Taking Paid Time Off Is Good For All Mankind
More vacation leads to a happier humanity.
I am currently writing this from Patagonia, Argentina but I almost didn’t make it to Patagonia, Argentina. Worried about missing work, I nearly chose career over calling. I almost passed on place numero uno on Tatiana’s All-Time Travel Bucket List because of a little racket in my head called Doubt.
“Didn’t you just request a week off to get settled in Buenos Aires?” Doubt probed. “Don’t you think your projects and clients should come first?” Doubt pressured. “Are you really sure you’re even ‘qualified’ enough to do this?” Part of me agreed with Doubt: I am still revving up in my career, keen on climbing up the creative ladder, and focused on prioritizing the full-time grind. After all, work—by New York City job standards—means hustle. Hustle over your dreams. Hustle over your desires. Hustle until you reach the pinnacle of professional. But where does that leave vacation?
PTO, or paid time off, is an expected part of most of our compensation packages. It’s our fund for freedom, our resource for adult recess. By and large, PTO is the “fun” perk of full-time. Yet on average, one-third of American paid time off goes unused. Doubt makes a big appearance whenever we consider taking a break: A break could make us appear uncommitted, unambitious, unfocused. A break could jeopardize all our projects’ progress and planning—setting us back on the race to rise. Even when we have “unlimited” time off, there’s an unspoken understanding that one must never abuse the policy—or overuse the policy. But no guardrails for “good” usage exist.
At my current job, we have a very empowering and accommodating time off policy that I treasure—yet still tiptoe around. We’re encouraged to take the time we need with advance notice, but even then, I still find myself doubting my discretion at times. When I began to plan this Argentina trip, Patagonia felt like a prerequisite to working from Buenos Aires. I decided to silence every reason why I shouldn’t trek to the End of the World and listen to every reason why I should. I requested the extra week off. I made my PTO a priority. I got the green light from my project teams. I flew to Patagonia and saw the most magnificent landscapes of my life, experiencing my first ever “group” trip, getting closer to every person on it, and having a revelation about where I want to live next.
Oftentimes, PTO comes with a self-imposed asterisks: *Use with caution. Even if our days off are fixed for the year, we fear what will happen if we take them in full. From what I’ve seen, if we take them, if we change the disclaimer to *use with courage, here’s what actually happens: Good things. Glorious things. Game-changing, life-altering, spirit-awakening things.
So take the vacation because finding your calling, finding your people, and finding yourself doesn’t tend to happen over email, Slack, or Google Docs.
Take the vacation because your work gets better when you work on yourself.
Take the vacation because you can never put a price on peace of mind.
Take the vacation because the buzz of a break can help overcome the buzz of a burnout.
Take the vacation because this adventure called Life is most alive when new passengers and new places and new faces arrive on your path.
Take the vacation because you earned it. And agreed to honor it when you signed the literal contract to your employer and the figurative contract to yourself.
Take the vacation because an adult recess is a reminder that being professional doesn’t have to come at the cost of being playful.
Take the vacation because even if it’s a staycation at home, no travel plans is a plan to prioritize what matters within. And that’s just as important.
Take the vacation because you are a part of planet Earth and there is nothing more exhilarating than experiencing and seeing and feeling and tasting the boundless beauty within it.
Take the vacation because what happens on vacation doesn’t stay on vacation—like when you left to Colombia at nineteen with a vocation to be a divorce attorney and came back wanting to be a creative and suddenly, everything you did thereafter changed because of what came to light out-of-office.
Take the vacation because in ten years, when life is more complicated, more busy, more pressured, you do not want to be left wondering, “What if I would have went…?”
Take the vacation because as you sit, fingers deep in crab, drinking a local bottle of wine that only costs you $3, legs and feet aching from an all day hike across one of Patagonia’s prettiest national parks, laughing with friends you didn’t have on Zoom, you will not think—not even for a nano-second—Wow, I really wish I didn’t take this vacation.
Giving myself a Brazenface break: It wouldn’t be vacation if I was still working, so I gulped down the guilt and gave myself grace. I allowed myself to not go crazy writing, shooting, or illustrating for hours on this trip. As a work-driven Capricorn, this was actually kind of hard. I kept thinking about my self-imposed newsletter deadline and how I’d never want to publish something I wasn’t proud of. But I also kept thinking about how I don’t want to burn out. So I went on vacation-mode and had a blast and a half exploring Patagonia. I set creative boundaries and only wrote on the airplane and once I returned. I decided—on purpose—that this week’s dispatch would be shorter than usual, less planned and perfected, but still 100% me.
Going on my first “group” trip: I adore adventuring on my own, which is exactly why I decided to send it solo to Buenos Aires this winter, but my trip to Patagonia wasn’t a solo mission. I was joined by my Parisian cousin, her pilot boyfriend, and my comedian co-worker—a hilariously random medley of people that suddenly found themselves sharing bunk beds and single bathrooms at the End of the World. It could have gone horribly wrong—a mix of ages, diets, languages—stuck together for seven days, but this week was actually really, really wonderful. We enjoyed each other’s company! We feasted on lamb, seafood, and ice cream! We learned new words in each others’ native tongues! For the first time in my life, I got to experience a new kind of travel: a team of four friends taking on foreign treks and thrills—together.
Pro-PTO, Pro-Patagonia: A Glimpse Into My Trip
Why Go On Vacation, According to My Travel Partners
To see how the world lives, to see everything possible before I die.
- Ludo, the pilot from Bordeaux
To see as much as possible before Ludo dies.
- Dillon, the comedian from Brooklyn
I was almost burnt out with my studies. Now I’m free. From my house, from my parents, from being told what to do.
- Marine, the pilot-in-training from Paris
I want to break through the monotony and routine of everyday life because it gets restrictive and confining—like you’re sleeping in a coffin.
- Dillon, take two
Tatiana Gallardo is offline. Her Slack notifications are snoozed. Her email replies are on auto. She’ll be back to work as a brand writer soon. Until then, vacay!-vacay!-vacay! mode.