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My First Real Vacation Since Starting Freelancing

Well it’s been a minute huh? These past few months have been crazy busy for me with client work and I haven’t had any time to work on my own blog sadly. I also haven’t had time for a real vacation. Since really getting into freelancing full time back in January, I had taken trips here and there, three day weekends, and of course done my best to not work on the weekends in general, but I hadn’t intentionally and mindfully shut down my laptop for a week.

Sitting on a stoop in NYC during freelance vacation
A little stoop sitting break in New York City

I was reaching some scary levels of burnout. So for my birthday, I gave myself the gift of being [mostly] unplugged. I went on a little trip up north to visit family and old friends and didn’t take my laptop with me. (Just my phone, hence the “mostly” unplugged bit.)

True life: I’m self-employed and taking vacations is SO HARD

Besides being overwhelmed with client projects and feeling like I couldn’t take time off, I also just didn’t know how to have a vacation. It felt truly impossible, guys. I know that sounds weird but it’s so different taking a break when no one is giving you permission to. And you don’t get paid during it either :/ (a downside of freelancing life).

sunset in Fells Point in Baltimore
Taking a pause to watch the sunset in Fells Point in Baltimore

I was so nervous and unsure about how to go about this that I went online and asked some fellow self-employed folk in one of the Facebook groups I’m in how the hell they take real vacations. They were like “you just pick dates, tell your clients, and go”. Ughh I know this is a super “duh” thing but it’s also not. I may not have a boss, but I do have clients to answer to and I don’t want to lose them for taking time off. It’s an irrational fear – that I’ll lose clients just because I go on vacation – but it’s a fear.

Well anyways, I was just so burnt out that I really had no choice. I let all my clients and potential leads who were contacting me for future work know that I would be away from my computer from x to x date. I will say, some still weirdly expected me to be around to respond to messages or have our weekly phone call but I gently reminded them that I wouldn’t be around because I was on vacation for my birthday.

Hanging out with the Jordans in NYC
The Jordans!

My tips for taking a real vacation as a freelancer?

I’m no expert but…

  • Plan it at least somewhat in advance so you can tell clients 2 weeks ahead of time and you don’t end up accepting work with conflicting deadlines.
  • Don’t take your computer with you!! You will be too tempted to work.
  • Go somewhere, even if it’s nearby or not that exciting. When you work from home, a staycation just really really isn’t a vacation.
  • Put yourself in situations where you can be social. I mean there’s a time for everything, but freelancer life tends to be EXTREMELY solitary to begin with. Visiting friends and family felt like medicine to my lonely little heart!

Well, what’d ya do?

So I flew up to NYC and stayed with my aunt and uncle who I hadn’t seen in ages. I met up with my friend Jordan from Australia who was visiting his grandma in Connecticut and we wandered about the city together.

Jordan Sernik in Times Square
Making our way through Times Square, not without stopping by to pay homage to the Hamilton theater

I also caught up with some old friends from elementary/middle school which was wild and so fun! My birthday day was pretty chill…I went to the Met with my aunt and uncle to see a photography exhibit, then we nommed the most delicious lentil soup and avo toast in the land at a restaurant in Central Park. The sun came out for my birthday which was excellent.

In Central Park on my birthday
With my aunt in Central Park on my bday

I got my nails did with my aunt Marlene then went out to dinner with my friends to all-you-can-sushi which may or may not have ended with some members of our dinner party stuffing sushi rolls into their pockets under the table. (They charge you for leftovers though!!)

I then went to Bmore and saw Gatien which was so lovely. We laid around in Patterson Park on the most blissful, beautiful sunshiney day.

laying in the grass in Patterson Park, Baltimore

I visited another old friend, Rebecca, in DC and met lots of her friends, danced at a bar, and drank more in one night than I have in the past three months combined (four drinks. I had four drinks.)

So: HOW WAS IT??

Completely necessary.

Things were starting to feel too whirlwind to even enjoy myself anymore. Like for example, I went to San Francisco a few weeks ago to meet a client and literally slept for like 18 hours when I got back after the three days. Eighteen hours.

I just needed a break so so badly.

TDA reunion in NYC 👋🎉🍻✡️

A post shared by Michelle Vogel (@mishvo) on

I feel more refreshed and excited about my work – both for my clients and myself. I also feel more centered in terms of what I want to do with freelancing and with my blog in the future.

You guys have no idea how many times a week I think about throwing my hands up and quitting this whole endeavor. It’s really hard work. But it’s also really fulfilling work and it’s what I want, for now.

Nevertheless, given how long it took me to actually take a vacation, it’s probably time I start planning my next one…

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