PHOTOS: What It Looks Like to Vacation As a Philly CEO

Their sweet summer tales of adventure, self-care and family time will help you feel less guilty about taking a break and finding time to recharge.

Cozen O’Connor executive chairman and CEO Michael Heller in Morocco. Courtesy photo.

Summer (thankfully) isn’t over yet, and though we’re only just making our way into the month of August, many Philly CEOs have already clocked in on some much needed vacation time. Whether they kept it local at the Shore or made their way across the Atlantic, these Philly business leaders all recognize the importance of taking some time to recharge. After reading their tales of adventure and relaxation, and seeing what it’s really like to vacation as a Philly CEO, make sure you schedule some time to take a break.

Celebrating in Portugal

Matthew Taylor | CEO, Duane Morris

Matt Taylor in Cascais, Portugal. He is joined (from L-R) by his daughter Jenna Taylor, son Danny Taylor and Lauren O’Neill. Courtesy photo.

I went to Portugal this summer and spent time in Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. I was attending the International Association of Defense Counsel’s (IADC) annual meeting, which was being held in Lisbon, and decided it was a great opportunity to extend the trip for a family vacation. I went with two of my sons, my daughter, and her friend. We were there for five days. The main highlight was really being able to spend some quality time together with my family. As my kids get old, that’s not as easy as it once was.

Another great experience was chartering a catamaran with a few other families and spending a day out on the water. It was also really fun to watch the World Cup semi-finals in one of the city’s main squares with hundreds of other soccer fans. There were large groups of Belgium and France supporters, so the energy was just incredible.

It’s not possible to work 24/7 — it just burns you out. I think the most important reason to take a break is that it gives you a chance to think. Vacation gives you the opportunity to reflect on things and recharge your batteries.

The Unexpected Is Unforgettable in Tiburon

Reginald Blaber | president, Lourdes Health System

Dr. Blaber and his niece Aubrey. Courtesy photo.

I had planned to take a trip with my niece to Yosemite National Park. We were going to rock climb and then hike the Half Dome. Unfortunately, nature had other ideas, as a rampart of forest fires in the region threatened to encroach upon Yosemite, forcing its evacuation. Adapting fast, we redirected our adventure to Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. There, we hiked the Muir Woods and surrounding mountains. We finished out the week exploring San Francisco. In a few days, we will connect in Monterey with my wife and our extended family.

The highlights of this trip were seeing the beauty of the majestic Redwood forest and getting to spend time with my niece. I often find that balancing the demands of work and home crowd out everything else. There is nothing like reconnecting with nature and family to reground yourself in what is truly important in life. It is on these long hikes, bike rides and climbs that I not only find peace, but also my next “great” idea!

Change of Scenery in Ocean City

Orsula Knowlton | president & chief business development officer, Tabula Rasa Healthcare

Orsula Knowlton and her daughter. Courtesy photo.

Our daughter is a recent high school grad and insisted that we go to Ocean City, NJ this summer. It was a great choice. We had a house between 9th and 10th avenues for two weeks, although we took a four-day hiatus for a business trip in the middle.

It was great to get back to Ocean City. The kids and their friends, and sometimes their friends’ friends, were with us. The 4th of July fireworks were amazing, of course. Singing patriotic songs and hearing Lt. Col. Oliver North speak about his experiences of faith on the battlefield was a real treat. We also enjoyed going to one of our favorite restaurants in Margate — Sofia’s. However, going to the beach is always a highlight for me.

I like to take breaks to spend more time with family and to take the opportunity to read, write, and consider challenges that otherwise would be difficult to do between meetings. The change of scenery is helpful to think broadly about life and work. I do, however, stay in touch with the team as needed, and let them know they can contact me if necessary — and this works for me.

Alleviating Stress from Morocco to the Shore

Michael Heller | CEO, Cozen O’Connor

“This picture is from our trip to Morocco. My wife thought risking my life was worth the picture.” Courtesy photo.

In the spring, my wife Lauren and I traveled to Morocco for ten days with our friends Sid and Sandy Brown. Lauren wants to see the world, so I follow along. I am constantly on the road visiting our offices around the country, so this summer Lauren also joined me to visit our LA, San Francisco, and Seattle offices. In between, we spent a long weekend in Napa. That said, what I look forward to the most are weekends at our Longport house and happy hours on the beach with my kids and my friends and their kids.

For most people, vacations are a way to relax and recharge their batteries. I do not find it easy to relax in general and, frankly, don’t like being away from work for long periods of time, so long vacations don’t really alleviate stress for me. Only golf with my friends and kids and weekends at the Shore with my family and friends do that for me.

Feeling Inspired in Georgia

Tatia Cooper, president & CEO, Home Care Associates

My husband and I spent a few days visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, I was able to exhale, re-energize, and visit a few of the many historic sites including The Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum. While visiting the museum, I was especially moved by the replication of the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter and the experience of sitting at it.

To prevent burnout, it is extremely important that CEOs take time to break away from technology and the day-to-day operations of the company or organization. In my previous role as COO, a colleague stated that I always return from vacation with new ideas or potential solutions to issues that may have had a negative impact on the work we do. Until then, I hadn’t realized my vacations were also an opportunity for me to think about work without distractions or the stress of day-to-day operations.

Recharging in Maine

William George | president & CEO, Health Partners Plans

L: New Orleans, LA/Bayou tour R: Georges River Land Trust Garden in Maine |
Photo courtesyof Sal Taylor Kydd/Rockport, Maine

The best vacation is always to our home in Maine, where we’ve gone for 29 years and counting. My wife Louise and I spent the 4th of July week with the entire family. My older son and his wife flew in from San Francisco. My young son, his girlfriend and her two little girls also joined us. It was a full house, and my wife and I enjoyed every minute of it. The highlights of the trip were spending time with the entire family, along with Louise’s garden being selected to be part of the Georges River Land Trust Garden Tour. Nearly 500 people enjoyed my wife’s garden — she has quite the green thumb.

From working in healthcare, I understand the importance of self-care and getting away to recharge. Even if you don’t have a week or two, get creative. I was recently asked to present at the “Health Meets Food: Culinary Medicine Conference” at Tulane University to discuss the success Health Partners Plans has experienced in improving our members’ health with medically tailored meals. I extended that trip by a few days to enjoy the culture and history of New Orleans and to explore the bayou, looking for alligators on one of those fan-powered boats.

Alternatively, find ways to simply disconnect. For me, the easiest way to disconnect is to read a book — books are always better than the movies. I just finished Cousin Bette. Now I’m reading Under the Harrow.

Slowing Things Down at Saratoga Lake

Tom Kinisky | president & CEO, Saint-Gobain Corporation

Photos courtesy of Tom Kinisky.

Nearly every summer, my wife and I vacation at Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Spring, NY, and this summer was no exception. We return every summer because we’re from the area, and it’s a great opportunity to visit with family and participate in the famous horse racing season there. The Saratoga Race Course is beautiful and the city is so much fun during the summertime. When we go away, my wife and I go for a three-week stay ending with Labor Day, but we also go most weekends in July and August. Over Labor Day weekend, our two adult children and about 40 other immediate family members come for a family reunion. For me, the time off is more about the lowlights versus the highlights — just relaxing with family and friends. We explore new restaurants, hike, spend time on the lake, and just disconnect.

I think that disconnecting from the constant stream of emails and information is really important. We don’t spend enough time thinking anymore—I find myself reacting to the issue of the moment. I recently posted on my LinkedIn page about a book I read by Hans Rosling titled Factfulness, which talks about how important it is to step back and look back at the big picture and to resist the short-term issue and reaction of the moment. This is getting tougher to do these days and that’s why I think a holiday break is important to slow things down and to spend some time being in a reflective mode.

Going Big in Monterey Bay

Madeline Bell | president & CEO, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Later this month, my family will be renting a house in the Monterey Bay area for a week so we can spend time together — all 18 of us! Three of my children live in California, so it seemed like the perfect place for everyone to gather. We plan to do some hiking and enjoy getting to know the newest members of the family: my two newborn grandchildren who were born just six weeks apart.

At most family gatherings, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking lots of Italian food. This year, I’ll be assigning each of my children a night to cook dinner so I can focus on getting some downtime. No matter what kind of job you have, work can be very stressful and demanding, and I believe taking time to recharge is incredibly important. I make it a priority to take time off and do things outside of work that energize and inspire me — and I encourage my staff to do the same.

Taking a Break in Italy

Joseph Devine | president, Jefferson Health (New Jersey); executive vice president, Hospital & Health Services, Jefferson Health

L: Joe and Dina with their grandson, Landon, at the Jersey Shore. R: Joe and his wife, Dina, in Rome, Italy.

Just a few months ago, my wife and I went to Italy with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. It was our first visit there and we traveled to Florence, Sorrento, Amalfi, and Rome. The trip lasted twelve days and it was fantastic — especially the history and the incredible food. We are also very blessed to have a Shore home in Margate and spend time there each summer with our family.

This summer has been even more special, as we have had our first grandson, Landon, come visit too, and he is a great addition in every way! At the Shore, we’re there every weekend in the summer and some additional weekdays, too, where we spend time with my family and grandson. We have all kinds of people at my home in Margate, and sometimes it is totally crazy, but it is all about spending time with everyone, so it is all good!

There is an old Spanish proverb that says, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” It is imperative that people take time off and recharge their energy for their own health and to be refreshed for their work. Work can be demanding, so I have not always done the best job at this myself, but I truly encourage staff do so for their own benefit and for the organization’s.

Quality Time in California

Deanna Byrne | managing partner, PwC Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Deanna Byrne.

We were fortunate to spend time at the beach in Ocean City, NJ this year as a family, and I also took a fantastic trip to California with my husband and my son Matt. We have four children, so our vacations involve a lot of compromise on what we do! When each kid turns 16, we let them pick a vacation spot with just my husband and me.

This year, Matt helped us plan a 9-day trip to California, and the trip was great! We spent time in San Francisco, Alcatraz, Sequoia National Park for a few days among the giant trees, Huntington Beach for surfing, and then Hollywood. We were even able to take in a Dodgers game. Taking a break from work to relax and recharge is so important. I always find that I come back with a fresh perspective and a renewed focus.

Finding Work-Life Balance in One’s Hometown

Daniel Hilferty | president & CEO, Independence Health Group

L: Corson’s Inlet R: Daniel and his granddaughter in Ocean City. Photos courtesy of Daniel Hilferty.

[This summer] we were in Ocean City, NJ. I grew up there, so it’s a vacation spot that also feels like home. I love sharing it with my family and adding to my memories from childhood. It’s the perfect family vacation. I can feel myself start to relax as soon as I cross the 9th Street Bridge and smell the salt air. [This year] we spent several weekends and one full week in Ocean City. It’s always my wife Joan and I, and often some combination of our five kids and grandchildren Jack and Lauren. Our third grandchild Andrew was born in New Orleans this spring and hasn’t made it up yet, so we have that to look forward to.

In the mornings, we walk the beach, and I work out at Local Gym and Fitness at 9th and Asbury. We’ve gotten into riding our bikes in Ocean City over the past few years. We’ll take a long ride around town, seeing the old sights and checking out the new ones. We often run into friends on the way, and if we wind up at Mallon’s for some sticky buns, it’s a good day. I might even find some time to get in some reading. One of the books I read this summer was Patrick Kennedy’s book, A Common Struggle.

Besides providing all-important family time, a vacation allows me to relax, unwind, and recharge. It clears my mind so that I can see current challenges from a different perspective. At Independence, our team follows what we call the “Rules of the Road,” and one important rule is to respect work-life balance. Our 10,000 associates need to step away from the computers, spreadsheets, and phones to focus on what brings them joy outside the office. Then, everyone comes back to the office refreshed and ready to do the best job possible for our customers and members.

Seeking Adventure Abroad

Marc Brownstein | president & CEO, Brownstein Group

Brownstein in Tuscany. Courtesy photo.

I started the summer on a cycling trip in Tuscany. For some reason, the hills feel bigger there. My cycling trip lasted 10 days, and I went with my wife and three other couples. Our group of friends was integrated into a larger group of cycling enthusiasts from all over the world, which was a great experience because I always enjoy having the opportunity to meet and learn from new people. After one long morning of cycling, I decided to pursue a more difficult path with a few other guys in their 40s and 50s. It was a big climb, and at the top of the hill was a charming Tuscan village. When we got to the top, we were so busy congratulating

Photo courtesy of Marc Brownstein.

ourselves that we almost didn’t notice the group of cyclists in their late 70s and early 80s who had made it up the hill right ahead of us! We started cracking up!

The ultimate peak of my summer was attending the Ad Age Conference in Los Angeles where we were very fortunate to win a global award recognizing us as one of the top two independent agencies with 75-100 employees. While out there, I was also able to spend time with two of my kids who live on the West Coast.

In the marketing, communications and advertising industry, you have to refresh and get away in order to have new experiences and bring those experiences back to work with you. You’re not good to yourself, your staff or your clients if all of your experiences are within the boundaries of Philadelphia. You need to meet new people and explore new cultures — that’s all part of developing creative, impactful ideas.


Kylee McGuigan is an intern at Philadelphia Magazine.