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Kim Heidorn
Kim Heidorn

Posted on

To Code, or Not to Code on Vacation: That is My Question

I just got back from a 2 week vacation. This was my first long vacation since I really have sunk my teeth into passion projects, and I found myself coding more than I anticipated.

Personally, I plug in when I code. I don the oversized headphones, listen to my focus music of choice, and zone out trying to solve problems. When I am home, I rarely set time limits for myself, and I continued that pattern on vacation. Something to note, I find coding therapeutic. I get to stretch my creativity, and I’m a bit of an introvert so coding gives me a chance to recharge from social interactions that I can find draining at times.

Inadvertently on this vacation, I isolated myself from my friends and family.

Know that I'm not happy about it

While everyone seemed content and made no mention of my absence, I could not help but feel like I was missing out on the intention of vacation. Instead of immersing myself in my book or chatting with people in lawn chairs, I spent time in front of my computer screen. Really nothing had changed from my day to day activities other than the setting and that I was working on fun problems by choice. Now that I am back, I am regretting limiting my screen time. I think there is this notion that vacation is supposed to be about reconnecting with people, strengthening existing relationships while also finding some me time away from the blue screen light. I cannot help this gnawing feeling that I missed out on some valuable parts of my vacation.

So my questions to the community, do you code while on vacation? If so, when do you find time to code? How do you feel when you code around people?

Selfishly, I do not want to stop coding when I’m on vacation. So, what tips do you have to help avoid my guilty feelings on future trips?
I feel so bad about it

Discussion (36)

buphmin profile image

I will just be honest, do what makes you happy and don't feel bad about it. That is what vacation is about. If being in front of your computer makes you happy then so be it. Don't let others tell you what vacation meens because you are you. One other point is try not to regret it, I feel it is not productive.

phacus profile image
Tiago Rinaldi

I agree. Completely.

In my first job I thought I had to know everything, I'm not talking about the project itself, I'm talking about the internals of how the language was compiled, how the intermediate code would look like...

I had to quit in 7 months because I was burned out and starting to develop a depression (Well, if I don't know anything, how will I survive in this business?).

That depression took almost 3 years of my life. Of course YMMV, but, as @buphmin said "do what makes you happy and don't feel bad about it"

guitarino profile image
Kirill Shestakov

Even though this is true, the fact that the author felt regret is a sign that there was something missing. Something that makes you happy in the moment is not something you should always do. Sometimes it's important to spend time with friends and loved ones, sometimes it's important to take a "me time" break. It gives you a different kind of happiness, a more lasting happiness, even if it doesn't make you happy in the moment.

bce_merde profile image

yea.. if it made you feel okay at the moment then it's okay. Don't think about it that much.. I just had one week vacation after working my ass off for a year and a half and you know what I did? I just cleaned and reorganized my house and computer. Also, I scheduled health appointments to check me since I didn't do it for a long time. At the end of my vacation, I was exhausted since I didn't really "rest" properly during that week but in the end, I was satisfied I could have the time to do what I wanted to do for some time. The next weekend I slept for 18 hours lol.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I think your feelings towards coding on vacation will, and probably should, change depending on your situation.

Are you excited and itching to code? Then code!

Does it seem more out of work pressure, stress, and anxiety of not coding? Then work on finding time away from the screen. It doesn't seem like this is how you were feeling.

Inadvertently on this vacation, I isolated myself from my friends and family.

I'd advise you to get in the habit of being very communicative about your planned activities, and set expectations. If you are excited about coding, make sure people know you're genuinely having a good time with it so they don't worry about you.

I personally do try to get away from coding a bit, because I have been coding too much for too many years and time away is good for me. I used to spend all my vacation time coding and I loved it!

I typically do more explicit reading about code while I'm on vacation. Loading up a book on a Kindle is a good way to keep learning if that's what's most interesting to you at the time while eliminating some stigma you get from your friends and family, because reading a book on vacation is non-controversial.

Self-awareness is key. Pay attention to your mental health and do what's good for you. Remember, it's a marathon not a sprint.

therealkevinard profile image
Kevin Ard • Edited on

Vacation, or plain off-time (weekends, after-hours, so on), I have a hard rule: No. Friggin. Building. None of it.

I don't like that rule because my brain doesn't stop, but I need it for sanity. I have a compromise: No code, but I can ponder.

I take that time away from the screen to do fun things - hiking, playing handball, watching raindrops, real-world things - but I allow myself to reflect on what I've built, and think-through what I plan on building.

The outcome is a happy, well-balanced me, and a very clear direction once I'm allowed to lay down SLOCs again.

Frankly, some of my best architectural decisions have come from this. I hike, I make my way to a good sit-rock in the middle of a raging creek, sit for a few hours and watch the water, then I go back to Intellij on Monday and build a streaming-data solution that has no problem with billion+ records/day

davidallyoung profile image
David Young

I think, as with most things, there are seasons where you can't get enough code and then there are seasons where you need breaks. I just try to listen to my body. Am I getting more frustrated than intrigued by problems? Maybe it's time for other activities. As I've gotten into my 6th year of writing software professionally I find myself coding less outside of work, but it could just be a season! Listen to your body and if you can find someone to check in with that knows you well that can be a great help too! I have a couple of people I check in with, one is my wife who really knows me well and can tell when I'm agitated or not happy, and then another is a coworker I trust to be honest with me about my work and how I'm interacting with others. At the end of the day, just ask yourself why you're doing what you do, and if the why is lined up with what you really value I think it will all shake out in the end. (Whether you're on vacation or not ha)

190245 profile image

During a family trip overseas a few years back, I didn't code. We went to a 3-star full board hotel in a warm climate by the sea.

My favourite memory from that holiday is of myself, wife & son playing all day long in the approx 2m swell on the beach.

Last year, my wife & I were to go on an adults only holiday, 5-star all inclusive, right on the beach. She unfortunately couldn't come, so I went alone. My daily routine was breakfast, swim in the sea, comedy podcasts until the bar opened & then sit under a tree writing code & steadily drinking free beer (coding the way coding should be done...).

I don't have anything near the same level of memories, but the point of the latter holiday was to unwind & de-stress. I did that successfully.

Different type of holiday, different activities, different memories.

Both were very good holidays.

hamatti profile image
Juha-Matti Santala

Really nothing had changed from my day to day activities other than the setting and that I was working on fun problems by choice.

I think this is the important sentence. You say "nothing had changed" but actually quite a lot had changed.

Of course, it's often very good to completely distance yourself from work-related activities but at least for me, hacking away on some funny projects with zero pressure, zero deadlines and knowing I can just stop working on it if I don't enjoy it, is a great way to relax.

I got into this industry because I loved coding. That has not changed so on my free time, if I have time and energy and I get excited about coding, I'll code to my heart's content.

scriptmunkee profile image
Ken Simeon

There is lots of great advice in the comments. Biggest thing about vacations is finding time to reflect on yourself & as many said do what you enjoy.

However, if you are on vacation with others the point of the vacation is to balance your enjoyments with the group. If that is what happened overall, then no guilt should be felt.

But, when a vacation is all for you, then CODE LIKE THE WIND. Or do whatever your mind & body is needing of you to enjoy your time away from work/school.

Bottom line, if you still feel guilt about the vacation then you need to talk to those important to you from the vacation to make sure your relationships are solid. Once that is resolved, then there wont be any feelings of guilt.

ajonp profile image
Alex Patterson

Once I explained (many years ago) to my wife that coding gives me great joy, it was much easier to explain. So now when I code and she reads Marley and Me, we are both happy...well kinda.

However we always agree no phones at the dinner table.

brunooliveira profile image
Bruno Oliveira

I think it's important to stay on top of your game. Not even joking, but you can get really rusty and behind your normal flows if you completely don't touch a keyboard at all. This being said, the trick for me is to find a balance. At daily work, I need to be completely involved in coding. Writing a lot, deleting a lot, attending meetings, emergency bugs, etc, and it can be draining.
In holidays, I do much more passive activities: reading books, articles and blogs and writing code on paper to solve algorithm interview questions purely on conceptual levels. Thinking about inefficient algorithms, trying to optimize them, looking up online if stuck but always on paper. Then I write some code 2/3x a week

sarafian profile image
Alex Sarafian

I disagree with the "what makes you happy". There are other things that make us happy and are not good for us. Actually most things in life are like that. I'm more for moderation. I used to be like that when I was younger but I got burned up. Back then I didn't realize the importance of disconnecting and I always felt that I had the energy.

Don't get me wrong, some people cope well and don't get affected. But always remember that you only hear the successful stories and never the unhappy ones. Having said that, my advice is to be careful and always try to protect your health.

kensixx profile image
Ken Flake

This thread and discussion section has been helpful for me. I'm also having a 2 week vacation from coding. Back to work starts tomorrow.

My mindset was like, try to avoid from code as possible in these 2 weeks. It's very confusing, really; I want to solve / accomplish my tasks at work but at the same time I want to avoid it for the time being.

This makes me kinda regretting it, because right off the bat, you can say that I'm not willing to accomplish my tasks.

as @buphmin mentioned, "One other point is try not to regret it, I feel it is not productive."

@ben also said "Does it seem more out of work pressure, stress, and anxiety of not coding? Then work on finding time away from the screen."

My pessimistic side tells me that I'm just fooling myself that what I'm doing (avoiding to code for the meantime) is right. But whatever. I know that I'll do my tasks anyway after this vacation.

I'll try to gain these mindsets bit by bit.

supab3ans profile image

Vacation is all about unwinding; if coding is your unwind then go for it. Personally, I like to give my vacation time to something other than coding.

dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis

hi. as I wrote here I kinda have the same - but opposite - dilemma.
For me coding on vacation is a absolutely a no-go. I need to recharge, I need to keep some distance from what takes my mind busy all year round. and I do all I dont have much time or opportunity to do otherwise - that is mostly travelling, doing sports and be in the nature. ( as you can see not much of social things anyway. :-) )
But what you do on vacation is up to you. It is your vacation and you should do whatever makes you feel good and happy. It could be partying, and binge drinking and sleeping 4 h each night or could be coding your fun projects. Then over the years you will realize that some of the things you like to do are not that healthy ( coding on vacation might be one of these :-) ) and you might learn to stay away from it or reach some more balance. Until then, have fun and do what you love.

2ezpz2plzme profile image
Steven Liao

I often ask myself this question. I had done this before, and it can definitely lead to burnout. Gotta be careful.

dels07 profile image
Deli Soetiawan • Edited on

Since I have two kids, vacation mean I cannot be in front of my screen, even though sometimes I want to :D, but friend/family time is important, trust me they will be there when you down unless if you never socialize with them

It's easier to find a new job rather than find a new family

Just my 2 cents

ssbozy profile image
Sandilya Bhamidipati

I write code all the time. Even during vacations. I look at coding as a form of catharsis. That said, sometimes I just switch off all electronics and just read a book(s). If writing a few lines of code for your project makes you happy then that is what you need.

ward profile image

Also, would love to add that if you like to code on vacations / free time, I can only congratulate you. It really shows passion for what you do.

That's passion in my book.

shamimahossai13 profile image
Shamima Hossain

Yass..planning to spend my vacation like that as well. Keep doing what you love without thinking of others!!

waylonwalker profile image
Waylon Walker

I find vacation a fun time to dig into something that I have wanted to explore and learn about, but will not provide value to my work right away.

I also have a family with small children at home so I find it important to be intentional about it. I set some time boundaries, this is usually when kids wake up from nap. I set a goal to touch on certain things. But I don't set goals about the end product. This is my time to have fun and explore new things, not feel guilty that I didn't finish or that it was a crappy result. You need a few shitty projects under your belt to really understand new things sometimes.

Most importantly do what you enjoy and don't feel guilty about it. It's your vacation spend it how you want to.

steveblue profile image
Steve Belovarich

I refrain completely from anything related to work on vacay. TBH I really want a complete digital detox while I vacate, but try to limit smartphone interactions to apps that provide a modicum of utility.

Don’t get me wrong. I ❤️ coding but when it starts interfering with relationships it’s time to re-examine priorities. Vacations for me are time to spend with people I care about doing things we can share together. Vacations are a time to explore and my spirit yearns for that sort of unimpeded adventure from time to time. Last year we really didn’t get a vacation, so this year I’m finding at least two weeks to play hard, see parts of the world I haven’t and be with the people I love. I’ll bring a camera, but no laptop.

amjadmh73 profile image
Amjad Abujamous


To be honest, I just came back from a two week vacation and the same thing happened with me. I found myself taking my laptop to a coffee shop and coding and it was a lot of fun!

It made me happy and I enjoyed every second. I totally agree with @buphmin , if that makes you happy too, then don't worry about it.

Just make sure to see the people you love at least every other day if you live with them to keep in touch and all will be great.

bugsysailor profile image
Bugsy Sailor

My take is to not let inspiration go to waste. If you're inspired, code. If you're not, don't touch the dang coding machine.

Sometimes I find that inspiration gets in the way of enjoying vacation, time with friends, etc. But I know it's a jerk move to my friends when I grab my coding machine out of habit.

achimoraites profile image
Achilles Moraites

While coding on vacation is something I personally do and enjoy as well, I try to manage my time to also hang out with friends and family as well :)

If you feel satisfied doing something, there's no reason to feel bad about it , just make sure to give yourself some relaxation as well , because our line of work is mentally demanding and resting is a must ;)

qcha0s profile image
Robert French

@buphmin nailed it ... and the chili peppers said (quoting another group) "It's better to regret something you did, then something you didn't do." - don't regret it, be happy! eat candy and write code #devLife

jerilbills profile image
Jeril Bills

I'm barely learning to code, so I can't usually offer anything helpful on here, but having grown up in a very strict religious family I think I'm something of an expert on guilt! I personally find Dr. David Burns' advice in Feeling Good to be super helpful. He dedicates am entire chapter to it, and I think it's well worth reading.

As for what to do on vacation, I think the philosophical discussion in the comments is really interesting. My take on it is that "vacation" is a social construct and it's impossible not to be influenced by information from social dictates of what a vacation "should" look like. I guess it seems like a good idea to try to get in the weeds of what you actually want from a vacation vs. what other people say a vacation "should" be, although there's no getting around the fact that even our wants are shaped by social constructs. But to the extent possible, trying to figure out what you actually personally want from a vacation and basing your choices in that seems like a good idea going forward. Wouldn't worry about what's already past, though!

ward profile image

Do what you want, how about that?

My perspective on this - you are going to be working your ass off later until the point looking at code will become depressive without taking time off.

msamgan profile image
Mohammed Samgan Khan

Code love code.

max_tulian profile image
Max (he/his)

It's good to have a great moment doing and follow your passions. But... I think it's also good to share that passion with someone :) In my experience, it's better when is shared :)

aquasar profile image
Alex Quasar

Take some time off to avoid burnout! You might form some new perspectives and be more productive when you return

mzaini30 profile image

Code is refreshing 😂👍

ux4web profile image
Chaman Sharma

Well, NoCodeRevolution by tools like Webflow is really making the code or no code debate easier by going with NoCode for small projects.