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Take Your Vacation!
Use what you've earned
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Torino, Italy, 2003. (Mamiya 7, 43mm lens, Fuji RVP50.) 10,000 pixels wide.


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Take the vacation you've earned and take pictures!

My wife and I were comparing notes back in 2012 from years before when we each worked for huge corporations.

Our bosses always did their best to try to shame us into not taking the vacations we've already earned.

If you get three or four weeks a year, take them! Only a moron lets himself get bullied by the boss into not taking all his vacation, and if you want to take it all at once, do it!

Never "save it for later," since later usually never comes.

Remember, you've earned your vacation by the work you've already done. You deserve it, and taking it proves how much you've done for your organization. Working straight through for a whole year is for rookies.

Bosses are trained to keep a fire of urgency under the feet of their employees. Bosses always try to get you to think that whatever's going on right now is oh-so critical to the company, and that right now would be an awful time to go on vacation since you're all in the middle of some big emergency. Think about it: is there ever any time when it's not a big emergency? Of course not!

I had a boss who tried to shame me into thinking I was doing some sort of a bad thing "for the team" by blowing off for three continuous weeks to make a Southwestern USA Road Trip. It was the best thing I ever did: waking up each morning and asking myself where I wanted to go each day — and I did it all in the company car! I had been saving vacation foolishly for a few years, and it was darn well time to use what I had already earned. Notice how the boss plays a word-screw on us: why is it called "taking" vacation, when in fact we've earned it and it's something the company owes us?

A month after my southwest road trip, I bailed for two more weeks in Italy, and two months after that I took another week off for Christmas to see my family. The Man tried to make me think that for some reason I wasn't entitled to enjoy my own vacation I had earned.

I went home for Christmas, and it was a good thing I did, because it was the last time I ever saw my dad before he died.

I took about six weeks of vacation that I had earned over the previous two years over few months. The boss made like he was bothered, but tough: bosses always make it seem like you're doing a bad thing by using the time you've earned.

My wife had the same thing happen. A pal invited her on a two-week sales award trip to Italy, and her boss at her big drug company tried to shame her into staying at work. She asked her mom (long before she met me) who asked her to ask herself what would she remember more in ten years: an extra two weeks at work, or two weeks in Italy. She went to Italy and had a blast!

It's your boss' job to keep you working like a pig every day. Did you know that when I left Tektronix, they pulled a fast one and only paid me for half the unused vacation time I had, claiming that I was only entitled to half because I was only on half salary. They claimed the other half was commission — but they certainly never back-paid me for commissions that came in after I left for sales made before I left. Don't bank on your job ever cashing you out on your accrued vacation: take it while you can.

Likewise, if your company gets bought out or goes out of business and you're out on the street, there may not be any money to pay you for unused vacation time.

Consider "banked" vacation time as an unsecured loan you've made to your employer. Don't expect to be able to collect it in the future, enjoy it while you can.

Our time and health are the most valuable things we have. Don't ever trade your vacation time for money — or worse, the promise of future money that may never be paid.

A good boss always makes you think that what you're doing is urgent. I had a very smart coworker once who was onto that game. They always tried to get him to work late and weekends, promising that as soon as this terribly important project was done, that things would calm down. He'd figured out that bosses always lie like that, and it never calms down. He didn't let them pull that one on him.

Guess what? Things are always tough; it's always an emergency. That's the way the free world works. If they need you so much that they won't survive if you leave for two weeks in a row, they'll need you even more when you return.

Why are you so invaluable when you want to use your own vacation time, but your work suddenly isn't appreciated when it comes time to ask for a raise?

Take your vacation.


Negative Banking

While slower employees "save" huge blocks of vacation for a future that never comes, taking vacation you haven't yet accrued is a good idea.

I forget at what job I did this, but when hiring on I pointed out that I already had a vacation planned for when I'd be starting the new job, and they let me start and take a few weeks right after I started.

Employees tend to be powerless negotiators with employers. Employees rarely appreciate how valuable they are to employers; if someone wants to hire you, they'll do what it takes to get you.

For exactly the same reasons as above, having a negative vacation balance is a good thing; it's like money in your pocket, not your boss.'

If you leave or the company goes out of business, you win even more.


Advance Notice

Some companies try to prevent you from using your own vacation time by deliberately putting restrictions between you and your vacation, for instance, requiting "approval" and/or "advanced notice."

These may or may not be legal; you've earned your vacation and it's yours, not the companies, to decide when you enjoy it.

I remember my first trip to Hawaii was an emergency vacation. My pal Karl was going to another medical conference on Maui, and his wife had been there so many times she decided not to go. He called me, and if I could get plane tickets for two days later, I had a free place to stay.

I told my secretaries that I had an "emergency vacation opportunity" arise, and I was taking a week's vacation as of the day after tomorrow. They liked my style and understood completely. We all know the boss wouldn't be happy, but so what: he's supposed to make us feel bad for taking vacation.


Work Texts and eMails while on vacation

If you read, send or reply to anything work-related while you're gone, that's work.

Your company must pay you for this work and not dock your vacation time.

Every situation is different, but having to break my train of thought to read or reply to even just one work-related email takes me completely out of vacation mode for half a day. I would expect a minimum of 4 hours of pay (and one-half-day less vacation time used) for even one text or email you're expected to read each day.

Make sure your boss and/or IT department forward all yours texts and emails so they are handled while you're gone, and that none of them reach any of your personal mobile devices. If they do, be sure your company knows that they will be ignored; it's not your company and not your fault if they can't figure it out.

Do NOT lug your work laptop with you on vacation. Make sure your company knows it will be left at the office so they can deal with anything that comes in.

If you're an employee and you respond to work emails or texts while you're on vacation without pay, you're an idiot. That's work, and you must be sure to get paid for that if the boss expects you to monitor your work communications. Honestly, some people spend half the day on work on their phones, and if this is your boss' expectation, that means you only should be charged one week of vacation for two weeks spent away.

Companies love smart phones since they are another way to keep you working 24/7 for free. Don't fall for it.

You need to stand up for yourself. The boss will always play dumb and make you feel like you're supposed to keep working on your phone just as if you're at work — but don't fall for it. That's just a way bosses squeeze more work out of the newer employees.



Working like crazy for retirement? Don't plan on it!

One of my wife's colleagues at Pfizer spent his entire career working like a dog for the company, all for his retirement. For decades all he could do is work to pack it away for retirement, and never enjoyed anything today.

When he finally retired, he was out no more than a month, got cancer, and went to the hospital to die. Did any of the bosses who worked him to death over the decades come by to pay their respects to him? No. Bert said "screw them," and he serves as an example to us all. Never die like Bert Shear did; take your vacation while you can because none of your bosses will miss you when you're gone.

Screw the boss, take your vacation. You earned your vacation; they owe it to you — it's not the other way around. Your job will be there when you return, and more importantly, you'll show them that you can think for yourself; a leader and not just another sheep to lay off next week.


Take at least three weeks in a row

I believe it was the founder of Kinko's who so brilliantly observed that anytime you take vacation, take at least three weeks at a time.

His point is that if you only leave for a week, your work will pile up and be waiting for you on your return — not really a vacation.

If you're gone for three weeks, it will either get done before you return, or can safely be forgotten, and thus you really have taken vacation.


Bon Voyage

I don't know about where you work, but it's 23º F (-5º C) right now at lunchtime here in New York as I write this, so anyone who'd rather go to work than use their vacation time must be batty.

It was 80ºF (+27º C) every day in Hawaii last week.

You will never remember an extra week at work by next year, while you will remember your vacation forever. My kids LOVED it last week and still remember our trips to Hawaii back when they were still babies. My mom, way into her 70s now, still remembers vacations she took to my granddad's farm upstate back when she was as little as my kids are today.

All working extra hours does when you're an employee is make your boss richer, not you. You never get rich working for someone else; you have to be in business for yourself. I'm the last one to suggest that buying a professional camera system will allow you to become a successful professional photographer, but it could be a start.


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Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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January 2012, February 2015