Tuesday, August 21, 2012

British Columbia: A working vacation

You know how you describe people to others in a way that you would never do it to their face? You're not being mean, you're just being... accurate. For instance, I've described people to others like this:

"Michelle, if she were a bird she'd be a canary."

"Alisha. She wears beige and has a quiet grace about her. Or maybe she's just tired all the time. Something heavy about her eyelids."

"Doug... Hot sauce on everything. Web guy."

"Joe... show hair."

"Adam... he's... a... slow... talker... but he's not mentally ill.... just... a... pauser." 

Everyone nods. "Yup. I know who you're talking about."

If you had described me two years ago, you may have said, "Janice... wears dresses all the time and always complains about not having enough vacation days."

I was so known as being the person in the office that complained about the meager vacation policy that people came to me for advice on how to plan their own vacations. How can they accrue more days faster (you can't). How can they negotiate for more time off and less money (It had never been done at this particular office). How can they get to Europe and use as few vacation days as possible (Leave on a Friday night after work but before a long weekend, return on the following Sunday night and be jetlagged at work = 9 days away for the price of 4).

 How can how can how can how can...

If you wanted a vacation tagged onto the long American Thanksgiving weekend, you had best asked for the time off by April since you'll be denied if someone beat you to it. You see, not everyone could be gone from the office at the same time.

My old boss had hung a giant calendar on the wall outside my office and would mark down all the approved vacation time. Then she would cart my nervous colleagues over to said calendar who were still clutching their Vacation Request Form. She'd point, "See here, there are already two art directors out that week. We need you here." Dejected, they'd slink away Charlie Brown-style, cancel the plane tickets they already bought, take a few TUMS and come over to my office to process what just happened.

I had a door, tissues, a hatred for vacation policies, and a counseling degree so they knew they had a safe space to talk. They'd vent. I'd nod in agreement. I'd tell them where they went wrong and how they can improve their tactic for next time.

I was a Vacation Request Coach.

The vacation policy was BY FAR the biggest reason I quit my job. With only two weeks vacation per year, with one of those weeks going toward family out-of-town events like weddings or Christmas, I was left with one week per year to recoup and see a slice of the world. It just wasn't enough time for health or happiness.

But now, my life in Paris is kinda vacationy all the time. Sure I'm writing and working on my painted letters biz, but there is a lot of free time for daydreaming and reading in the shade of chestnut trees. So when Christophe had the month of August off and wanted to take vacation, I didn't think I actually needed one like I needed them in the past.

But that didn't stop me from taking one. We took off for a mountain lake in British Columbia with friends who have a sweet cottage on Lake Windemere. When I arrived, I dropped my bags in my room, gave the grounds a gander, then picked up my iPhone to check my email.

No bars.

It's gonna be one of those vacations. Digital diet, here we come. You may recall last August when I took a digital diet in Poland. It didn't go well.

But this time, I decided to keep busy with other things. Canoeing, hiking, fishing, lounging, chatting with friends... all those things you actually imagine doing on vacation. I don't know many people who dream about one day going to a cottage just to be able to get online.

But it sure is nice. Though I had angst when I couldn't update my blog or share photos, I was also free from the stream of thought that plagues my days. How can I sell more letters. How can I get into magazines. How can I pump up the paintings. 

 How can how can how can how can...

When the questions stopped spinning in my head, the answers had room to appear. This week, I'll be adding a few more projects to my painted letter series, sending out a few pitches and writing more than the occasional tweet.

It was a vacation that worked. Now, people will say, "Janice... wears dresses all the time and travels a lot. Lives in Paris as an artist."


Lake Louise, Alberta with Christophe.


  1. They say " She is living the life of her dreams" or maybe "She dreamed, she saw, she made it happen"!

  2. Michelle RadauskasAugust 21, 2012

    Beautiful picture of you and Christophe. It was nice seeing you again.

  3. This is a money shot. Gorg!!!!!!

  4. That picture is seriously incredible. I love how answers come when you stop looking for them. For some reason, mine usually show up while I'm brushing my teeth or blowing my hair dry. Clearly, I need to schedule more vacations!

  5. Great perspective on the office "vacation" time (or lack there of).

    I've just ordered my first painted letters. *excitement*

  6. Im impressed on what you done here.

  7. OMG can that picture be any more gorgeous!?! I have five weeks of vacation per year. I'm not bragging. I can never leave this place. Ha!

  8. I was thinking I should frame your letters and use them as wall art in my music room. :)


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