Caribbean Cruise: Day of Departure

As we left Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida I felt my hands shaking a bit. It had nothing to do with the rumbling of the engines of the Carnival Freedom, but rather the beginning of a long process of decompression and relaxation that I hope will be completed before we return to the same port six days from today.

2011 was an incredible year for me, both personally and professionally. Among the milestones that the year-end tally tolled were my first pair of eye glasses and my first grey hairs. It is easy to chalk these both up to the passing of my thirty-ninth birthday in July, but my wife (who has teased me about both) would likely tell you that it is as easy to attribute both to the amount of time I put into my work. She calls me a workaholic but I don’t see it that way; she is probably right and I am likely in denial.

Whichever one of us is right, the numbers do not lie. I traveled to sixty-seven different cities in 2011, which does not include multiple visits to numerous cities. I traveled just over 115,000 miles during the year, and was away from home just over two hundred days. I renewed my Air Canada Elite status in the summer, and for the first time achieved Platinum status with Marriott. I couldn’t tell you how many times I crossed the US-Canadian border, but do know that I traveled to South America twice… both times in November.

It would be easy to calculate the number of days off, sick days, and vacation days that I took in the past year… fewer than twenty-five. However if we were going to be honest and counted the days that I truly did not work – disconnected myself from the phone, Internet, and computer completely – that number would be under five, and would consist mostly of Jewish holidays.

They say that you have to make hey when the sun is shining, and that is true… if you are a farmer. If you are an IT consultant and trainer, sometimes you have to put your thresher (or whatever the IT equivalent of whatever farm implement you use to make hey with) away for a few days, even when it is sunny. I am thrilled to be as in demand as I am (and hope that it continues into 2012). However going ‘all-out’ as I did this past year was not healthy, and I recognize that. You have to take time to smell the roses otherwise you end up feeling and looking as I have for the past few weeks. It has not been fair to my family, and although I do not think it ever showed professionally, I am reasonably sure that had Theresa not forced me to take this vacation it would eventually, and soon.

I am not going to stop working as hard as I do… I don’t think I know how, and wouldn’t want to find out. I love what I do. However I have had several discussions with Theresa about this, and understand that going forward we will be taking a vacation twice a year… whether I like it or not. That means a cruise or similar excursion where there are no cell phones and no Internet, and no meetings or colleagues. We are going to start smelling the roses before my nose falls of from disuse.

There are a number of people who see me as a mentor… look to me for advice and guidance, both personally and professionally. I am honoured to have their trust like that. Yesterday afternoon I sat in the swimming pool with one of the people that I look to for that guidance, and when Theresa described my year he called me a name that I will not repeat here. ‘I worked as hard as you did for most of my professional life, but every year I took two or even three trips to break it up and relax… Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Florida, or wherever. Otherwise you end up being of no value to anyone, much less yourself.’ It sounds like the sort of advice that I would have given to someone. Sometimes the obvious stares us in the face and we don’t see it. Sometimes we think that weakness is for other people, and that we are superheroes. Sometimes we think we are still the twenty-two year old soldier we once were, invincible and able to go all out forever. It is easy to forget that when we were soldiers we had downtime mandated, and even then some of our friends crashed out.

The sun has gone down, and the lights of Miami are behind us. The ship is sailing south toward the Caribbean, and my plans for the next six days consist of eating, drinking, relaxing by the pool, playing some cards at the casino, seeing some shows, and going ashore in our three ports of call. I do not intend to wear a watch for any of it, nor do I plan to turn my cell phone on. Okay, when we are ashore in Key West I might take it, but I haven’t decided yet. I do know that I have set my Out of Office Reply on both my personal and professional e-mail accounts, and have changed my voice mail to explain the delay in my returning e-mails and phone messages. Today I sat in an outdoor hot tub, an activity I plan to repeat several times this week. I have had a couple of drinks, but am not going to go overdo it. I did have a cigar, and plan to have at least one every day this week – an anomaly for someone who rarely smokes ten in a year – because with every puff of smoke I feel more of my stress leaving me.

I will be writing every day, but these articles will not be posted until I am back in Toronto. I will be exercising – it is time for me to start thinking about my Second Degree Black Belt, and if I want to strive for it then this vacation from physical activity has to stop. Today Theresa and I walked over 10,000 steps, and will do at least that every day, in addition to stretching and pattern practice. I will meditate, and I will stare out at the sea from our cabin’s balcony as well as from the deck. What I will not do is think about work… at least, not much. Expect the next few articles to be of a slightly different variety than you have read in these pages these last few months… they will be a sort of travelogue as well as some insight into my mind.

Thank for your continued readership.

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