workingThis month’s Self-Care Sunday series focuses on freedom. You have the freedom to take a working vacation (but not the kind of work you may be thinking about).

Freedom to Feel Exhausted

“I’m exhausted!” Pedro exclaimed as he sank on to the couch next to me. The sun streamed through the window in Louis and Laura’s back door. Louis hung a blanket over the window to keep the light from blinding us as we relaxed after a hard day’s work.

“It’s ten-thirty,” I exclaimed. “How did that happen?” Of course, I knew how it happened. When the sun sinks to the horizon at midnight and pops up ready to work at four, working hours get distorted.

“Enjoying your vacation?” I asked Pedro, drawing air quotes around the word vacation. Each day started shortly after dawn and ended before dusk with two short breaks for meals. I estimated the men had worked about 14 hours a day for the past eight days.

“Absolutely!” Pedro replied with enthusiasm. “People pay good money to go on a working vacation like this!”

“No way.”

“Remember City Slickers?” he asked with a smirk.

He had a point. Although building a one-car garage didn’t exactly compare with camping out on a dude ranch cattle drive, the work still exhausted the workers.

“How about you, Louis?” I asked. “Got any sore muscles?”

He groaned in reply. He’d spent the better part of the day sitting on top of a gambrel roof attaching the sheathing to the trusses. “It took me awhile to figure out how to sit up there,” he admitted.

We all laughed.

My Kind of Vacation

“This is my kind of vacation,” Pedro asserted.

Laura and I watched videos of Abel ‘drilling’ with the power drill and ‘measuring’ the door. Once Pedro had showed him how the drill worked, Abel had spent over an hour ‘talking’ and ‘using’ the drill on different parts of the shed. He’ll turn two next month, but he’s already fallen in love with power tools.

Pedro and Louis both work in white-collar jobs. Pedro works as a school principal in a high-stress private school, and Louis as a science, math, and physical education teacher. Although both of their jobs require some physical activity, they rarely have the opportunity (or need) to reach physical exhaustion.

Pedro spent hours before our working vacation planning the shed and watching YouTube tutorials on different aspects of the building process. He hasn’t built anything of significance since finishing a house in 2007.

The stress of finishing the project within the boundaries of two-week’s vacation time keeps the men working long hours. Creating something out of nothing flexes their creativity muscles (they don’t have blueprints). Solving design problems and logistical questions helps them escape the quotidian cares of their regular jobs.

The mistakes and inside jokes will bring back a recharging glow throughout the year as they remember the shared experience.

Creating a Working Vacation

Worried about the term 'working vacation?' Don't be! Find out the how you can have a blast! #DIY #vacation #workIf you want to try a ‘working vacation,’ remember that the work involved should have nothing to do with your regular work. That would defeat the purpose.

My part in the building project involves go-fer trips to Home Depot, painting, and toddler wrangling. As a high school teacher, I don’t have opportunities to do those things during the school year. Laura, a writer and stay-at-home mom catches up on her lost sleep, writing, house cleaning, and adult socialization. Our ‘working vacation’ fulfills all of us.

You can’t put a price tag on bonding with a grandchild (or child), either. Abel and I have long ‘conversations’ as he invites me into his world of imagination and play. Trips to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Costco become a marathon of physical activity when toddler wrangling. Catching up with my daughters (I’ve gotten to spend time with Sarah, as well) fills me with joy.

Psychologists agree that vacations provide an essential key in helping us deal with stress. Our family would agree that our best vacations involved physical activity of some kind. Building projects on mission trips, camping, canoeing, dirt-biking, and mountain biking make up the main ingredients of our most memorable vacations.

Looking for a different kind of vacation? Try a working vacation filled with projects and physical labor! #DIY #selfcare Click To Tweet

Tips for the Perfect Working Vacation

If your family chooses to have a physically demanding vacation, these tips will help ensure that everyone enjoys the experience.

1. Involve all of the stakeholders. When considering projects or activities, make sure that everyone will have something to do that they enjoy and consider a ‘break’ from their normal life.

2. Start slowly. Don’t plan on working long hours on the project during the first few days. If you do, you might end up with injuries as your body adjusts to new activities.

3. Decide on a timeline. Will you complete an entire project or just a portion of the project? Pedro’s goal for the shed project is to have it dried-in (waterproof) in eleven days of work. He will help Louis wire the shed and finish the inside on our next vacation.

4. Have a back-up plan. Weather, mistakes, and other delays can throw a timeline off. Remember that despite the timeline, you’re on vacation. Some aspects of the project took much longer than the guys anticipated. Overall, they accomplished their goal. Louis and Laura have a beautiful one-car garage and storage space. We all have an incredible sense of accomplishment for the parts we played in creating that space.

5. Reach out. If you don’t have a project in mind for a family member (nor the expertise to pull off a building project), look in your community for opportunities. Churches regularly sponsor mission building trips to foreign countries. Habitat for Humanity might have a project in need of help in your area. Help your kids raise money for a cause by organizing a bike-a-thon or hike-a-thon.

Have you ever had a ‘working vacation?’ What made it special for you? What are your best vacation memories?

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