2016 was a year of career experimentation for me. And while I was on this journey, I traveled…a lot. But it wasn’t until my recent trip to the Netherlands that I really gained a new perspective on what work-life balance really meant. In fact, it made me reevaluate my approach on how to make a living while living on what I’m making. 
Understanding What Work-Life Balance Really Means
When I traveled to the Netherlands, I was introduced to a different work-life reality. The Dutch work hard, but they have a strong work-life balance. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2013, the average Dutch worker earned $91,574 a year, while the average American worker earned only $55,708. But what I found surprising is that the average American had to work 219 hours more per year for this lower salary.
 
I actually discovered this while having lunch with my wife in Amsterdam one afternoon. In the Netherlands, you don’t arrive late to a meeting, but you also don’t leave for your lunch break a second past noon. If it’s summer, jumping into the lake to swim with the swans is an acceptable way to spend your lunch hour. If you eat a sandwich at your desk, people will scold you. The Dutch take their lunchtime pretty sacred. An idea I’m ready to assimilate into my everyday work life.
Understanding That I Can Work Part-Time Professionally
I had no idea that Amsterdam was a hosting area for part-time freelancers. There’s a whole culture for it out there. In fact, they have a thing called professional part-time work: part-time jobs that include every benefit of a full-time job, including vacation time and even retirement plans. Salaries for part-time work are set as a percentage of a professional full-time salary­ because, unlike in the United States, part-time and freelance jobs aren’t viewed as unskilled jobs with their attendant lower pay. An idea I’d unknowingly adopted last year when I decided to divide my time between working on freelance projects and teaching dancing, (missing content)
 
This is an idea that I’m planning to continue throughout this year…’nuff said. 
Understanding that I have lots of vacation/free time and didn’t have to feel guilty about taking it.
Between 2012 and 2015, I was fortunate enough to be part of an employee-centric company. Officially, I received 10 days of paid vacation per year,  but also officially, we had an unlimited vacation policy (what does this mean?), and I never felt guilty taking time off. It was a bit difficult to find the same understanding elsewhere, as I still….
 
These things bring me back to the people in Europe they took vacationing serious. Once, when I told a friend living in the Netherlands that I only took 10 days for a trip to Vietnam last year, he chastised me for taking so little time off. I learned to take vacation chunks in two-week intervals. Well rested, I noticed that I felt more productive and creative when I returned to work. Recent American research confirms what I was feeling: relaxing can make you more productive. So why don’t Americans embrace vacation time? 
 
Understanding that Work Life Balance = Work Life Alignment
What 2016 really taught me was that…. Mainly, I divided my time between dancing, marketing consulting, and freelance designing. I was trying to figure out a way to do all these things while still maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle. It wasn’t until last summer that I realized I didn’t have to choose. I just have to stay true to staying balanced.
That’s right I took an entire year to refocus my passion. Now, I’m ready to tackle the new year with more experience under my belt. Best of all? I’ll be sharing my journey with you. 
Sincerely,
My at Project 100

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