Why I'm Taking Almost A Month Off Work

I’m currently in the middle of Europe in a sprinter camper van, vacationing with my partner and close friends for the rest of April. I will not be answering my emails or doing any work while we drive through 5 countries in Europe and fill our days rock climbing at world-renowned crags, sightseeing, swimming, and eating a lot of delicious meals.

This trip has been the outcome of years of dreaming, months of planning, and confronting a lot of fears. A long-held dream of mine has been to live internationally for long stretches of time, but I never had the opportunity to actualize it until now. 

Work got in the way, playing safe with money got in the way, finding a sitter for two dogs got in the way, and another 1,000 excuses. There was also my internal chatter that in order to be a successful business owner, I had to work as much as possible and that a month-long vacation was irresponsible.

Despite my personal hold-ups, I knew that the one thing I am certain of is that I love traveling. It fuels me, inspires me, and gives me the opportunity to live in awe. So when our friends invited us on a month-long trip around Europe, I knew that there was no way that I was going to let the opportunity pass. My long-held dream finally had legs and I had to step up to actualize it. As soon as I bought that first plane ticket, all of the scary questions and unknowns easily found their solutions. We found a lovely couple that was willing to watch our dogs for the month. I was able to bring in all the income I needed to cover all of my trip, personal, and business expenses while I’m away, and none of my clients objected to the pause in work.

Taking a risk in pursuit of my personal happiness ended up not being a risk at all. It was just an alternative way of planning and living my life.

As entrepreneurs, we’re taught to be bold with our ventures but to avoid the same perspective when it comes to our personal lives. We play it safe and avoid risk — we save money for retirement even though we want to spend it on a boat, we follow our parents’ advice of putting the majority of our savings down on a house and taking on a mortgage even though it makes us wildly uncomfortable, and we keep the stable business running even when we want to burn it to the ground and start something new. Many of us do these things because of what others expect from us, what we’ve learned to expect for ourselves, and/or because it’s scary to take a risk on non-traditional alternatives.

To me, the fun of being an entrepreneur is not living to work, but working to live. There is a freedom that entrepreneurship grants, but entrepreneurs struggle with society’s expectations of the “responsible” thing to do with freedom. 

It’s not “responsible” to spend without saving for a home, it’s not “responsible” to take time off without responding to emails, it’s not “responsible” to pause your life because you want to play for a month. Our definition of “responsibility” comes from someone other than ourselves, and we’re never asked to define what the word means to us personally.

The moment that I recognized that my definition of “responsibility” came from someone other than me, every entrepreneurial fiber in me collectively cringed. It felt very misaligned to carry out a professional life where I avidly poke and prod businesses with the goal of questioning norms and innovating, but to not exercise that same value in my personal life. 

Accepting things at face value just because that’s how it always has been is not okay in entrepreneurship and it’s not okay to apply to your personal life either. It’s a navigation away from your truth when you go through the motion of living without actively living.

Want To Make A Change?

Take the same approaches you use as an entrepreneur and apply it to your personal life — where is there a deficit and how can I address it? How can I look at this problem from a different perspective and innovate? What are the expectations of this current product (me) and why is it not working? Is this “me” I’m creating authentic? What isn’t working anymore and needs to be disrupted?

Whatever answers come up for you, I hope to see you navigate towards your truth. Even if it does mean saving money for a downpayment, or keeping your startup just the way it is, as long as you’ve taken the time to analyze your definition for various markers rather than relying on the definitions that society has given you, that space is where you can thrive as an entrepreneur in your personal life in addition to your work life. 

For more startup support, grab my Pitch Deck Checklist or my ‘Find Your Customers’ worksheet to fine-tune your pitch deck or marketing strategy.

Sophia Sunwoo