For the 10 years that I have been a luxury travel planner, customizing vacations for high-end clients to every corner of the globe, I’ve never had the guts to use the word “vacation” in my own “Out of Office” automated email response. As the business owner and Chief Decision Maker, it just didn’t feel right to me that I should take a vacation from vacation planning.
However, after a week traveling through Tuscany and Florence, losing sleep while trying to respond to endless emails (despite the nine-hour time difference), and feeling stressed about balancing my precious time with friends and my significant other with the needs of my important clients, I decided to try an experiment. I didn’t want to look back on this annual Italy vacation with regrets about missing out on the type of special vacation we pride ourselves on planning for everyone else!
Upon arrival in Positano for the Amalfi Coast half of this two-week trip, I decided to try a very scary experiment. I challenged myself to rely on my very capable team to monitor my inbox for things that just couldn’t wait 96 hours and imposed a four-day, non-negotiable “no email” rule upon myself. The results were shocking and I’ve learned a valuable lesson: The world hasn’t ended. While I am sure there are a few clients getting a bit antsy and uncomfortable with my lack of immediate response, I have not received one text from my Vice President (the one person I trusted with instructions to message me if something is absolutely crucial).
I’ve continued to stay in touch with friends through social media throughout the past few days as that type of communication is fun (not stressful) for me. I enjoy Instagraming memorable photos and tweeting travel tips for my followers to bookmark. What I realized during this email break is that my brain has really taken a hiatus from the nonstop decision-making and problem-solving I (and so many of us!) habitually do. No matter how much meditation or resting we try to do, on a daily basis it’s impossible to fully appreciate the quieting of the mind that occurs when we trust and empower others to do what we never stop doing.
As the business owner, it hardly comes easy to me to completely step away from the company I’ve been working so hard to build the past 10 years. I’ve read tons of books on the subject, including most recently “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington. I highly recommend Thrive, as it starts off by her own personal story of what happens when you work too hard and neglect things like sleep and your health. I can relate to this as well; by the end of 2014, my doctor ran blood tests to determine if the anemia I’d struggled with for years might be something else. Sure enough, as she suspected, I had mononucleosis. I slowed down my pace in 2015 but continued to travel and check my email and work no matter where my business and personal flights took me. This past few days was truly an entirely new experience for me, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.
My four-day email ban is just about to end as I am typing this post, and I’m feeling okay about it as I find myself breathing easier, laughing more, and knowing that whatever is in my inbox can be handled better after four straight days of “vacation” in one of my most favorite places with my favorite people on the planet.
Stacy Small is the president/founder of Elite Travel International, an LA-based Virtuoso travel firm. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elitetravelgal.