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Why you need a vacation

Why you need a vacation

Vacations are a chance to reevaluate—and possibly redefine—who we are, says Professor Al Gini

By Al Gini
Professor of Business Ethics and Management

Ours is a culture whose mythology is steeped in the “ethics of work.” I’m convinced that we need to work, want to work, and find fulfillment and purpose in our work. But I’m also convinced that we need to play hard and vacation hard in order to fulfill ourselves as persons.

The word “vacation” is derived from the Latin word vacare, meaning to be empty or unoccupied, to suspend activity, or simply to do nothing. On vacations we turn aside, go in the opposite direction, and vacate ourselves from our usual course or purpose. The psychologist Wayne E. Oates believes that vacations offer us an opportunity to “empty ourselves of our multiple roles in life.”

Vacations are seen as an antidote to work. They are medicine, a remedy for counteracting the effects of labor. Vacations allow us to be away from the job, to change the patterns of our day, to alter our routine, to reconfigure our actions and habits, and to rediscover ourselves.

Although it is not true for everyone, we commonly associate vacations with travel. In traveling, we take ourselves outside our normal lives and our usual patterns, seeking delight, diversion, and difference. Travel gives us the opportunity or potential for solitude and speculation, for wonder and awe.

Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang said the true purpose of travel is not rest or recovery but rediscovery and renewal. In travel, he said, we “should become lost and unknown.” For Lin, vacations are opportunities to rediscover our basic humanness apart from our accustomed personas and roles in life.

To have no fixed hours, no e-mails or phone calls, and no inquisitive neighbors offers us a chance to expand our horizons. It is a chance to reevaluate—and possibly redefine—who we are. 

This article appears in the Summer 2016 issue of Loyola Magazine. Read more →