Take a vacation for your brain | Reporter’s Notebook

Cali Bagby is a staff reporter for the Islands’ Sounder. She was promoted to editor & sales rep of the Islands’ Weekly on Lopez Island. She will continue to love life on Orcas.

Cali Bagby is a staff reporter for the Islands’ Sounder. She was promoted to editor & sales rep of the Islands’ Weekly on Lopez Island. She will continue to love life on Orcas.

The mornings come so reliably – a cup of coffee, familiar faces and the daily sifting of emails. At the Sounder we write, we read, we juggle to be fair and ethical and still remain sensitive to our neighbors.  Every day is welcomed by a smile for this journalist who truly loves the job, loves the town, loves the work of covering everything from yellow jackets to possible arsonists to the prize winning jams at the fair.

Living on Orcas, we are not immune to crime, to heated politics or grief and disaster, but it is easy to forget the wide, expansive world outside our doors. For those of us who love our work, who dedicate our minds and hearts to the daily grind it can be hard to leave the island even on a vacation. Don’t worry, you are not alone.

According to Forbes magazine, Americans take few vacation days. Expedia.com’s “Vacation Deprivation” survey shows that Americans get the least amount of vacation days per year out of people in North America, Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.

In the spirit of “getting away from it all,” I recently took off for a backpacking trip in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon. I traded in the waves and salty wind of the islands for an 80-plus degree landscape of beige and grey and green. I spent the days physically toiling, letting my mind relax.

Experiencing the island every day is a gift and making it my home seems often like a miracle. Leaving Orcas is a gift of another sort. The trip to the Wallowas was six days of climbing 1,000-foot passes, views of marble cliffs and granite hills. The heat and dust, sweat and hunger, sore feet and aching backs were just minor obstacles in the goal of truly getting away from everything to live in the moment.

The first day was pure child-like excitement – every peak and wildflower eliciting a smile and happy sigh. As the days wore on, the cool breezes and soft bed that still existed hundreds of miles away on Orcas came into my mind like a movie reel. The notion of truly having a home to return to gave me comfort on nights when the wind shook my tent and the rain pelted the thin walls like rocks.

The greatest lesson of this vacation or any break is the ability to re-set, to take time away from the computer and let the creative forces and energy levels replenish in your brain. The fact that I was in the wilderness and could not turn on my computer, iPhone, iPad, etc., was an added bonus.

According to a 2007 New York Times story, a study found that “those who are electronically hooked up to their office, even if they are lying on the Riviera, are less likely to receive the real benefits of a vacation and more likely to burn out.”

Another study in the “Journal of Occupational Health” found that those who do not take vacations “rebound” more slowly from work stress, making them less productive on the job. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers, Businessweek reported in 2007. According to another article on CNN.com, research shows that detaching from a familiar environment can help get new perspective on everyday life.

Here is my perspective: take a break. It’s common sense if you sprain your ankle, stop running for week. If you work 9 to 5, five days a week, take a few days once a year to let your mind recover.

Also, it never hurts to have a little fun.