived in this place as a local, where would I take my morning runs? Where would I work when I worked outside the home? Where would I as a “local” really eat my meals?
There’s this idea, I think, that vacation is supposed to be an experience of leaving all of your daily, normal “home” existence far behind. Sleeping until noon, eating without limits, being guided along the clearly-defined tour, watching the production that is presented for tourists in exotic locales. And, if you like that, go for it.
But, what if you’ve incorporated a whole lot of pleasure into your daily, at-home existence? In fact, I love real-life things the best. Like Walt Whitman I find most fascinating the observation of the real world, the work crew arriving to lay a new slab of concrete sidewalk, waiting in line with locals to buy some needed accessory at the hardware store while tourists file by outside in their location-emblazoned t-shirts, sitting at my familiar computer in some exotic location and trying to blend in.
For me, vacation is a game in which I seek out the “me” living in a kind of parallel universe. If I lived in this place as a local, where would I take my morning runs? Where would I work when I worked outside the home? Where would I as a “local” really eat my meals?
I try to get down beneath the shiny, smiling veneer and varnish that places put on for the out-of-towners. I quickly brush past the welcoming lines hoping only to meet up with them at the end of the day, if at all, when they are clocked out and relaxing in their quiet place with a drink to talk about mundane things. And when they see me at their watering hole I hope they think I’m one of them.
Work, I’ve discovered over the past ten years of my quest to discover what it really means and how to love it and have it serve me as I serve others through it, is a large part of the meaning of life. It is how we express our identity to the tribe in such a way as to be a meaningful and needed part of the tribe. I’ve learned, over the past ten years, of considering this question of how work and life are expressions of each other, that life without good work is to me an empty experience.
Maybe this is all just a way to say that I’ve discovered that work gives my life shape. It orders it. It’s a pretty reliable way to measure the quality of the time I have spent over the course of a day. And around work, life happens. I have cultivated a work-life relationship where each enfolds each. It’s become as important to me that when I come to a seemingly unsolvable work problem, I am allowed to just get up and take my dog for a good walk, as when life seems formless or empty I can focus on a task, lose myself in it, strive to do it well and re-emerge better.
I realize that it might be the abandonment of structure that many crave on vacation, and to them I say, leave the work at home, unplug, abandon your diet, sleep in, skip the workout, buy the souvenir t-shirt and indulge. But if for you work is a reliable cure for the anxiety of formlessness. If to you vacations’ lack of structure is anxiety-inducing, bring the work and use it as a tool to seek out the you that would exist in some other wonderful world.