Let me tell you about what has to be one of travels best kept secrets: Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico. The cobblestone streets of Sayulita are lined with street tacos, fresh churros, the smell of fresh pastries. You can hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash into the cove of this sleepy surfer town where locals and tourists slowly meander through the streets intrigued by the boutique shops, handmade crafts, and the next freshly hand squeezed margarita.
I often refer to Sayulita as “the most relaxed place I’ve ever been.” This last February I made my second trip to this lovely town which offered us snorkeling, off shore fishing, yoga, massages on the beach with nature’s original playlist (you know, the ocean crashing, bird chirping one you hear at your favorite massage therapist’s office). We’ve experienced our first scuba diving trip, incredible 75 foot tall waterfalls, authentic local cuisine, and the sheer joy and simplicity of moving slowly through the day at whatever pace felt right for what interested us on that day.
Now that I’ve told you these great things of one of my favorite places in the world, let me tell you one that’s going to make you cringe. I didn’t check my email for the entire trip. That’s right, not once. Zero. Notifications off, mailbox moved to a little box on the back page of my phone I wouldn’t see it and quite frankly I’d have to go through multiple steps to get to it. I imagine this is like the process a chocoholic might take, keep it out of sight, out of mind, make yourself have to really work to get what you’re craving so it may give you enough time to think about and out of it. If you’re thinking “well that must be nice, I wish I could do that” here’s my next uncomfortable statement; you can too.
See, checking email on vacation is not vacation. That’s called working remote. You know it is because when you’re out early, watching basketball at the bar, getting things done around the house you call it “working” because you’re checking email. There is no gray area on free days.
If you check your email or open work documents or begin discussing your job while you’re on a free day then you’re not having a free day. So what is a free day anyway? Free days mean NO work related activities, conversations, tasks, etc. Free days allow you to come back to work rested, calm, creative. Free days come first because free days are for rejuvenating. Free days make you better at what you do. Coming back from time completely off work makes me so excited to get back in the office and desire to accomplish more and I believe makes me better at what I do. Not to mention free days let you be fully present with the people you spend time with. If a free day sounds hard to you a free day is probably a relief to your loved ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s always easy! But your time away is easier when you’re enjoying where you are not being reminded of where you aren’t. With practice it becomes easier, your team will understand why it’s good for everyone to participate in true free days and why it benefits the others around you. I am guilty of lingering thoughts or ideas in my mind while being “free” but that’s the creative stir that comes with being away from the inundation of our careers. Free days allow you to be that, free. I can’t help but wonder if this is the key to feeling other vacation spots are also “the most relaxed place I’ve ever been.”
So next time you get an out of office reply from me stating, “I’m currently away enjoying free days in Mexico/Chicago/Alabama/Colorado…” know as much as it is for me, you will benefit from me having it too. I hope you will do the same! Let’s talk about how you can start to have more free days for you and your family.