When you are living la vida freelance, summers can come and go without even a hint of a vacation.

Taking intentional time off from your day-to-day affairs could be the most important thing you invest in all year – and for creative professionals all the more so. There’s no shortage of scientific studies proving the value of taking a vacation for productivity and happiness.

Beyond that, for creative freelancers, the opportunity for off-task thinking and self-reflection that vacations provide is key to generating the new perspectives that keep your work fresh.

I have long admired how my friend, freelance makeup and hair stylist Kyle Goodwin, manages to to go away on vacation regularly despite his irregular work schedule. With some of his gigs confirmed well in advance and others getting booked on very short notice, there’s no way for him to predict with certainty the perfect time to take off on vacation.

He tells me the key is just to commit regardless of uncertainty. “If it’s a weekend at a friend’s beach house or a week in Aruba, if I say ‘let me wait and see if I book a job’, there will always be a job and never a vacation. You just take the chance.”

When it’s simply not possible to take that chance, you shouldn’t let that stop you from reaping the benefits of a vacation. Here are a few of my favorite ways to get into that vacation mindset regardless of money or time.

Day-cation

Take one day a week (or month) off for your own rest and relaxation. A fellow freelancing friend and I have a summer Friday tradition.

We spend the last day of each workweek at a nearby beach and we take it seriously–bikinis, sun hats, beach reading, the whole deal. Sitting on the boardwalk with tacos and beers, we take particular joy in toasting the city skyline and all the people hard at work in those distant skyscrapers.

Stay-cation

Have a friend take their vacation in your town and be a tourist with them, doing all the things you never do as a local. Museums, aquariums, historic sites, and corny photo opps–every time I’ve done this, it has been a total blast!

It’s a really fun to experience your own surroundings through an out-of-towner’s eyes.

Heath-cation

Take a week to focus on your health. Prioritize your daily activities around taking awesome physical care of yourself, whatever this means to you. Many gyms and yoga studios offer free or discounted one week passes.

Treat yourself to a DIY spa day and whip up some natural beauty treatments in your kitchen. Come up with some new ways to take amazing care of yourself on a regular basis.

Edu-cation (see what i did there?)

Focus one week on learning something completely new, or practicing a skill you’ve been wanting to refine. There are free or cheap online resources for learning pretty much anything: Improve your french on iTunes, get academic with MIT open courseware, or up your squirrel photo game.

I learned Shibori tie-dying almost entirely from Instagram! Or get off the internet and organize a skill trade with fellow freelancers.

What are your vacation plans? Have any successful vacation or alterna-cation tips to share?