The “American Dream” is one of work. We are often defined by our professions and judged by how many hours of work we put in each week. When meeting someone new, two questions are always asked. First: their name. Second: “What do you do?” How many times have you heard chatter behind the water cooler when someone leaves the office “on time” at the end of the day?
Work is important—especially if you love what you do. But a growing body of research points to how negatively work stress affects our health.
So, what’s a stressed-out human to do? Take a year off.
OK—Now let out that breath that you sucked in when you read that last sentence. Instead of racking up vacation days and dreaming of seeing the world, why not see the world and dream up your next great career move?
Face it: You work your butt off. Our society puts a lot of pressure on people to work harder, achieve more, and get more done in less time. In fact Americans only take about half of their paid vacation days—HALF. But guess what? Work will always be waiting.
If a fear mentality is making you feel guilty for taking a vacation, address it and take it as a sign that you need a break now more than ever. Life doesn’t give you extra credit for not taking days off!
Where are the top spots on your travel bucket list? Taking a year off to travel is the perfect time to tackle that list and see some of the wonderful places in the world. Heck, consider going somewhere completely outside of your comfort zone. Seeing a new place, experiencing a new culture, eating new food, and immersing yourself in a completely different place does two things: One, it gives you a new appreciation for where you’ve come from, and two, it reignites a curiosity about the world we live in.
Plus, it’s one of the Dalai Lama’s instructions for life: “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”
If you love wine, go pick grapes in an Italian vineyard. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, attend a writing conference and spend some time on your passion project. Whatever it is that makes you fall in love with life, do more of it. Sites like Yoga Trade offer fantastic travel opportunities all over the world for yoga lovers to experience living yoga in a new and eye-opening way. You may even discover a new hobby while you’re out in the world—that's way better than the typical souvenir.
It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the details of our own little life bubbles. Traveling opens your eyes and reminds you that you’re a rather small being in world full of other beings. It’s not all about you. And that is powerful information we need to be reminded of. It’s also very freeing to know we don’t have to be everything to everyone, all the time. Let go, little soul! You are enough.
When you step away from the grind, it makes you remember why you were doing it in the first place. You may find that you miss it and return to work with a fresh attitude, ready to take on everything and anything new. You may find out you didn’t miss it at all and start down a new path. Either way, you’ll never regret the time you took to figure it out. That’s when real life happens.
Taking some time off from work to do something you love can bring clarity and a renewed sense of purpose to your work and life. Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Now, get back to work. Or not. Whichever sounds better.
Photo by Kylie Turley