08 Jan Why We’ve Given Up Vacations
For the past two weeks, we’ve been in Honolulu, Hawaii visiting Jedd’s family. A couple times throughout this trip, people have referred to our stay as a “vacation.” The same thing happened on our three-week visit to Jamaica last month.
But, actually, these are not vacations for us!
We can see why people might be confused: Hawaii and Jamaica are known for being vacation destinations. And it’s true, we are not permanent residents in either place (anymore). We are visitors.
But the real, underlying reason people are confusing our life for a vacation is a societal one.
Outside the Box
We are all used to a world with a 40-hour workweek. The system we’re familiar with allows for weekends off, public holidays, and one or two weeks of vacation (maybe more if you’re lucky). We’re used to people living in one place and commuting to work.
But we’re not doing any of these things.
Being Digital Nomads, we’ve chosen to step outside of these constraints. We still work, but our work is not tied by office hours or geographic location.
With this kind of lifestyle, we haven’t taken any vacations because, well, so far … we don’t need to.
Instead of working in one place 50 weeks of the year and traveling for 2 of them, we work while we travel. It helps, too, that neither of us works “full time” (according to the American post-industrial standard) – this is in part because our online businesses are still growing and partly an intentional choice to live more slowly and simply.
Among the many things we learned in Peace Corps, the slower-paced, people-centered life is one of the biggest lessons we hope to keep living out. Therefore, we intentionally leave flexibility in our schedules to be available to friends and family.
A Different Kind of Work
In a way, being of service to people who need extra hands, is part of our “work.” While technically unpaid, we exchange our time and energy for other benefits – like housing, meals, and the opportunity to experience different places.
The first time this happened, we were flown across the country to stay with Jedd’s Great Aunt for two weeks and help her move out of her house. We arrived to her Florida home as strangers but after those two weeks together – packing, cleaning, eating Japanese food, and watching sumo on TV – she has become very dear to us. If we hadn’t been free to help her, we wouldn’t have built such a special relationship.
Because of our flexibility, I was also available to help my brother move to San Diego last year. We transported my grandmother’s heirloom furniture to my other brother in Chicago. We helped some friends in Washington landscape their backyard. And now, we’re available to help Jedd’s family move from Hawaii to Japan! Having time and flexibility allows us to give joyfully rather than feeling burdened.
So when you first hear that we’ve spent two weeks in Hawaii, you may picture us at a hotel on the beach, wearing swimsuits all day and sipping on tropical drinks. We did stay two nights in a sea-side cabin with Jedd’s family but otherwise, we were in his parents’ guestroom. We made one other trip to a beach and did one hike. The rest of our time was spent getting together with friends and family, working from our laptops on freelance projects, running errands, and helping Jedd’s family prepare to move out of their place.
In Jamaica, our trip was similar. We spent time reconnecting with friends and “family” from our Peace Corps service. Then we helped out with one of our non-profit clients, American-Caribbean Experience. And throughout the whole trip, we found time here and there to work on projects for our clients – creating content for their Facebook accounts, writing blog posts, updating websites, etc.
This is almost exactly what we would be doing if we were “home.”
To be clear, we are in no way complaining. With a traditional job, travel is constrained by your limited vacation time – you have to pack all your sight-seeing and/or relaxing into a week-long trip. But when you have three weeks or more to live in a new place, the pressure is off. It’s not a big deal to spend a few days cooped up on your laptop because there’s plenty of time to fit in fun experiences and relaxation throughout.
I think it’s hard for people to wrap their head around this concept. It’s not the conventional work/play situation. I probably shouldn’t care, but I don’t like to have people thinking that our life is one big vacation because it implies we are somehow lazy or irresponsible. It’s just that we’re not following the same road map as other people.
If you or someone you know is leading an unconventional life of travel, we’d love to hear from you! Share your story in the comments below or connect with us via our Contact page.
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