When my daughter Victoria graduated from college two years ago, we were able to spend three days together on the Camino de Santiago. “The Camino” is one of the oldest pilgrimages in the Western World, with roots stretching back to the early middle ages and the time of Charlemagne. Most pilgrims start in Southern France and take over a month to complete the journey. But since Victoria was about to start her first job as a project engineer, she had not earned any paid vacation days yet, and three days away was the best we could both afford at the time. There was no way I could give up a month of time away from work…sound familiar?
The three days we spent were so memorable that upon our return, we started planning a follow up trip for July 2019. Just like most people, I spend most of my waking hours at work. My work defines me, but that is OK because I enjoy what I am doing. However, with a little push from Victoria, I realized that in this case I needed to “work to live and not live to work” We decided to accomplish the whole 500+miles of the Camino, and we included my second daughter Julianna and Victoria’s beau Chris to the mix.
Making this trip happen with different full-time careers was not easy. Victoria works mostly a traditional Monday-Friday schedule with early start times. Hours can be long and sometimes she has to work nights and weekends to finish a project. As a new engineer, her vacation time is limited. She saved up what she could and still needed to go in the hole to get enough time off for this adventure. That said, her schedule is somewhat stable. Julianna on the other hand, a midshipman at Annapolis, is part of the US military and her schedule is anything but stable. She managed to squeeze our trip into her limited time off. Juliana left hard core physical training to meet me in Pamplona to run with the bulls the day before our Camino began, and she left the finish line in Santiago to catch her ship departing the next day from San Diego, CA. Her time off was measured and
managed differently than her sister’s. The Navy is the ultimate alternative schedule, working thirty to sixty days in a row when they deploy, followed by a longer break to recuperate. Over the course of her career, she will be at the mercy of the Navy when she wants any vacation time.
My point is…no matter what schedule you have, everyone NEEDS time away from work, whether it is for travel, adventure, education, visiting relatives, or spending downtime at home with family and friends. Recharging your personal batteries is important. A few years ago, I worked at a glass plant where employees were given the choice to get their vacation paid out in a limp sum every April. Almost everyone took this option, and as a result they never took time off. When we surveyed the employees, we found a high level of burnout and an overall negative attitude towards work. Selling their vacation time may have helped their bank account, but they were much unhappier and that results in an unsustainable workforce for the company.
I have spent my career as a consultant and business owner, helping companies better understand their business needs, listening to what their employees want, and understanding the health & safety standards that need to be maintained. I have spoken at many events and written extensively on the need to maintain work/life balance. It was interesting to apply this priority to myself. For me, taking a few weeks off to spend with my daughters brought balance to everything. I had to give up other things and make compromises at work, but the tradeoff was worth it. Team Pereira completed the full 515 mile Camino route in 12 days. That’s what I would call a Buen (Good) Camino!
P.S.-Now I need to plan an adventure with my son!