Journalists are workaholics. It’s the nature of our profession. We’re expected to be available around the clock and willing to forfeit nights, weekends and sleep.
But sometimes, you just need to get away. A much-needed vacation can help clear your mind, refresh your stressed-out self and introduce you to new places and people.
You may think it’s hard to travel on a reporter’s no-so-generous salary, but there are plenty of ways to make the most of your travel dollars and time.
You’d better shop around
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find great deals, even if the travel bug bites at 3 a.m. Web sites such as www.farecast.com let you track when’s the best time to purchase an airplane ticket, while www.kayak.com helps you scan multiple airlines quickly. Sites such as www.hotwire.com are an easy way to get a nice hotel room for cheap.
AAA has a fuel-rate calculator at www.fuelcostcalculator.com and offers discounts, as do many employers and the Society of Professional Journalists.
“Look for as many discounts as you can using AAA, your employer or professional memberships. They’re definitely out there,” said Mike Pina, director of media relations/travel for AAA.
Working holidays and saving your time and money for off-peak travel times can also stretch your travel dollars and help you avoid travel anxiety, said Eric Kay, an editor for CBSSports.com.
“I’d rather not deal with hectic airports, jacked up lodging rates and drunk drivers by working (a holiday weekend) and then hitting the road/airport the following weekend when everything’s calmed down — traffic and monetarily speaking,” he said.
Stay with friends — but only for a while
There’s nothing better than catching up with a long-lost friend, crashing on their couch for several days and checking out the area’s attractions. But think twice about asking for accommodations if you’re more interested in a place to stay than catching up, said Adrian G. Uribarri, a staff reporter at the Orlando Sentinel.
“If you’re going to ask friends if you can stay with them, you should consider this beforehand: Would I be completely comfortable with letting this person stay with me for the same period of time?” he said.
Also, set a clear timetable for your arrival and departure, so your friendship doesn’t become a burden on your once-close friend. And never ask to stay longer once you’ve already arrived, he said.
“You shouldn’t stay longer than you said you would,” Uribarri said. “It’s difficult for friends to say no once you’re there, and asking them if it’s OK for you to stay longer puts them in a potentially awkward position.”
Just say no (to e-mail)
It can be tempting to dial into the work e-mail while you’re away from the office. But that quick visit to your work e-mail can turn into a serious distraction from your much-needed vacation as you begin to worry about work instead of your real mission: relaxation.
“Even a long weekend away can be refreshing,” said Avani Patel, an editorial page writer for the Chicago Tribune. “The key is to put the phone or BlackBerry away and really disconnect, even if only for a few days.”
Of course, not everyone is able to do that, not with the demands of today’s Internet-based news sites. Just make your e-mail checks as short as possible and remind yourself that you’ve earned your vacation time.
“I’m always plugged in thanks to my trusty BlackBerry and for better, or likely worse, I’m expected to return many e-mails in a timely manner,” Kay said. “Such is life as an editor in charge of our mobile products.”
Kay said a vacation can help journalists put their life and career in perspective, something that’s difficult to do under deadline pressure.
“Good workers have perspective,” he said. “They realize that life doesn’t equal work. And when they have that grounding, they can do great things. Because if you don’t have that grounding, you work afraid. You work scared. You work thinking every little thing you do is the end of the world when in fact it isn’t.”
Patel said hesitant journalists should just save up, do their research and pack their bags, no matter how long the trip.
“The most important thing: simply getting away,” she said.
Rebecca Neal is a reporter at The Indianapolis Star. She can be reached at (317) 444-2805.