It’s no secret that Americans get little vacation days. The average American worker gets 10 vacation days off a year, with nearly 1/4 of American employees getting no paid time off a year at all.
10 days is barely enough to take two trips a year, let alone leave a few spare days to use for, say, your friend’s 30th birthday bash in Cartagena or your business school chum’s wedding in Yountville.
An even more depressing statistic is that the average American employee takes only 54% of their paid vacation days in a given year.
American workers don’t even like to take vacation, even when their company gives them paid time off.
The U.S. is also one of the only countries with no statutory requirement for a minimum amount of employee leave. Many European countries mandate that employers offer at least 20 paid vacation days to employees.
What’s a nomadic soul to do, except take advantage of chances to travel on the corporate dime.
There will be those miserable business trips where you’re stuck in a windowless conference room full of documents in some suburban office park.
But, for all the other business trips, there are ways in which we can trick our minds to make us feel like we’re on vacation when we’re not.
Bring Your Running Shoes.
One of the most brutal business trips I had ever been deployed on was a three-weeker to Providence, Rhode Island. We maxed out at five or six hours of sleep, and were often at the client’s offices until well past midnight.
On the few nights where we retired at a reasonable hour, I rose early to go for a run around the city. I ran along the river, up and around Brown University, and through downtown.
These explorations were rejuvenating, and helped me appreciate this gem of a college town on an otherwise exhausting trip.
Unwind at the Hotel Spa.
Even if it’s just a quick hour-long massage or facial treatment, setting aside some time for personal pampering – even if it’s on your own dime – can help you slough off the “work attitude.”
If you are able, plan your departure and arrival to give yourself time to explore the city at your leisure.
I was recently in Aventura, FL for a work conference. There’s not much in Aventura save golfing and malls, so I decided to extend my stay in the Miami area through the weekend to explore Wynwood, a creative hub full of street murals, art galleries, and gourmet food trucks peddling everything from arepas to omakase.
Stay in a Guest House (e.g., AirBnB) Instead of A Hotel.
While you may not get hotel-quality amenities at a guest house or apartment, there’s nothing like living in someone else’s home to make you feel like a local. You’ll get more space in an apartment than you will in a hotel room, and you’ll get to feel like you’re living in that city for a few days.
This works best when you don’t pick an apartment in a business-focused or touristy part of town.
Don’t Overlook Smaller Gems.
So, your client meetings are in Kansas City instead of Hong Kong. Use this to your advantage.
Smaller cities are less expensive than their larger counterparts, thus attracting creative professionals from coastal cultural capitals with a higher COL.
Many of these cities are home to a growing crop of unique small businesses – the type that, say, have kept Austin weird for all of these years.
Before you land, hit up Instagram and browse through accounts promoting local entrepreneurs.
If all else fails, get into nature.
Sometimes, work travel can get so hectic that we’re too exhausted to think of adventure.
Famed naturalist John Muir once said, “keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile.”
My dad was not one for plane rides or new locales. His chosen mode of detoxification from the workweek was a three-mile walk in the same woods each Sunday.
Nature simultaneously quiets you and empowers you, and sometimes all we need to recharge is some quality time spent in our own backyards.