4 Lessons From Taking An Extended Vacation

Another summer has come and gone.  How was yours?  Fall is upon us, and winter is rearing its frosty head around the corner.

As I mentioned in “Living Your Retirement Lifestyle Now”, I recently took an extended summer vacation to spend more time with my family, while our kids are young.  Childhood and family memories can’t be fabricated later on in life, no matter how much money you have.   Time marches on without regard to whether you have reached financial independence or not.

Life is short.  It really is.  You hear this saying all the time, but I’m not sure if people really appreciate it until an untimely death of a family member or friend occurs.  As physicians, depending on your specialty, you may encounter the brevity of life play out in front of you on a daily or weekly basis.    Being born in the mid-1970’s,  I now see patients from my decade being sideswiped by the Big C, and it’s scary.  It’s even scarier when I see the Big C pop up in patients born in the 1980’s.  I have always thought of people born in the 1980’s as young and immortal.

It’s important to learn from these moments of death, as Loonie Doctor describes from being an Intensivist in “Spending Wisely and FIRE – Lessons From My Patients”.   Don’t live poor and die rich.  Spend time with your family, as they are the ones who will remember you the most.   RE-focus your priorities after you reach FI to do what’s important to you.  Priceless pearls of wisdom.

As an ER physician, Dr. Matt Poyner has RE-focused his life to maximize his time with his family while his boys are young by trading money for time now rather than waiting to reach the traditional retirement age decades later.  Sounds similar to my decision to take an extended summer vacation, but his thinking came to a different solution for himself and his family.   He took his kids out of school and went backpacking around the world!    Although he met the criteria of being “successful” by all of society’s standards, he felt that he was missing something on the road he was set on, as he explains in “Why am I rethinking my retirement plan”.

If traveling by plane to foreign countries is not your cup of tea, then maybe road trips with an RV are a better way to spend more time with your kids, as Loonie Doctor describes  in “Is Our Motorhome a Money Saver or Sewer?” Coincidentally, Loonie Doctor also took an extended vacation this summer.  Good on him!

If you decide to RE-focus after reaching FI or at some other point in your career, then having your partner/spouse on the same page as you is crucial,  as Dr. Moneyblog points out in “Life in The Rowboat”.  Personally, I have a friend who is exhausted and burning out as a mid-career doctor. Unfortunately, he is on a path to a never-ending work treadmill cycle, in order to support his wife’s high consumption lifestyle.  They are definitely not rowing their boat in the same direction.

After taking my extended summer vacation, here are 4 lessons I learned:

1) 3 Weeks to Bliss

The first week I was excited to be on vacation.  The second week I was getting used to being on vacation.  But it was around the 3-week mark when I lost track of the days.  And it felt great!

By then I was in full vacation/relaxation mode with minimal to no thoughts as to what was happening back at the hospital.  The feeling brought back memories of being a student during the summer holidays when it felt like summers lasted forever.   By the 3rd week, each day felt like a Saturday.

According to my recently retired father-in-law, he best described his retirement lifestyle as “Every day is Saturday”  Good to know that an extended vacation can mimic the retirement feeling.

2) Better Sleep

Not having to wake up at 6:40 am to get ready for work = more sleep

Not having to get called in the middle of the night on-call = more sleep

Not having to work weekends = more sleep

I felt I actually GAINED back years in my life by sleeping better during my extended vacation.

Slept like a baby panda!

3) I Am Replaceable

I remember in residency when one of our attending physicians, who is a giant in my field, suddenly left for greener pastures in a different city.  We were all devastated by the news.  Everyone worried about how the program/department would go on with such a big loss.  Well, after the initial shock wore off, the new hires and existing physicians swept in to fill in his shoes, and things went back to normal as if he was never there.

Life went on.

As a physician, it is good to find satisfaction and appreciation for the work you do, but don’t let your ego fool you into thinking you are irreplaceable and your knowledge and skill set is yours to own. Your fellow colleagues can do just a good of a job as you.  And that is a good thing for both you and your patients.

My department went on just fine without me during my extended summer vacation.  My younger partners (fresh out of fellowship) were more than eager to work my shifts to earn more money.  It was a “win-win” situation for all parties.  I got my time off to spend more time with my family and my younger partners got a bigger piece of the pie.

Often, physicians complain about being too busy and not having enough time for themselves but refuse to give up their share of the pie.   Try not to let money control your life, as Dr. Moneyblog remarks in “The Point of Money”.

My ego is unscathed knowing I am replaceable.   There will always be patients to see, surgeries and procedures to perform, scans to report.  Medicine is a never-ending job.  If you step away for a vacation, medicine goes on fine without you.

Knowing this removed any inkling of guilt I had for taking this much time off.

4) Back to Work Dread

I like my job a lot.  Sometimes I love it, other times not so much.  But overall, I like my job and it brings me fulfillment.  I couldn’t imagine myself working in a different career.

Having said this, at the end of my extended vacation, I dreaded going back to the work routine.

However, I soon realized I was just like my boys, as they approached a new school year in September.  They always wish summer holidays were longer and they don’t particularly look forward to the first day of school.  But after seeing their friends and meeting their new teacher, they are always happy and excited by the end of the first day.

The same applied to me.  Once I got back to work and into the groove of things, I realized that I missed working and collaborating with colleagues and staff to help patients.

I can honestly say I feel recharged and refreshed after my extended vacation.

How was your summer?




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Dr. MB

That sounds awesome DN!! Ever since my husband started his career, we take a month off every summer because we know that in Medicine NO ONE offers that to you. You have to design that for yourself. We are absolutely replaceable. And many collleages refuse to take time off because of the lost income. That is a very short sighted way to look at things. Especially with young children- you will NEVER get that time back to enjoy it with them. Money comes and goes but that precious time is irreplaceable. And that is one regret, you can not go… Read more »

Loonie Doctor

Hey DN! Taking “retirement” for test drives with some longer vacations is a great idea – and no better time than when your kids are still around. Your lessons are good ones that would never be learned without experiencing it. It is an argument for sabbaticals (like you mentioned in your previous post). The only group we aren’t really replaceable for is our family. I found from my vacations this summer and over the March breaks that about 3 weeks vacation is my max at this point. One week away is ok if I am not swamped during the week… Read more »


Hey dr N. glad your vacation was revitalizing. I also appreciate your last post. Thanks for sharing some real numbers! And for trips away, in my family’s case I’ve found as work life balance increases vacations have less impact and now we even crave to return home at about 10 days. Personally vacation almost seems like a hassle to me but my wife would disagree. Her work demands are high like yours and for her trips are a time to catch up on sleep and slowly separate herself from unending emails and admin concerns. I will concede our trips are… Read more »