Why Does Going on Vacation Show up on the Local Government Miseries List?

Long Sands General Store

You know that exercise that seems to come up at every training session? “Close your eyes and imagine yourself in your happy place.” For me, that place is Long Sands Beach in York, Maine. Well, it’s my local happy place (looking at you Amalfi Coast).

When my eyes are closed, I hear the surf. But more importantly, I hear the gentle slam of the old fashioned wooden screen door at the General Store. And I know when I open it Erica will be there with a smile and a welcome back. Heaven.

Long Sands Beach, York Maine

In April, I made a presentation to the department managers in a very small community near mine. These managers were the first to provide me with feedback on my list of 21 (and growing) local government miseries. I was quite surprised that they overwhelmingly resonated with the vacation misery.

You know the one. It takes 40 hours extra effort before and after a vacation just to get ahead/stay caught up. Many note that sometimes it’s just not worth it to get away. We have to do something about this.

I asked my colleagues for their advice. The most common response was to plan a vacation of more than two weeks – many feel that one week is simply too short to unplug. Vacationing in remote parts of the world with no cell service was a close second. One colleague described his strategy of “gently touching” email every day. Perhaps early in the morning, when no one else is awake, or late afternoon when most offices are closed. I keep picturing him hovering over his keyboard and oh so very gently opening an email. Just the thought of it makes me smile, and maybe the image will put me in the best frame of mind to check email on my vacation – keeping the important things moving along, and ignoring the rest.

Enough books for a week’s beach vacation

How about you? Do you have a tip to prevent the vacation dread response? Does anyone believe your out of office reply that you have “limited access to email while away?!”

Emily P. Freeman says that “rest is sitting down on the inside.” So let’s practice, lobster roll in hand.

One thought on “Why Does Going on Vacation Show up on the Local Government Miseries List?

  1. Hi Kate,

    Aside from being able to sit on my front porch at home (good shade, lots of dog walkers going by (there’s about 2 feet of lawn between the front porch and the sidewalk)), the next place is my father’s vacation house in North Eastham. There’s a bit of view of Cape Cod Bay (not as much as there used to be thirty-five years ago because of tree growth) and it is relatively close to the shark-infested waters of the ocean beaches and the Hole In One Bakery (excellent donuts) and Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar (great chowder and fried clams if you either have the time wait in line or go during non-peak hours). There’s no wi-fi and the cell signal is pretty faint (even better is to go down the stairs at Marconi Beach and end up with no cell service).

    I’ve lucked out that the “culture” in Halifax is that people don’t text me or call me on my cell phone during work or non-work hours. I’ve not set up my e-mail on my cell phone so there’s no chance that I’ll check it. I get away for a week and the only way to plug in is to go to one of the local libraries. I do check the social media because in these days of an expectation of a rapid response, leaving some posts to fester for a week is not worth it versus dealing with them.

    Two consecutive weeks would be great. I was able to do that once, maybe ten years ago. But my wife Barbara is not a beach/outdoor person and the house may have some mold/mildew problems that can cause some respiratory stress, so that long a separation is not helpful. [The “kids” are 23 and 30 with their own lives right now.] Also, I think that summers are much busier at work than they were a number of years ago. Far more projects/crises that need my attention. It would be nice to delegate if there were people to delegate to.

    And even after just a week, I’ll go back to Town Hall on the last Sunday to work through e-mail uninterrupted. It’s better than facing them on Monday morning when everyone wants me at the same time. It’s not much of a change of pace from many other weekends. It’s a trade-off of losing that “off” time plus two hours of driving (one hour each way) versus having some time to think, do research, and write.

    I’m at five weeks of vacation plus two personal days. As it was, I had to carryover 80 hours of vacation time accrued before July 1, 2018 (I can carryover vacation accrued since then) because while I had planned a week off in June, between a major amount of paperwork for a grant reimbursement and union contracts that needed to be written up (settled, just need the actual paperwork), leaving for a week would have caused problems. So, another week in August, probably. I’ll take a week off in May (after town meeting) and another week of scattered holidays (three for the Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving Eve (picking up the turkey, prep work, house cleaning), etc.). There’s the real vacation week; that makes three. The challenge is to find two other weeks to take off and I take virtually no time off between mid-November and mid-May.

    But that week at the Cape without worrying about anything. I’ll take that every year.

    Charlie

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