Currently I run a creative startup, and I am also currently sipping on rosé on the Cote d’Azur. This is wild. For someone who doesn’t have financial backers or a trust fund or honestly any backup plan (ps that’s like most of us our there running small businesses) HOW am I ‘vacationing’ and still running my creative empire- and not into the ground?
Steph here. And it’s simple. And it’s complicated.
I did, in fact, book a ticket. And an airbnb. That’s the more technical answer.
The other answer?
I figured a million things out AND decided that despite not having a perfect plan, that my heart was worth taking on this challenge.
That’s me. Wearing my waffle necklace (a gift from my friends at The Circle Craft), basking in the glow of just unloading my Brother, Sister In Law and two nephews onto their plane to Chicago and setting foot in my new home for 10 days- the French Riviera town of Antibes. I’m relieved. I’m nervous. I’m excited AF that this super stressful life get to be mine. Let’s take a tour, shall we, and see what I’m doing and how I was able to extract myself from my business at an honestly critical time. PS almost every moment is critical, so let’s just get that out of the way.
THE TRAVELING MINDSET
This is my beach. Well you can only see part of it. We’ll get back to that but first let’s get down to specifics.
I planned my trip in about 2 days. I was able to sort of financially afford it because I closed my Airbnb and sold all my stuff inside of it, netting me a few thousand dollars that I decided would give me a well-deserved moment away reinvigorating my creativity. Building my confidence. Loving on myself in a big way.
There’s usually not a perfect time to take a break when you’re running a creative startup but I’ll say that a good time is probably when your anxiety is so through the roof that you’d sort of rather close your business than spend another day trying to push it up a mountain.
The thing that no one tells you about business (or probably life for that matter) is that you’re your number one asset. And keeping your number one asset in good working condition (well-cared for, hydrated, inspired, fed, rested, etc) is almost top priority. Maybe it IS top priority, but my brain wants to sneak ‘almost’ into that sentence- who knows if it’s right or not.
But something I do know is that one the ONLY perks of running a wild startup is the fact that you actually do call the shots, whether people like it or not. Whether your business is cool with it or not. And the thing is, you’re the boss. So, act like it.
DAY 1: SHAKING OFF BOSS GUILT
This is me working hard to shake the guilt off my back of leaving a team behind me to do work while I galavant off in France eating baguettes and having panic attacks (I don’t think they’re related, but it feels like it). Your brain will do all sorts of things to you when you put yourself first. It will convince you of lots of things to get you to stay vigilant and protect against anything negative that might come your way that could jeopardize this baby you’ve spent 7 years building. And, hey, small business is really difficult. Scale it up like I have and it’s nearly impossible. I don’t know the statistics but I can tell you in my immediate area, there are only a handful of businesses with my operational / social complexity that have scaled up in any considerable way. And boy, is it fun when one of those bosses calls you while you’re on your trip to talk biz and financial stress. You know why? Because you don’t feel alone. You get a moment to realize that you’re one of those people who are leading the pack, one of the people who’s risking so much for their creative dreams. And THAT SHIT IS HARD.
This is my apartment, where I’m currently sitting writing this article. Because part of the deal here is that I’m working while away. Don’t feel sorry for me. I LOVE writing. I LOVE creating content. And usually, when I’m away I find it easiest to do that. So what I can get done in 14 hours at home, I’m getting done in 2 here AND I’m enjoying it. What a freeing feeling. I need to bottle this and bring it home.
I work 2 hours minimum a day.
I get up super early and I head to the beach before the kids get there. So I’m usually there for 2 hours, meditating, swimming, whispering sweet nothings in my own ear, thinking through some cool things I want to write about and coming up with at least one nugget of wisdom I can share with my team to improve their performance and job satisfaction.
SHOULD I SPEND A LOT ON A SUPER COOL HOTEL?
This is LEGIT my apartment for the next 10 days. It’s less than $100/night because I’m on a budget. But it’s adorable and clean and beautiful! It’s stocked with rosé and French yogurt and espresso and perrier because a girl needs her mornings (and late nights) to be able to be here if she’s going to be working from her cute apartment sufficiently.
Make sure to have a kitchen that works and a bathroom that’s clean (duh) and a great view. Because you don’t want to feel like you need to clean or anything. And when you’re sitting at your work table you want an inspired view.
So, there’s no need to overspend, but just don’t underspend so that you’re stuck in a place that doesn’t make it easy to both relax and get inspired work done.
But honestly, pick a place that both tickles your fancy AND fits your budget. For me, this place is super perfect.
It’s also close to everything, so it’s extremely efficient for me to access vacation and work when I need to.
PS also there’s wifi. It’s wifi that works super well, too.
PACK LIGHT, BUT BRING THE NECESSITIES.
I have a Travel folder in my Notes app that is a checklist for whenever I’ve got to grab a flight quickly, so I don’t forget anything in my manic preparation. I also put together a little Southern France capsule wardrobe and I’m KINDA impressed with myself. This is one of the only trips I’ve taken where I feel like have everything I need, and nothing more. EXCEPT one crucial item, but we’ll get into that later!
My filter for packing was: white + stripes + denim + yellow / mostly dresses + versatile shoes. All this stuff can be worn together in various ways. It’s been super fun to create outfits with it based on the weather or what I’m doing each day. Because I thought ahead, I have a wardrobe that allows me so much on-the-go flexibility. Let’s see how I did and what I picked!
Ok, so I have ONE carry-on sized bag and ONE personal item. That’s usually gonna be a great combo for any airline, so that’s what I did. I have an Over bag (which I love and which I know I need to clean so you don’t have to tell me that again) and I have a Blair Ritchey Penn Carryall. And believe me, it carries ALL. With that combo, I have more than enough room to comfortably (listen, you don’t want to traverse Europe’s cobblestone streets with super heavy luggage!) and with style, too.
Let’s talk about the clothes / shoes / accessories
2 striped dresses- one casual (which I wore on the plane) and one more dressy (which I wore in Monaco)
The White Collection: jean shorts, jeans, fancy strappy blouse, button down, easy-breezy cotton dress, heels, tennies
The Jean Collection: jean jacket (wore on the plane), jean dress (show below because i’m actually wearing it while putting this story together)
Shoes- white addidas, white heels, black heels, black birkenstocks. None of my shoes will cause me blisters or don’t fit. Truly. If I can offer you this, please find some comfortable shoes.
I also have a silk scarf from Lettie Briggs and a little sunny straw bag from JCrew.
I also have my trusty Fount Finley Clutch, and I use that on a daily basis.
What’s in my smaller bags?
2 books (one biz, one personal)
all my travel-sized toiletries
snacks (of course)
eye mask (thanks to my sister-in-law for gifting me one for the plane)
SPF Foundation + powder + YSL lipstick (it’s kind of a hybrid lipstick and chapstick and I’m obsessed)
IS IT WORKING?
It’s helping me. I was in a super stressful place emotionally before this trip. And I think it’s because I routinely say NO to myself / my heart in service of my business and team. And believe me, they didn’t ask me to do this. It’s just this compelling desire to not let anyone down. To get everything off my to-do list. To make sure that everything and everyone is cared for before I even think about myself.
I don’t think this is how we’re supposed to live. Whether we’re parents or teachers or caretakers or leaders or partners, I just don’t think we’re supposed to consistently say NO to things that bring us immense joy in favor of taking care of everyone else.
Sure, there will be consequences to this. Good and not-so-good. But that’s life, friends. In my desire to avoid the not-so-good, I’ve been choosing to say NOT to myself consistently. And it’s really catching back up with me. It’s ok to have stretches where you’re growing and getting better in ways that leave you depleted and spent and tired but it’s not a sustainable way of life. That’s why long-term battles like partnership, business, parenting are truly difficult. They do take 100% commitment to thrive. But within that it’s important to find ways to set boundaries that allow you to take care of your own creative health, too.