Just because you have a good amount of vacation days through your work, doesn’t mean it’s easy to actually organize a vacation. Even if you get paid vacation days, we all know that going on a trip can be expensive, so many of us just let that precious paid time off float away, not utilizing that time to recharge, or get something accomplished outside of work.
You may also just find that, after taking a Friday and Monday off for your best friend’s wedding, then that odd middle of the weekday to visit your mom after surgery, and a few other short trips, that you just have an awkward number of vacation days you can’t do much with. Maybe you just have two or three left, but nowhere worth traveling to within driving distance, and you’re not going to burn one of your few remaining vacation days flying somewhere, just to have to turn around again 36 hours later. But remember that you don’t have to use your vacation days to go somewhere. That’s your time off to do what you wish with.
There are probably a lot of things you’ve been wanting to do, needing to do, or meaning to get around to, but your busy work schedule—and life schedule—doesn’t allow it. A simple weekend isn’t enough time, because you have other tasks and activities planned then. So perhaps this could be a good time to use some of those vacation days on the things that are so hard to find the time to do. Vacation days, really, should just let you rebalance your life, get back in touch with yourself, recharge, unwind, and do something you wouldn’t normally do from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. On that note, here are ways to spend your vacation days, not on vacation.
Your passion project
You know you have one. Have you been meaning to write some pages for your novel? Screenplay? Poetry book? Do you want to create a website where you post the recipes you create? Have you been meaning to make a monthly newsletter to go out to all of the contacts you’ve collected who are interested into your wellness tips? Take the day off to do this.
You know that every time you take the time to volunteer, you feel so good after. It is important to you to give back while you’re on this planet, but you’re too busy during the week, and too exhausted during the weekend. So take your vacation day to donate your time and energy to those who need it.
A mini social tour
If you live in a big city, then perhaps your friends are spread out all over the place, which can be frustrating because you barely get to see any of them. Why not take a day off work so you can travel around the city, paying a visit to each of the friends you wish you got to see more?
That distant hike
There’s a beautiful hike just outside of your town, but you never make the time to go. On the weekends, you have so many errands you want to run and people you want to see, that you refuse to spend one hour, each way, just getting to the hike. But you’ve heard the views, once there, are life changing and beautiful. Take your day off to go.
Read a book
You have that book that everybody’s been talking about. Your mentor said it would change your career. Someone you respect said it would alter the way you do and see everything. Wow, sounds important. But you never get around to reading it. Maybe a few pages a week. Finally take a full day to sit down and read that sucker.
Fix that thing
The handle on your toilet. The door that scrapes against the hallway floor a bit. That uneven leg on your bed. That overgrown tree branch that keeps scraping your car when you park. You know you have dozens of these little things around your home that bother you ever day, but that you never have a moment to fix.
Having too many unnecessary or unwanted things around weighs on your mental and emotional health more than you may know. Maybe you try to clean things out in fits and starts throughout the year, but you never quite do a full cleaning. Take a day to go through every area of your home—bathrooms, closets, garage, kitchen, hallways—and get rid of unnecessary items.
Trim down your spending
You have a feeling that you’re accidentally throwing dollars away in multiple places every month, but you feel like time is money so if you spend time looking into this, you may as well spend that time making money to compensate for it. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Take half of your day off to look over every single account you have—insurance policies, credit cards, checking accounts, subscriptions—and see what you do and don’t need. It may be time to cancel, downgrade, or contest some costs.
Support your friends
Your friends are always inviting you to their things, but you can’t make it. Your friend’s one-woman play is happening. Your other friend just released a new menu at her food truck. Your one friend has offered you to take her yoga class for free many times. Take the day to support your friend’s endeavors.
Plan next year’s vacation
Maybe the reason you don’t capitalize on your vacation days is that you don’t plan early enough. By the time you look into it, hotel and airfare is expensive, and all of the tours and wine tastings you want to attend are booked up. So maybe take one vacation day this year to plan an epic vacation next year.
Support your friends, part two
Do your friends have blogs? Podcasts? Web series? Did one friend write a book? And have you failed to really look at any of this work your friends produce? Maybe you don’t have time to listen to all of their podcasts, all year long, but you can take a day to listen to an episode from each one.
Be a tourist in your town
Be a tourist in your town, by yourself. It’s too hard to coordinate with everyone’s schedules, so you’ve been waiting forever to finally go to that museum or try that rooftop restaurant or go on that tour bus. Just do it by yourself today. It’s a shame not to enjoy what your city has to offer.
Take a class
Is there a class that you can just take one of and feel you learned a lot? A cooking class? Introduction to painting? Home DIY basics. Mechanics 101. Maybe there is one area of life in which you wish you were more educated. So take a day to educate yourself on it.
Prepare your taxes early
There is never a convenient time to prepare your taxes. It hits you all at once each year. You realize you need to file in a few days and you haven’t gathered any of your information for your accountant. Doing it on a weekend feels like such a shame. So take part of a vacation day to prepare your taxes.
Do nothing at all
Some interesting things happen when you do nothing for a day. Have you tried it? Just taking 24 hours to truly say, “Not today” to responsibilities and obligations can help you have some important realizations about your trajectory and how you spend your time when you aren’t doing nothing.