“Are you working!?”
“No!” I was totally working. “I’m just writing an Instagram caption,” which is totally work, “It’s for the podcast, we interviewed my friend Danika, so really—”
“I’m giving you fifteen minutes.”
“I can do it in ten.”
Katie left me on the couch of our Airbnb, me furiously typing while she went about mixing margaritas in a cooler we manufactured out of an empty Aquafina jug. I pressed keys without thinking or editing, trying to get in just enough content to do Danika justice but short enough to fall within Katie’s fifteen minute deadline.
Katie and I spent last week in San Juan. We had one rule: No working.
Katie and I both work really hard. She’s a personal trainer while I’m a copywriter, and while her eyes glaze over when she opens her Mac and coaching 200 athletes is my definition of personal hell, we each understand the stress that comes with working for yourself. We don’t have benefits, sick days, mental health days, or regular work hours. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
Our solution to this, of course, is to simply work all the time.
This winter, it became quite apparent I was in need of a vacation.
In the month of February, I was a raging bitch. I’m sorry to all who dealt with me. Stacked against deadlines and a client list I KNEW was too much for one person to handle, I walked around each day ready to snap.
One month from turning thirty, I am finally—FINALLY—gaining the teeniest tiniest amount of self-awareness. I knew I took on too much. I knew I needed to quarantine myself from society, not to get my shit done, but to prevent myself from losing it on an innocent bystander. Most of all, I knew I really, really needed a break.
So on a particular snowy day when I looked like I was ready to kill someone, Katie suggested I needed a donut. Because donuts make people happy. She drove us through the snow to District Doughnut in Georgetown, we ordered four between the two of us, and after she crushed her second she looked at me and said, “I just want to go lay on a fucking beach.”
We made a pact. I would find the cheapest, shortest flight to a beach destination. Then I was to book flights for both of us because she knew she would never, ever pull the trigger.
Because here’s the thing about working for yourself: You will always feel guilty when not working. Yes, I can work anywhere. I can take any weekday off. I can sleep until noon. I can and do have unlimited vacation days. But here’s the hard truth about a life of seemingly limitless freedom: You don’t take advantage of any of it. There is no automatic deposit in your bank account every two weeks, and you know the only way to keep that balance at a healthy level is to go out there and scrape for it.
So while four days on the beach sounds like paradise to some, it’s the thing that scares us most.
We set two goals: not work, and come back with a tan. We did both.
I think I worked ninety minutes for the entire duration of our trip. I fired off a couple emails, edits two articles I should have finished before I left, and posted the Instagram caption Katie was yelling at me about. On the way home, I didn’t put my laptop in my carryon—something I have N.E.V.E.R. done. Ever. In my life. Of twenty-nine years.
I can sum up our Puerto Rico activities in one sentence: We ate, drank, and walked. We rented a car to go to the rain forest, but every trail was closed due to the hurricane. We tried relaxing on the beach, but we’re both so hyperactive we couldn’t sit for more than thirty minutes at a time. Every attempt at laying out turned into a Puerto Rican bar crawl, where we slowly walked from our Airbnb to Old San Juan—a distance of four miles, which we stupidly did in flip flops our first day there.
We didn’t work, workout, or regret any of it.
Name a type of alcohol, we drank it. We stopped at bars, kiosks, and this one random hut by a bridge where I captured some quality footage of Katie shot-gunning a beer. At every bar, we—meaning Katie—asked the bartender their favorite spot, choosing their answer as our next destination. And when we finally boarded our flight home, we—meaning I—was in extremely rough shape.
On Friday, Katie rallied after three hours of sleep to teach the 6AM Cut Seven class (and two more that followed). I managed to write a bio, touch base with a few clients, and half-ass my way through a workout (sorry Chris).
That trip did not give me sobriety, inner calm, or whatever-the-fuck people who meditate have. But you know what I got from it? Space. Four days away from clients gave me the mental capacity to think my own thoughts. I thought about different topics I should write about. I asked Katie questions that didn’t have to do with work. And when I started a sentence with, “FUCK I should have [blank] before I left—” she cut me off with a simple, “Dude. Don’t even think about it.”