Volume 78 | Issue 4
July 2010

President's Column: Vacation time!

Meg O'Sullivan
So what are your plans? Are you going on an exotic adventure? Traveling to see friends or family? Flying off to a remote island beach? Or staying close to home to do the things you don’t get to do the rest of the year? It is so important to take time away from the office or your daily routine to recharge your personal battery and get away from the day to day. Even our students need to take some time away from campus. By definition, vacation is leisure time, days devoted to rest or pleasure. The problem is many of us do not actually take vacation or at least not often enough. And now, with increasing frequency, when we do take vacations, we often bring work along with us, keeping ourselves essentially still in the work mindset we are trying to escape.

This past spring, I did take a vacation to the Florida Keys, and I packed my Blackberry with the intention of keeping up with e-mails so I would not be overwhelmed when I got back. For some unexplainable reason, my phone worked, but I was not able to get any e-mails from the moment I left until I returned six days later. Initially, I was panicky, but after a few attempts from the campus IT department I just gave up and enjoyed my time away. It was a wonderful vacation!  I returned to campus feeling rested and relaxed. I did take several hours to go through e-mails when I got home, but it was OK. I had several days of not thinking about anything work-related.

While not everyone is able to take a vacation, I believe education professionals are extremely fortunate. Our students have vacations scheduled in their curriculum, and therefore, vacations are often scheduled for us as well. But sometimes even we need a little push to take time off. I also think sometimes we need to do the pushing. You know your staff members who work day in and day out and rarely take time for themselves. You might need to assist in scheduling their next vacation—not by planning their time away but by encouraging them to take time away. We all get busy, and it can feel like downtime is nonexistent. It is important to help our staff schedule time off that will work best for them and the department. Incorporate the topic of staff vacations into employee meetings so everyone knows when people are planning to be out of the office.

I understand that some data suggest that not taking much vacation is primarily a “U.S.” problem. Our colleagues across the pond and down under take a great deal of time off and are able to disengage and enjoy their vacation time. I also have read that the younger workers in the United States are beginning to take their time off. So, if necessary, let your international counterparts and newcomers be your role models!

No matter what your circumstance, there are ways you can enjoy the benefits of a vacation without spending as much time or money as you would on a traditional vacation. Play tourist in a town or city close to home! Avoid doing anything you normally do, and visit unique sights or tourist attractions. I can’t tell you how many people I know that live within a 30 mile radius of New York City and have never been to the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. So go to a museum or zoo that you have been meaning to see, or have fun discovering a wonderful neighborhood restaurant.

Taking time away from the stresses of daily life can give us the break we need so that we can return to our jobs better equipped to handle whatever arises. So, whatever you decide to do on your vacation, relax. Disconnect from the world for a day and shut off your phone. Tell your friends that you are taking a break. Read a book. Work on your garden. Take care of yourself. Reconnect with your loved ones. Get some Vitamin D into your system. You will feel so much better!