This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at depictdatastudio.com.
“Are you going to write a blog post about taking 3 months off??” a colleague asked me.
“I wasn’t planning on it. I wanted to take off the summer to be with my kids, so I did. I didn’t do anything profound.”
“But that’s exactly what’s profound about it – that you don’t even think it’s a big deal.”
Here’s how it worked.
When kindergarten ended and the kids went on summer break, so did I.
First, we enjoyed an Orlando staycation week.
We sang our favorite Encanto songs around Disney.
We slipped ‘n’ slid in the backyard.
Then, we packed our camping gear and headed west.
We spraypainted cars at Cadillac Ranch.
We rented bikes in New Mexico.
We jeeped through southwestern Utah’s trails on 100-degree days.
And then cooled off at the local rec centers.
We ate glamorous dinners while BLM-camping.
We collected treasures and mosquito bites along the Colorado River.
We cub-wrestled and cuddled in the tent every morning.
We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along creeks.
We cartwheeled through the Salt Flats.
We tagged along to mommy’s work conference in Boise. The girls still talk about the closing party, which was luau-themed.
We earned Junior Ranger Badges from lava rocks.
We hiked around Jenny Lake with my 30-pound “backpack.”
We watched the geysers from Old Faithful Inn.
We cub-wrestled and cuddled some more.
We collected wood for campfires.
We held our noses around the stinky mud pots.
We had snowball fights in July.
We rodeo’d in Wyoming, and stayed afterwards to get the clowns’ autographs.
We meditated among fallen trees in Wyoming, my 6-year-old’s “happy place.” Mine too, girl. Mine too.
We walked along dinosaur tracks.
We earned more Junior Ranger Badges.
We motorcycled through Sturgis.
We panned for gold, explored mines, and rode horses through the Black Hills.
We kayaked in Custer State Park.
We napped whenever we wanted to.
We smiled nicely for the camera.
We drank 5-cent coffee among the jackalopes.
We met up with grandpa and made him buy us all the toys.
We splashed in fountains in Omaha.
We stopped at public parks to get the wiggles out.
We celebrated our wedding anniversary from a children’s museum.
We forgot to make reservations and couldn’t actually go to the top of the arch.
We zoo’d and baseball’d in St. Louis.
We Varisty’d in Atlanta.
After 7 weeks, 20 states, and 7,412 miles, we were home.
We went back-to-school shopping and got our ears pierced.
Our 18-month-old FINALLY started walking. No more 30-pound “backpack” for mommy to carry!!!
We staycationed in Orlando some more.
A couple weeks later, it was time for first grade for the big kid, “Daddy School” for the little kids, and work for mom.
From 5 Weeks Off in 2021…
Last year, in the summer of 2021, my husband and I loaded our 3 kids into our Jeep for a 5-week road trip throughout the southwestern U.S.
In our 1998 Jeep with 275,00 miles.
With our 4-month-old son.
That seemed… normal… for us.
After all, we’d spent 2019 and early 2020 traveling throughout South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Surely we could handle tent-camping for 5 weeks.
My only regret: that it wasn’t longer.
… to 3 Months Off in 2022
I started planning my 2022 summer vacation an entire year in advance:
- scheduling all my client workshops and consulting projects for non-summer months;
- spacing out my online courses to allow for a long summer break; and
- politely declining all volunteer work (podcast interviews, guest lecturing, opportunities to review books and manuscripts, and serving on committees).
And then I took 3 months off.
And nobody minded.
I would say to prospective clients, “I’m not available over the summer, how about a fall training?” It was simple.
There were zero business repercussions.
Quite the opposite.
2022 has been the highest net revenue year yet for Depict Data Studio, despite working the least. Likely because I worked the least, and was the most focused.
It Took Years to Fine-Tune My Own Schedule
My 3-month vacation didn’t happen overnight.
It was 8 years in the making.
My first day of self-employment was September 8, 2014.
Ten days later, my husband turned 30, and he decided he was ready to have kids. This threw me off; we’d been married nearly a decade already (high-school sweethearts) and we’d firmly decided we were on the no-kids track.
After some convincing, I changed my mind, and our first daughter was born in 2015.
In 2015, practically overnight, I transformed from a typical DC-area workaholic into taking several months off for maternity leave. With lots of long-term contracts on my plate, this was no small feat. There was lots of planning. Subcontractors, adjusting timelines, submitting deliverables. During my very first year of self-employment, I was already working part-time. By necessity, not by choice.
In 2016 and 2017, I chose to take off Fridays to be with baby 1. We called them “Field Trip Fridays” and we visited every museum, zoo, and state park within a 2-hour drive of our apartment.
In 2018, baby 2 was born, and despite Field Trip Fridays with my two kiddos, my frequent work travel was taking a toll. I couldn’t stand to be away from my kids. There were lots of homesick flights to/from conferences and client workshops.
In 2019, we sold nearly everything to travel the world with our two kids. This felt logical at the time: Just bring the kids along as I taught dataviz in Guatemala, Zambia, Canada, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea… It was a grand adventure and my only regret is not taking the leap sooner.
In 2020, we hunkered down in Florida during the pandemic, fell in love with purple sunsets and palm trees, bought a house, and decided to try for baby 3. I knew I’d be working virtually for a while. It’s rough to be pregnant on planes, so I figured it’d be easier to be pregnant on my own couch during quarantine.
Despite years of Field Trip Fridays and frequent time off, 2021 demanded even more flexibility. Baby 3 arrived early. There were multiple hospital stays. I was grateful that I’d carefully crafted this part-time schedule, one percent at a time, over the past few years. It was another year of working part-time by necessity, not by choice, with the exception of a 5-week not-long-enough camping trip in the middle.
By 2022, it was time to go for it: The full 3-month vacation dream.
What’s In Store for 2023
I’ll continue working the K12 school calendar. When my kids are home from school, the Depict Data Studio office is closed.
I’ve already had to decline speaking at a few summer 2023 conferences. Most of these organizations also host virtual training throughout the year, so it’s simply a “let’s work together in the spring or fall” scenario.
I’ll try to find time for volunteer projects again.
It’s a tough balancing act: Spend a few extra hours on a blog post that a hundred thousand people will skim or speak in a graduate course to just 15 people, which is an intimate setting where we can really connect?
Both volunteering options help the next generation of datavizzers. I’ll probably focus on blogging as my primary volunteering outlet because it has the most efficient “one to many” structure.
Answering Your Questions
Want to work up to regular 3-month vacations and part-time work? What sorts of logistical questions do you have? Ask me anything.