Vacation and retirement

I am starting to realize that, once you reach a certain point in your career, the idea of a “vacation” or “personal time off” becomes a polite fiction, not unlike the forty-hour workweek.

Perhaps this is the reason that “retirement” as a general concept retains its popularity. I feel like I’m saving up all of my vacation hours to put toward the day when I no longer need to work eleven, fifteen, or even eight hours a day, 5-7 days a week.

To me, the ideal retirement would not be the lack of work, but the twenty-hour work week, a schedule that would allow me time to think, time to read, time to pray, and time to write.

I intend to start that before I reach 57. I have no idea whether I’ll be successful at it, but it is what I am working toward, and, frankly, what is keeping me going on those days when I close the computer at 11pm after having opened it at 5am. I doubt I can sustain my current pace of work much beyond that time without putting myself in therapy, in hospital, or in a pine box. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, and admittedly, it could be andropause talking, but it’s how I’m starting to feel.

Working From…

Working from Peter’s Tex-Mex, Beijing.

The biggest upside to my job is that I have reached a point in my career where technology and my position enable me to work from anywhere.

The biggest downside to my job is that I have reached a point in my career where technology and my position require me to work from just about everywhere.

So when I read an email from a colleague with a more conventional work geography that on Friday he would “WFH,” i.e., “work from home,” naturally, that made me think of all of the places from which I find myself working. As a result, I have begun to use a much richer range of acronyms to describe where I work.

My current glossary is as follows, based on frequency:

WFHWorking from Home – I’m at home, but I’m working. Really.

WFHOWorking from Home Office – At home, at my desk, doors closed, head down, ass up; not just sitting in the kitchen reading email on my phone or sitting on the back porch thinking about a client while watching the seagulls argue.

WFCWorking from Car – Stuck in traffic, or somewhere between major cities, probably on a conference call. Or two. Or three. I spend so much time working from my car that my wife has taken to calling me The Traveling Salesman. I know: sounds like the set up for a dirty joke.

WFAWorking from Airport – Trying to get everything done before my flight because a) the space between rows on the plane is too small for me and my laptop to occupy simultaneously, and b) I like to look out of the window.

WFPWorking from Plane – Will happen just as soon as a) I can afford to fly first class and b) I get tired of looking out of the window.

WFL – Working from Lodging – Some kind of Marriott. Brewing coffee. Probably not fully clothed. “Do Not Disturb” sign on door.

WFLOWorking from Local Office – They’ve found me a cubby. I’m trying to fit.

WFSWorking from Starbucks – Strictly for the baked goods and the Wi-Fi. Probably in China

WFTX – Working from Taxi – Holding on with one hand because there are no seatbelts. Definitely in China.

WFTWorking from Train – Roomy seats. Easy pace. No hassles. Arriving on time. But no Wi-Fi (oh, darn!)

WFMWorking from Meeting – Probably should be paying attention, but shooting off some emails anyway.

WFCOWorking from Campout – In a folding chair just outside my tent. I probably should be whittling or something. Hold on while I remind this scout to ask his Senior Patrol Leader.

WFRVWorking from RV – Somewhere beautiful, friendly, and comfortable. I love the hum of generators in the morning. Folding chair, lap table, under the awning.

WFOBWorking from Onboard – I’m on a boat. I’m working. Yes, I’m insane.

WFSSWorking from Son’s School – Getting condescendingly indulgent looks from High School kids, appreciative glances from overworked librarian. Wearing a tweed coat. Pretending to be the new history teacher.

WFULWorking from University Library – I can’t decide whether this is making me feel young again, or REALLY old.

WFPLWorking from Public Library – Watching a homeless guy read Kierkegaard’s Either/Or while talking to the ghost of Regine Olsen.

WFBWorking from the Bar – Email and Margaritas. Pathetic imitation of Hunter S. Thompson or Somerset Maugham, depending on part of the world I am in.

Summer Dawn, North Pacific 

Not quite the longest day of the year, but close. The overnight flight had less than four hours of darkness, and sunrise came on slowly, the brightness ahead adding gradual definition to the cloud cover below.

This is my favorite moment of the trip. Enjoy a beautiful dawn, with home only four or five hours away, a Kosher breakfast warming in the galley, and nothing to do but enjoy Creation.


Buffet Rebellion 

At some point in my May trip – surprisingly early – the charm of breakfast buffets wore off, as did the virtues of all hotel food.

So this trip, I brought seven meals in my suitcase, everything from noodles to tuna. They were the best seven meals of the entire trip, and probably the healthiest.

Overnight oats were a favorite. I’d take the cup upstairs to the VIP lounge at around 9pm, where they would give me just enough skim milk to steep the oats.  Left in the fridge overnight, it added an hour and cut 500 calories out of my days, and saved the company $20 each meal.

It was an epiphany, and it has changed the way I travel.