On the 4th of February I took a plane and landed on the other side of the planet, in South America. It was the second time that I spent all of February on holiday, recharging my energy and leaving everything behind for a month. I like to call it a creative retreat for myself. Last year I still brought my laptop with me to Thailand, but this year I decided that I’ll take four weeks only for myself and for my mental break. I left everything behind this time, even though I have a company, I love my job, and I know how much the success of my projects depends on me. To many other business owners it seems to be a completely crazy idea to make my life as an entrepreneur so hard by skipping a whole month. I was also afraid of how much I’ll lose by doing this kind of experiment.

 

I wasn’t running away, I wasn’t burned out, I didn’t have an especially stressful period behind me – there was nothing negative as a motivation for my decision. I knew without reaching a point of full exhaustion that I needed this break, I needed this time for exploration. One of my main motivations to start my own business was to have more freedom, including freedom of choice and deciding on my own schedule. This also includes having time for traveling, which is my main source of inspiration. The idea of only having 20 days off a year was freaking me out and it scared me away from being an employee (among many other factors, of course). 

 

I don’t want to be trapped by my own business and forget one of the important reasons why I decided to go my own way. Which is, to be honest, very difficult in a world where being busy and having an insanely full calendar are the metrics for success. The more you do, the more valuable you are as a person. It’s suspicious if you ask a friend to have a coffee together tomorrow morning instead of setting up an ‘appointment’ in two weeks. We’re running the who sleeps less, who loves their jobs more competition every day. But for what? I’m exaggerating of course, but this is kind of what I see around me, especially among entrepreneurs and those working on ‘love projects’. 

 

So when I tell people that for a month I was mostly offline, wild camping in Chile, snorkelling in Colombia, and sleeping in a hammock for four days in a row in a house in the middle of the Caribbean sea, some respond: “Yes, it’s such a luxury that YOU can afford leaving for such a long time.” Because their industry is different. Because they have people in their team. Because the house is always burning in their company. Because if they leave for such a long time they don’t get involved in the coolest projects because they don’t show motivation. Or because they ‘love’ their jobs so much that they can’t even imagine living without it for a month and doing ‘nothing’. (!!!)

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed times and circumstances when you can’t leave: you have a sick relative to take care of, a super important project that influences the future of your business, you have other priorities like growing in a short amount of time or have other things going on in your private life. I’m talking to those who want to go, who dream about a destination they’ve wanted to visit for a long time and haven’t made it happen because their ‘love’ for the job doesn’t let them go for a longer period of time. 

 

After these two long creative breaks I’m convinced that if you don’t give yourself the time and space to fully recharge your batteries it’ll cause your business much more harm than the fact that you’re away for a month. And no, when you check emails on the beach all the time, that’s not recharging. You need to let go of work and not think about it at all. And it’s super freaking hard. It took me nine (yes, nine!! super shocking) days to fully let go of what’s happening at home and in my business. After a week I had a call with a colleague and was still very frustrated that I didn’t have much influence on the flow of the things. And then I started a wild camping trip with a local friend in Chile where I had no internet connection and that’s when I finally managed to turn off mentally as well. After that I only checked emails every 5-6 days and I didn’t respond to any of them, I only forwarded the most important ones to someone in charge. I trusted my team and their ability to take care of everything that was going on in the business. And I’m still super grateful for their efforts in that month. 

 

I think many more people would need such holidays. In fact, I think that the more you love your job, the longer you need to leave it behind. So here come my six main reasons to convince you to plan your next long holiday:

 

1. Your brain needs time to let go of the everyday hustle

The nine day cool-off period that I had might be a bit extreme, but you need at least 3-4 days to start arriving mentally to your holidays: to see that your colleagues are taking care of your tasks, to still finish some projects, to send some last emails you might have forgotten in the office. You need to get used to a slower pace when you don’t always do something. Just imagine, if you take a long weekend, you are already packing for home when you finally start arriving, and if you have a week, you only have 3-4 days to enjoy that relaxed state of mind. I’m sure that after this you don’t want to be in the office next Monday, sitting at your computer still dreaming about the beach whether you could still be sunbathing if you decided to take more days off in a row. 

 

2. You need to turn off – literally

When I first heard the news about the elimination of roaming fees in the EU it seemed to be great news. Then I realized that this puts one of the biggest values of traveling at risk: being offline and unavailable most of the time. The time when we only check our phones after a full day of sightseeing is over.This is why it was so great to be in countries where I couldn’t use my phone most of the time. I intentionally decided not to buy a SIM card. For almost 10 nights I was sleeping at places where I didn’t even have Wi-fi: in the middle of the sea, up in the mountains, or close to a lake in a tent. It’s so deliberating that there is no one ‘waiting for me’ in the virtual world and there is only me, my friends, and the present moments. Take distance from the online world. Put your phone in the backpack and don’t take it out for days. I know it might seem hard, but your mind will shift into a completely different mindset if you allow it to focus only on the present moment. (But please let your family know that you won’t answer for some days because you are in a remote place so they don’t freak out if you don’t give life signs for days…) 

3. Nature recharges you like nothing else

Lately I’ve read an article [K1]  about the importance of nature for our mental health. Fresh air, all the shades of green and blue, the sound of the sea, and the admiration of sunsets all make me calm and relaxed. There was a day when we were hiking uphill all day (with a lovely 12 kg backpack) and I could only hear the birds chirping and the twigs breaking under my feet, and I had to pay attention to every single step so that I didn’t sprinkle my ankle. Believe me, it is impossible to be anywhere else mentally when you have to pay so much attention to what’s around you. Because of the physical tiredness I mostly went to bed around 9 PM and I woke up with the sun, which also gave me a very energizing routine. Living in nature for 4-5 days felt like completely restarting my brain that had six programs running at the same time and 65 pages open in a browser tab. A new beginning 🙂 

 

4. Physical and mental distance from your everyday life gives you new perspectives

This month allowed me to take a helicopter view of my life, my project, my plans. It was super interesting to observe during the first week how much I missed my established routine: the workshops, my hobbies, fencing trainings, the people I met regularly every week. Then the trip took a turn when I managed to leave everything from the daily hustle behind. It allowed me to observe things from a distance, to reflect, to think, to evaluate the last year. I had the time to ask the questions to myself that I don’t usually ask when I’m just caught up in the daily to do’s. I realized what’s important to me at this point and what’s not. What are the things that I do out of habit and what are the things that need more focus because they are closer to my personal mission. I had to face how much I changed and that this internal change needs external changes as well. I saw my goals much  more clearly and had many exciting ideas. 

5. The great feeling of solving real problems

Where am I going to sleep tomorrow? Where can I get my laundry done? What will I eat, what will I need for a 3 day hiking or boat trip, what should I buy against the local mosquitos, what should I do with my severely sunburnt skin, how can I get to Santa Marta from Cartagena in the safest way…? I only had very practical things to do and arrange. It was so refreshing because my job is mostly theoretical; many times there are no black or white answers for the problems clients and I face. They are hard to grasp and mostly very complex and complicated. This makes my brain constantly run in the background as I try to brainstorm about possible solutions. For a month I only had very simple and clear challenges to solve. Apart from the mosquito issue because they were eating me alive no matter what I did. 

6. You never know who will inspire you on your journey

As a trainer it’s part of my daily life to learn: I read, I attend courses, I do massive research, I have mentors, I do interviews, I listen to podcasts. During traveling a whole new dimension of learning opens up for me: I meet many interesting people from different background and stories to tell. To me it’s kind of like entering the ‘school of life’. I learn so much from these people: from a bartender in a hostel who is super committed to his job and who also learned three languages on his own, or a man who tells me stories of restarting by telling me how his life took a 180-degree-turn three times already, or a 22 year old girl who runs a successful local business instead of going to university. A good conversation is like a shot of inspiration and I love how much my worldview is challenged on an everyday basis. 

 

‘I love that after this trip you are so energized that you can also transfer this energy to me. You should go more often and recharge us as well’ – this was the reaction of one of my colleagues after the trip. It made me think. 

 

I didn’t take this holiday to recharge from traveling so that I can work more afterwards. I took it for myself, because it’s a part of me, because I’m so curious that I have to go from time to time. But as you can see now, being recharged and more focused definitely had a positive impact on my worklife as well. Going away for a month didn’t damage my work, it only enriched it. 

 

It might not be a full month in Latin-America for you. It might be taking 3 weeks to renovate your house. Or to visit a remote family member in Australia for the first time. Or taking weeks to spend some time with your newborn niece. Or taking three weeks every winter in the mountains because snowboarding recharges you like nothing else. The important thing is that you focus on what’s important to you and that you consciously make time for it. Enough time. Not only stolen evenings and half weekends when your head is full of the challenges of the next week. 

 

The default setting is that we spend most of our year working. If you had the choice to customize this setup, what would you change? Especially if you have the freedom because you are a founder, entrepreneur or work for a freethinking company that might even allow you to take a month of holidays. How can you adjust your worklife to meet your real priorities?

 

If you want to search for the answers together, get a listening ear from me and meet me for a kick-off coaching session. You can also follow me on Instagram to get a daily reminder about your goals. Thanks for reading and if you are still hesitating: Just book that flight 😉 

 

 [K1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/psychoterratica-is-the-trauma-caused-by-distance-from-nature?fbclid=IwAR1Rnxz_Yo2VOQyNysjGvV6qm3lRrVxAf5psHhgmiXSwK_wl45SKcMaorgs