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Living Versus Existing

We all know that it is crucial to maintain a work-life balance, but how many of us actually take full advantage of our vacation days?

For me, I do not feel shame or even one ounce of guilt for taking time off work to do what I love, which is traveling. Traveling allows me to live life to the fullest rather than just exist without a purpose. Traveling has opened my eyes, mind, and heart and has shaped my perspective of the world – in short, it has made me a true global citizen. Traveling always restores my faith in humanity, because I get to witness and experience people and places that are not reported or portrayed in the mainstream media. Contrary to popular belief, I believe there is still goodness in this world, and I intend to experience as much of it as possible because I refuse to live my life in fear.

By witnessing and experiencing other ways of life, I can see how different paths or ways of doing things can lead to meaningful results. When I am on the road or find myself in unfamiliar territories, and sometimes even in risky environments, my survival instincts are heightened. As a female traveler (and sometimes solo), I have no choice but to be alert at all times – and yes, this includes when I try to sleep. Oftentimes, I must come up with creative solutions when I find myself in less desirable situations, which has cultivated my strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Traveling the world (I have been to 28 countries so far) has also fostered my cultural and emotional intelligence. By interacting with different people from all walks of life, I have come to realize that we are much more similar than we may think – everyone is doing the best they can, given the knowledge and resources they have, to support themselves and their families. I like to think that I have become a more compassionate and empathetic person through connecting with fellow human beings on unexpected levels.

Having experienced what life can be like in less developed countries, I’ve learned to not take anything for granted, such as clean running water, a toilet that flushes, a hot shower, clean air, and a comfortable bed. Every time I return from a trip, I always gain a renewed sense of gratitude for the life that I have in the US. I come back with a clear mind and feel refreshed, inspired, and excited to tackle projects at home and at work.

If you are a manager and you haven’t taken a vacation in years, I highly recommend that you take one. And when you do, make sure you are completely (or, at least, mostly) unplugged. Unless it’s a life or death situation, your team will be fine in your absence; and even in unpredictable situations, there will be other people who can jump in and do what is necessary. This could also be a time to test the strength of your team. Will they be able to keep the boat afloat while you’re away? Will they take advantage of your absence and slack off? Or will they be able to have the freedom to think and work more creatively and maybe even exceed your expectations?

As a leader, it’s important to set an example for your team. If you never take a vacation, your team may feel that they cannot take one either. When this happens, what you end up with is an overworked, uninspired, unmotivated, inefficient, and maybe even inadequate team; not to mention, you could end-up planting seeds of resentment. I humbly suggest that you encourage your team to make use of their paid time off. Your team will feel rejuvenated when they return from vacation; just watch and see the wonders this can do for your company culture and bottom line.