My husband and I were excited to take a trip to Europe after becoming empty nesters. But I struggled to let go of work.

My husband and I were excited to take a trip to Europe after becoming empty nesters. But I struggled to let go of work.
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The author, not pictured, struggled to disconnect from work in Venice.

  • My husband and I became empty-nesters last year and booked a big European vacation for ourselves.
  • As an entrepreneur, I feared I would ruin my business if I took two weeks away. 
  • But the vacation offered valuable insights into my company and made me a better business owner.

Last fall, my husband and I booked a two-week vacation to Greece and Italy. We aptly coined this our “empty-nester moon” as we had just sent our only 18-year-old daughter, Hailey, off to college. Many people take honeymoons, and some take babymoons, so we figured, why not take an empty-nester moon?

I’d dreaded Hailey leaving home since she started discussing her graduation a year ago. While sending Hailey to college was inevitably sad, our vacation gave us something to look forward to. Having a child-free home was also perfect timing for this trip, as we no longer had to worry about getting Hailey home from school, ensuring she had done her homework, or not throwing any parties while we were away.

But it was surprisingly hard to enjoy the lead-up to the trip as a business owner.

I was plagued with work anxiety before the trip

I knew that to enjoy my time abroad truly, I needed to unplug fully. But, this was my first time taking two full weeks away from my business, and I was terrified that — as an entrepreneur — everything would fall apart the minute I stepped away.

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I was plagued with questions like: “Who will answer my emails?” and “What if unplugging for two weeks makes me lose the income that funds trips like this?”

I started planning the trip five months ago to address these concerns. I hired a part-time online business manager, and a key goal in her onboarding was to include her in my business operations. This meant she could handle customer inquiries while I was away, answer any timely requests, and set up the appropriate out-of-office channels.

I also communicated my leave dates to clients in advance. When I told my clients that I would be disconnected for two weeks, they were supportive and proactively planned our engagements around my vacation.

My clients’ support gave me the confidence to move forward

I finally pulled the trigger and booked the trip. However, the night before we left, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing, thinking of things that could go wrong. What if this was a giant mistake? This work anxiety stuck around for the first two days of the trip, and I found myself wanting to check the email inbox app I had conveniently deleted on my phone. But I kept reminding myself that I’d told all of my clients I’d be offline and had adequate support processes in place. By day three of our time in Italy, I was able to fully unplug.

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Visiting Venice, a city with no traffic, felt like I was seeing the world from a completely different perspective. The city is quiet, with narrow alleyways and bridges in all shapes and sizes and lovely Venetian Gothic architecture with intricately designed arched windows and painted shutters. Venice felt like a welcome reminder that the world can operate very differently from what I know in the US, yet work extremely well.

My favorite part of the trip was signing up for an “Olympic Workout” and learning to throw a javelin in honor of visiting Greece’s Panathenaic Stadium — the first Olympic stadium. Our coach, Tonya, told my husband and me that we had to stretch our arms as far back as possible to get the javelin to fly far forward. “It’s just physics,” she kept saying.

Tonya’s words turned out to be a metaphor for the trip. Just like the motion of pulling my arm back, stepping back from work propelled my business forward.

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When I returned to the office, I had a lot more clarity about what gave me energy at work

Upon our return, business decisions I’d postponed felt light and easy. I knew what work I was excited to return to, and I decided to realign on the work that no longer excited me. This meant not renewing the contracts with a few clients that weren’t a good fit, ending some projects, and removing an offer I no longer enjoyed.

All of this allowed me to focus on the core offerings I want to be known for, which ultimately helped me bring more money into my business.

I thought that taking time away would hurt my business. But just like pulling the javelin backward to propel it forward, stepping back from my business had the same effect. Time off helped me recenter, open up my creativity, and clarify where I should focus my energy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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