Why Vacationing Makes You a Better Employee

Over the course of the last 13 years, Samantha Brown has traveled to more than 220 cities in 49 countries and 30 American states. But even though it’s her job to travel around the globe, she’s got some important advice for American workers who may not be taking all their time off.

We had the chance to catch up with Samantha in advance of this year’s Upside of Downtime Forum, where she’ll be a featured speaker. (Don’t worry, there’s still time to register!)

Editor’s note: this interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You have travelled all over the world over the course of your career. What's the best place for someone who doesn't think that they can take a vacation to go unwind and recharge?
I like to say, "dream global, but think local.” Check out your own home state’s official tourism site that is usually so incredibly well curated with ideas for getaways—whether it’s relaxing, romantic, family-focused, or adventurous. Choose a destination that is only a two- to four-hour drive away, so you spend as little of your time off in transit. Make it easy and keep it simple.

On your show, 50/50, you run into people who are unable to take vacation for one reason or another. Our research tells us that a lot of that has to do with communication between managers and employees. What are some of the reasons that people talk themselves out of these opportunities?
In 50/50, we always filmed the person we ambushed calling his or her boss. It was this pivotal moment of: are they going with us or not? Unbelievably, every boss said enthusiastically — go!

Similarly, how has your work on 50/50 made an impact on your advice to travelers on the whole—are you thinking about more ways people can recharge aside from large-scale trips?
One concern I had about the potential takeaway of that show was that travel had to be expensive and bucket-list-big to have an impact. I actually believe in the opposite. Weekends away—even a day trip—do wonders for recharging batteries.

I do have one rule: no staycations! If you're going to take a few days, you really do have to stay at a hotel or inn to get the full effect of being away. Home is where the heart is—but also the dishes, laundry, and that garage that needs cleaning out, as well.

One of your favorite travel quotes is, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” What's your advice for professionals who don't take all of their vacation and miss out on the opportunity to have these great experiences?
I think they are actually missing out on being a better employee.

I've always done my clearest thinking or problem-solving when I’m away. When you are no longer surrounded by what’s familiar, your mind opens up and when that happens it allows new ways and new solutions in. So one thing I recommend when people travel is to schedule a nice walk every day and think about issues that remain frustratingly unsolved to see if an answer bubbles up to the surface. 

Now that's having a productive vacation.

Want to hear more from Samantha? She’ll be joining several experts in speaking at this year’s Upside of Downtime Forum on October 5 in Washington, D.C. Register today!


September 27, 2016