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Personal Finance FAQ

Should You Aim to Take Vacations or Live Life Like a Vacation?

Blas Family Vacation 2009
Many families dream of this 48-50 weeks out of the year.

“The rainy days a man saves for usually seem to arrive during his vacation”
–Unknown

For most people, work and life is what happens in the interim periods between vacations. They work, usually between 48 and 50 weeks a year, to enjoy two to four weeks of vacations. When one vacation is over, then the planning begins for the next one.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. We recently went to Breckenridge, Colorado for a week, and it had been the first break we’d taken in 9 months. Granted, some life issues got in the way of our best laid plans, and while we had taken some weekend vacations, we hadn’t taken any sustained time off.

During our trip to Breckenridge, we hiked, biked, ate (too much), and pretty much disconnected from technology the entire time.

It was glorious. All except that 100 foot altitude climb while biking. That left me puffing and sweating. The rest of it was glorious.

On the drive home from the airport after we returned, I commented to my wife that I’d love to live that lifestyle once we reach PIRE.

Her comment back was poignant.

I want to live like that every day, whether or not we’re retired.

It got me thinking about life in general. In the past, I’d swung far to the other end in vacations, bringing work with me (the curse of the entrepreneur) and never completely disconnecting from the outside world. This time, I did. Nothing truly important happened. Life continued on. We spent time with the family. We enjoyed the outdoors. We explored. We met people. We had fun.

Why don’t we do that more often in our day-to-day lives?

I suggest one word to describe the problem.

Inertia

It’s easy enough to get into a rut in life, even when we try to be mindful about falling into the same patterns over and over. We get up, we walk the dog, we shower, we eat, we go to work. We work, we come home, we eat dinner, we sit down in front of the TV, we watch it, and then we go to bed.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Oftentimes, we’re much more active on vacation – ironic given the mindset that many have regarding vacation, of sitting around and doing nothing – than we are at home. Even if we have “staycations,” we tackle home projects or other endeavors that we’ve postponed until we had the time.

Why then, when we enjoy our vacations so much, do we feel the need to change our lives so dramatically when we’re not on vacation?

Yes, there’s the issue of time. 8-10 hours of the day get eaten up by work. 8 hours gets claimed by sleep.

That still leaves us with 6-8 hours a day to do something useful, entertaining, enervating.

What could you do?

  • Move to an area that has activities nearby. This could be trails, shops, restaurants, ball fields, anything. It’s what we did in moving to a mixed-use complex. Subdivisions may be great in that they have lots of families and rules and structure, but they’re also a magnet for homes that provide a reason to sit around and stay inside all night, every night.
  • Play games. Get out the board games or the Xbox or Wii or whatever. Don’t just do it by yourself, though. Play with the whole family. Some of my fondest childhood memories of family vacations were playing cards with my grandparents. Why not create those memories more regularly with your family?
  • Visit people. While my wife and I enjoy each other’s company, I think that our vacations are more fun when we go on them with friends or family. So, go visit someone. Or, hold a dinner party and invite people to come over. Do it on paper plates and throw them away when you’re done so that you don’t have hours of cleanup. When I lived in Charlottesville, there was a group of friends that would rotate through hosting a Monday night dinner. It was generally potluck, so everyone pitched in. It was a great way to start off the week.
  • Plan your afternoons and evenings like your plan your vacation activities. If we don’t actively schedule what we’re going to do with a given block of time, then chances are that we’ll fritter it away somehow. While it takes a little work to come up with activities, the effort will lead us to using our time in a more meaningful manner.
  • Take a break. Sometimes our lives become too frazzled and too active, and we are just looking for the Calgon moment. We don’t have to effectively, efficiently, or meaningfully use every single second of every single day. It’s OK to choose to veg out on the couch watching Jersey Shore reruns. Just make sure that you’re choosing to do so rather than letting it happen by default.

The second thing that my wife said during our conversation on the way home after our last vacation was

I want to live my life so that I don’t feel like I need to take a vacation.

Don’t we all?

How about you? Do you live for vacation or live like vacation? What’s stopping you from making your everyday life more like a vacation? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

By

Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

6 replies on “Should You Aim to Take Vacations or Live Life Like a Vacation?”

Great post! My family and I try to treat our weekends this way, planning picnics and biking instead of football, to make sure we aren’t slaves of the routine. We still enjoy a good vacation from time to time though…

When we moved to downtown Fort Worth (hey, Google…I am a Fort Worth Financial Planner in case you didn’t notice!), we felt like our weekends were like being on vacation, as we’ve moved someplace where we would actually want to travel to on vacation.

I have to get the front brake on my bike fixed, though. Grr. Procrastination is the key to tomorrow…

I live on vacation so that is pretty neat. I used to count the days until I would get somewhere warm and sunny and now the need to go somewhere is pretty much gone, except to go visit family and friends. Most holiday destinations are pretty cheap off season and you can rent your place while you are away too.

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