As Scicurious very sensibly noted last week, it's okay for scientists to take a vacation. The world won't end, your research won't be ruined, students will survive for a week without you, and that departmental meeting you're missing isn't really that critical, right? Yet every time I leave, even if it's for a conference, review panel or something else that's not actually vacation, I practically twitch with guilt and unease.
Part of the problem is that I still have no full-time person in the lab to oversee everything in my absence. For a variety of reasons (which I'll cover someday), I've been able to keep the lights on and publications flowing with tiny grants, but haven't yet landed anything big enough to pay for much more than supplies and a bit of hourly labor. So, while I have some fabulous grad students who have worked in the lab long enough to be independent, there still really isn't anyone "in charge" when I'm not around. I worry constantly that something bad will happen when I'm gone and there won't be anyone around to deal with it.
The other issue is that vacations aren't relaxing anymore. Granted, the last real "vacation" I had--where I actually went to a destination with the sole purpose of taking a break, and ended up actually doing only that--was as a high schooler. Since that time, any time off has been spent traveling to visit family members back home, almost always coupled with assignments to finish or papers/grants to write. Yet no matter what or how much I do when I'm traveling, I never feel caught up when I return home. It's days like these when I almost long for my waitressing days of yore, when I could at least leave the job behind and not worry about playing catch-up when I returned to work. How do you out there do it? Unplug totally? (Not an option due to issues with Progeny's biological father, unfortunately--need at least a phone on). Leave the computer behind, lab be damned? Middle ground?