Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What a difference a vacation makes

Too often I put vacations on the back burner. But after my recent trip to Spain I’m thinking that a middle ground is needed.

Let me give a bit of background for why I hoard my days. My work doesn’t give set vacation days each year – it’s all done by accumulated paid time off. And that PTO covers everything so I’m stingy with its usage, much more than I ever was at previous jobs with benefits that were less pooled. At first it was building up time off for our wedding. Then it was rebuilding time to hopefully someday soon take a reasonable maternity leave. I work holidays most Texans have off to try to build a solid bank of time.

Finally, though, I cracked and booked a dream trip to Spain. We had been trying to have a baby for more than a year when we booked it using accumulated airline miles and I figured it would either be a heck of a babymoon if I was pregnant by then or a check out the perks of being child-free and able to whisk off out of the country to drink wine, eat tapas and check out art museums and beaches celebration. Either way it was nice to do something that wasn’t contingent possibly being pregnant. Life wasn’t on hold anymore. Just booking the flight was like a mini-vacation.

Then less than a month later we found our dream house. You know, the house where you can picture your family decades down the road? That’s the one. So we started the homebuying process, which in the end due to a number of factors turned into a royal nightmare until literally after all the papers were signed. Still Spain loomed as a potential bright spot, though we started second guessing whether it was a good grown-up decision to still go, a term I loathe. Throw in packing to move, closing on the house, leasing out our condo, a busy work schedule, unpacking at the new house, and fertility treatments and I was quickly becoming frazzled.

When push came to shove, and another month went by without a positive pregnancy test, we decided we needed the time away to relax. After all we earned it with all the stress we’d been under. There was no worry about using a few days of banked PTO and I needed a month off of treatments to try to have a baby.


My husband and I had been under so much pressure with conflicting work schedules and a never-ending to-do list of packing and then unpacking I don’t think I realized how much good time away would do. I was beaming on my last day of work before vacation and giddy as we took off leaving behind my cell phone, email, Facebook, and Twitter. I did bring my Nook and my iPad in case of emergency, but honestly only used the iPad once for about 10 minutes. The Nook I used a lot more as I read through book after book. I didn’t check work email a single time and only checked personal email twice – to schedule a dinner with a cousin of mine who happens to be in Spain working right now.

But really it didn’t sink in until several days into the trip when I realized I wasn’t just getting memories and photos along the Spanish sites we were seeing. I got ME back. Not frazzled, stressed out me, but ME. The me that likes to laugh and goof off with my perennially wise-cracking husband. The me that likes to have time to just be. The one that finds joy in the simple act of sitting on a bench people watching or wandering along a sandy beach with freezing cold waves crashing at my feet. The me that isn’t just a worker or someone trying to have a baby but just ME.

And once I came back so did the hope and the joy that had been missing for, well, months. I felt tons lighter and able to tackle whatever comes my way. I even managed to unpack a few more boxes when we returned home and am ready to finish the last of our painting at the house this week.

Perhaps the biggest thing I took away from the vacation though is the need to not lose sight of me in the maze of trying to build a family and handling grown-up responsibilities. Whether it’s taking a another mini-vacation in a couple of months or putting down the iPhone for a few hours to unwind, I’ve got to find a way because I don’t want to lose me again.

Anyone else have a similar epiphany while on vacation? How do you find me time?

Jennifer Erickson is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist for Texas Health Resources who is glad to have found herself again and firmly believes in the restorative powers of time away.

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