I’m in the US on business for a couple of days, delivering a device prototype to Chicago that my Dutch designers finished in Maastricht last week. They’ve done amazing work – moving from concept to prototype, successful data collection to accepted abstracts, in a few month: light-speed by medical device development standards. This will be the last of the functional validation before completing the pre-production design: I’m back in the Netherlands on Monday to work with the design team on the touchscreen displays and patient interface evaluation.
When was the last time you were in one place longer than two weeks?
A European friend asked that: ‘given the pace of the past few months, both companies fundraising and moving into preproduction design and testing, it’s not surprising that I’ve been moving around. It’s even more telling that I couldn’t come up with an answer without checking my time sheet.
You live in Europe: it’s like vacation all the time?
A US-based friend asked that: ‘given the pictures and stories that fill my blog, visits to art shows and mooie dorpen, its not surprising that I’ve appeared to be on break. No checking was needed though: I was ready for a vacation without a time sheet.
- Breaking training.
Even though I’m living in Europe, it’s not the same as vacationing in Europe. There are a thousand elements of establishing and living daily life that have to be learned, new language, customs, knowledge and processes that have to pick up, apply, and correct. I am always watching and learning: I love it, but it’s always active and adapting.
A vacation breaks with that – I visit somewhere that I don’t need to learn about or fit into beyond what is interesting and engaging.
- Breaking connectivity.
Since I have family and business connections spread over both sides of the Atlantic, my wired connections sprawl across means and times. News from the US arrives overnight: calls to the US linger past dinner. In between, my virtual organizations require constant coordination and communication, constant e-mail, Skype, phone and Facebook, to manage and motivate the group. I love it, but my to-do list never clears.
A vacation snaps those connections: I advise everyone that I will be offline and I turn off all of the devices. I’m available in emergencies, but otherwise don’t need to connect beyond informal conversations.
- Breaking habits.
I live alongside a notepad and a diary, executing plans and visiting worksites. In a startup, resources are scarce, funding is transient, opportunity feels fleeting. So there’s a bias towards action: if I don’t do things, they don’t get done. The result is 100,000 air miles, closets in three countries, the struggle to find time to read, exercise, practice language or play with charcoals.
A vacation restores balance and dimensionality. I love sailing, the play of wind water propelling the boat, the set and drift of navigating, the scrolling panoramas of sky and shore. The time to study clouds and immerse with a book.
No, I still need to take vacations, even though I live in Europe.
And next year I need to plan for two weeks, in the same place.