Vacation Styles: The Virtue of Doing (Almost) Nothing

Vacation Styles: The Virtue of Doing (Almost) Nothing

I had an incredible time cruising the North Atlantic Ocean with my parents earlier this year. It was a relaxing vacation that differed quite a bit from the whirlwind trips Adam and I so often take in our quest to maximize our vacation time. That got us all thinking about the value of so-called “do nothing” vacations: what is their role in our vacation strategy? Today, we’re excited to share a guest post written by my dad from the balcony of our stateroom as he reflected on the virtue of doing (almost) nothing on vacation.


GUEST AUTHOR: Craig Mathias

OK, just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, vacations are indeed essential. Not optional. Essential. But, then, as you’re an avid reader of Road Unraveled, you already know that, right?

It gets a little more controversial now, however. Specifically, vacations do not have to be about going somewhere and doing lots of things, packing the days so full of goals and activities that you return home exhausted, needing a vacation from your vacation.

And yet, that’s what so many people actually do. They return from their holidays (I like that term better) regaling us with tales of how, at 9:37 AM on Day 4 of their wild-west-themed “vacation” their horse took a wrong turn on the “fun ride” and they wound up at the bottom of Box Canyon, nary a dude-ranch wrangler in sight to remedy that situation. But, no matter, the sing-a-long that evening, ending at 11:00 PM sharp, put everyone in a fine mood for the sunrise breakfast the next day.

Um, sorry, Mr. Dude Wrangler, not for me. I’m, in fact, at the opposite end of the vacation scale. Let’s establish a working definition of vacation as a period of days where one engages in activities significantly different from those of one’s daily routine. That definition of activities can, in fact, include doing nothing, or close to it. The whole point of a vacation, I shall assert here, is to provide one’s brain – no, one’s very soul – with a set of inputs so different from the usual and routine so as to trigger renewal, regeneration, creativity, and, ultimately, actions that would not even be possible without said vacation.

I should let you know that, while my day job is that of a technology analyst working in the wireless communications/mobile computing space (go ahead – Google me; I’ll wait) I, in fact, (oh, my; I just realized this is going to be a very painful admission indeed) did not take a single vacation between 1991 and 2012 – 20 years. My head hangs in shame as I admit to you what a serious error in judgment this indeed was, but hey, building a business, saving for college expenses and retirement, blah, blah, blah. Besides, vacations are expensive, right? Dollars and opportunity cost.

But they’re way more expensive if you don’t take them. I’ve learned that the hard way, again, as is shamefully noted above.

So, then, how does the concept of nothing play into all of this? Well, for me, anyway, and I expect a lot of you, it’s the interruption alluded to above that yields the real value of vacation time – just being away from whatever you do day-to-day. It’s a given that vacations should include an absence of work-related e-mail, phone calls, and the like, but there’s no rule that a vacation has to fill your time to the brim with a vast array of new or at least work-unrelated activities. As it’s the departure from the routine that yields the benefits and thus what matters most, an outright absence of routine can truly fill the bill.

What does that mean in practice? Let me give you an example – one that is close at hand as I’m in fact writing this whilst on vacation (while I do hope to eventually supplement my income as a writer on travel and a few other subjects, my day job as of now really is as described above – you saw that for yourself when you Googled me, right?) so doing so is definitely not work.

I’m writing this column from the very spacious balcony in the back corner of Deck 11 of the good ship Norwegian Getaway in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the Azores and Bermuda, our next and final stop before disembarkation in Miami. If you’ve never been on a cruise and lean towards the do-nothing school of vacationing, I highly recommend this option. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Cruises offer a vast array of non-stop of shipboard activities, like shuffleboard (yes, they really have such a thing), bingo, endless sales pitches for watches, booze, and cigarettes, shows you really don’t want to see, and more. Yes, all of that is true. And all of it can be ignored.

For me, cruising is waking up when I feel like it, a leisurely breakfast, basketball, swimming, the hot tub, sitting by and taking a dip or two in the pool(s), reading, walking around the ship (this sucker is unbelievably big, over 1,000 feet in length with around 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew) great food (and the food on the Norwegian Getaway is truly, without question, absolutely great, no matter what you like in terms of cuisine or which restaurant you visit). I might attend a movie. And I might just sit on the above-mentioned balcony looking out at, well, nothing but ocean, and letting my mind wander. Creativity is essential in my work, and nothing recharges one’s creative batteries like – well, doing nothing.

Norwegian Getaway Cruise
The good ship Norwegian Getaway
Cruising need not be expensive. And you do have to be tolerant of wind, weather, a degree of rolling a pitching, and the occasional five-minute wait at dinner. The ship can seem crowded at times, but there is always – trust me on this – a space where one can find a high degree of calm in which to do nothing. We’ll have a more complete review of this particular cruise for you shortly.

I must end with the attempt at humor required by both federal and state law in columns such as these.

Why is doing nothing so exhausting?

Because you cannot stop to rest.

In reality, though, I will depart this vessel rejuvenated and refreshed. Just be sure, I’ll spend a couple of days in Miami Beach before returning home. Cheap insurance, you see. But, for me, and, again as I suspect, many of you, putting one’s life in neutral for a few days is the key to sanity at the least, and greater productivity when the inevitable return to the real world rears its less-ugly-than-before head.

What is you Vacation Style?

When it comes to vacation, there’s really no wrong way to do it- and we would love to hear your thoughts on what works for you! Do you live for the do-nothing vacation? Are you seeking days full of adventure and activity? Or are you somewhere in the middle? Let us know!

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About The Author:

Craig Mathias is a seasoned world traveler, having visited almost 25 countries on five continents as well as almost all of the United States. Craig’s day job for the past 25 years is working as a technology analyst specializing in wireless networking and mobile computing – hence all that global travel. He is also a published author, columnist, former elected public official, inventor, conference organizer, and popular speaker at a wide variety of events. Craig’s goal is travel to at least as many countries as his daughter, who is in the lead at the moment.

Vacation Styles: The Virtue of the Do Nothing Vacation