By Leanora Minai
June/July, 2014 Issue
A Chance to Unwind
It's summer, a popular time for vacation.
I'm taking time off work to visit Croatia. It's my first big vacation in nearly three years. I've had short getaways to visit family and friends, but I've been remiss about following through on a personal promise to stamp my passport once a year.
My excuse is life got in the way. A house sale in Raleigh, a home purchase in Durham and then a renovation. It was exciting and rewarding but stressful, too, and I didn't take enough time to replenish.
And I wasn't alone. According to a recent survey by Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor, the average American employee reported using only half of his or her eligible time off in the past 12 months, and 61 percent of those who have taken vacation or paid time off worked at least some while on vacation.
Duke offers a valuable benefit that provides the accrual of three or four weeks of paid vacation each year, depending on years of service and service level.
I talked with Barbara Eldredge, a Duke Personal Assistance Service counselor, for insights on making time for vacation. She's written a website post, "Making Your Vacation Count," in which she suggests planning longer vacations and "having at least one two-week vacation in a year, so your mind can have a chance to really unwind."
"It helps you get perspective," she said.
Meaningful vacations prevent burnout and provide more time to connect with family or friends and think about life and work goals, Eldredge said. A vacation means something different for everyone. You may want to relax on a beach, volunteer to help build a school abroad, or learn how to cook.
I chose Croatia for its scenery, culture, history and Mediterranean climate. I'll hike by lakes and through forests, paddle a few rivers with rapids and bike the countryside. I'm somewhat risk averse – the kind of person who opts for the helmet while snow tubing, so this will be good for me.
The important thing is to take breaks to rejuvenate, as Eldredge implores us all to do. In this issue, you'll find ideas to help you do just that, from volunteering at Duke Campus Farm to renting a picnic shelter in Duke Forest.
"When we stretch ourselves to do new experiences, something more challenging," Eldredge said, "it gives us more confidence in general and that can carry over to work.”