I took 10 days off over the past week for a much needed vacation for me and my family. We made our way down to Maryland’s eastern shore (to a family farm) and then made our way to visit Washington DC.

Even though I was relaxing, I had a lot of time during our travels to think about what I learned during my vacation:

1. I disconnected from my practice.

I came back to 500+ emails — but I made sure prior to my vacation, to let all of my clients, colleagues and friends know I’d be gone and if they really needed to reach me, to call. No one called. The time away from email was energizing. Knowing every day that I could just get up and go for a swim, or a walk, or just sit and read gave me real clarity and focus.

It gave me the permission to clear out the cobwebs and focus on what really important — personally and professionally.

2. I watched people.

My disconnection allowed me to watch and engage people from all walks of life. It allowed me to see really bad service and really exceptional service during my time on the road. It

I walked around with a new sense of wonder — engaging people and asking them questions — how’s your day going, what’s it like to work here, do they ever see anyone famous, etc. It’s amazing how animated people get when they someone takes a sincere interest in their life.

3. I built deeper connections with the people I love.

One of the most important things I did was to spend time with my family — my wife and two sons (ages 11 and 16). We had a lot of fun relaxing at the farm and then sightseeing in DC. My two favorites — seeing my 16 year old son act as tour guide while we were in DC (I was so proud) and my 11 year old son have so much fun cutting down bamboo at the farm (he is a dedicated Mythbusters fan and will tackle any project with aplomb).

In addition, I spent quality time with my life partner. She and I have known each other for over 33 years (married 22) and still learn new aspects of one another every day. This vacation grew us closer together.

4. I had time to learn.

I spent a portion of my time reading and enjoying books. I also engaged with my older brother, his wife and sons and learned a host of new things about the world around me. We didn’t talk business — we talked more about the world and philosophy in general. When was the last time you did that?

5. I recharged my batteries.

Let me state — I was not ‘powered-down’ and in need of energy. I was okay — I was moving along just fine over the past eight months. But it’s like hooking you up to a powerful energy source (as in The Avengers movie, during the fight between Iron Man and Thor – Thor hit Iron Man with a huge bolt of lightning – and suddenly, Iron Man’s energy potential shot upwards of 400%).

It really got my mind working in higher gears and began to build up a reserve of energy to take me through the end of 2012. I am full of ideas and direction — stay tuned!

If you haven’t gone on vacation — GO. You can afford the time away from work.