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  1. Blog
  2. Work-Life Balance

Staycation Nation: The Case for Doing Nothing Over Holiday Break

“In America they don’t do anything except work and rest so’s to get ready to work again. That’s no life for a man”

woman on a staycation
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Fuller

I want to start here: Use your PTO. More than half of workers in the U.S. don’t take the vacation time available to them. If you’re in this camp, you’re missing out on valuable time with your family, your friends, yourself. You’re sacrificing sleep. You’re buying into the cult of busyness. You’re forfeiting time that belongs to you.

I love this line from John Dos Passos, who, in Rosinante to the Road Again, writes, “In America they don’t do anything except work and rest so’s to get ready to work again. That’s no life for a man. People don’t enjoy themselves there...It’s not gold people need, but bread and wine”

Your life is so much more than your work. It has to be.

But, your budget is tapped out, you’re tired from holiday parties and traveling to see family, or hosting them. There’s no money for a vacation and there’s no energy for it either. Staycation instead.

Let’s be clear about what I mean by staycation

Articles about staycationing will tell you to be a tourist in your own town, go camping, take a pottery class, finally sit down and write that book (in all honesty, I’ve actually written that article). But that’s nonsense. Forget that.

I point you instead to this article from The New York Times: “The Case for Doing Nothing.”

In it, the writer Olga Mecking points to research by Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire, which finds that idleness begets creativity.


Ms. Mann’s research has found that daydreaming—an inevitable effect of idleness—“literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.” For that to happen, though, total idleness is required.

“Let the mind search for its own stimulation,” Ms. Mann said. “That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the creativity.”

Remember the boredom of childhood? How many drawings, plays, imagined scenarios, games, inventions, and creations were conceived by your mind searching for its own stimulation? I’m of the belief that we lose those hobbies with age not because we outgrow them, but because we have no time for them.

For your staycation: Make no plans and make room for idleness.

But as an adult, you will have to work for that lack of stimulation

Adults are seldom without stimulation, and if you’re staying home from work, the natural duties of life will intrude.

You’d clean the house before you leave for a vacation; do the same before you “embark” on your staycation. Give yourself freedom from the distractions of household work. Make a grocery trip to stock the pantry, take care of pertinent errands. Don’t give your precious vacation time to the Kroger checkout line.

The same goes for your phone, the TV. You’re going to have to fight them off. But consider this: You’re fighting for your time.

Read more: Social Media Detox 101: How to Take One & Why It Matters

What if you don’t get any PTO?

For many, paid time away from work just doesn’t exist. About 25 percent of people working in this country get no paid time off.

That doesn’t mean you can’t seek moments of doing nothing. Even if you’re working multiple jobs, even if you take care of children and do paid work, even if you work long shifts. Don’t reach for your phone on your down time. Choose to let your mind wander. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t pop in your earbuds. Give your mind time to look for its own stimulation.

Read more: Work-Life Balance for Women Is Possible, But Jobs Have to Change

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