Rob Knight

Plan vacations to be breaks, not work

September 23, 2014

A fishing boat on Silver Lake, California

Camping is wonderful because it shrinks your world down to a manageable number of choices. Over the course of a day, you can only do so much. There is only so much to do. You can count most of the possibilities on less than two hands.

Having a limited number of possibilities means that you can rest assured you are not missing out on anything outside of your awareness. Anything you can do is in your field of vision, every morning. And the list shrinks as you do things, so you don't have to worry about an endless list of to-dos or want-to-dos.

It's a list you can reach the end of! For a web developer, this actually takes some getting used to.

We planned our recent vacation while we were still in work mode. Because we were in work mode, we applied the core philosophy of work to our vacation: "There is so much we could do, we need to fit as much into this trip as we can." Throughout the planning, we never stopped to consider leisure as a necessary element of the trip.

Two days into the trip, neither of us could reconcile our feelings of ambivalence toward the long drives we had planned in order to reach our far off destinations. And then the weather turned against us, forcing us to ask ourselves what we really wanted out of the trip.

The answer was undeniably less. Less driving. Less destination-hopping. Less like our work week: filled with obligations and devoid of down time.

I don't think either of us realized this when we planned the trip because we were both in the middle of hectic times at work. It is so natural to fill every day from start to finish with tasks that we planned our vacation the same way by default.

I'm proud that we spotted the problem early on and made the right adjustments before embarking on a trip that would have left us exhausted (and soaked!). We stopped, did some thinking, and changed course.

And the vacation was awesome.