Taking a vacation benefits everyone involved. Why? Well, chew on this. 51.2 million Americans are vacation deprived*. This is the group that earns 15 days of vacation and takes 11 days of vacation or so annually. To make a bad situation worse, the same survey revealed that 19 percent of working Americans canceled or postponed vacation because of work.
What’s wrong with us? We get so little vacation, one wonders if we have forgotten how to take time off and enjoy ourselves. Europeans – who enjoy more than twice the time off that we get – ask us if we are crazy. Our children look at us with big, Disney World-deprived eyes and ask, “Couldn’t we go, just this once?” Well, of course we could. And we should.
It’s Good For You
Online stress management guru Elizabeth Scott, M.S., has some good advice for learning to think about vacations as the Europeans do. On her About.com: Stress Management web site (11/8/07), Scott talks about why “vacations are important for more than just fun.”
“Vacations promote creativity,” she says. “A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.”
“Taking regular time off to recharge your batteries, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier,” says Scott. “The bottom line is that taking a good amount of time away from the stresses of daily life can give us the break we need so that we can return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.”
John De Graaf in his article “No-Vacation Nation” in Experience Life magazine (March 2008) points out that while we “may be materially richer than almost anyone else…we have the poorest health in the industrial world.”
“In 1980, we ranked 11th in the world in longevity; now we’re 42nd,” says De Graaf. “We are twice as likely as Europeans to suffer from anxiety and depression. In large part, these deficits are caused by lack of time. Overwork means we spend less time with friends or family, and less time exercising and eating healthy.”
“Almost everywhere else in the world,” De Graaf concludes, “people understand that taking time off from work results in improved health, family life, productivity, creativity and personal well-being.”
A Step in the Right Direction
Owners, as much as anyone in the U.S., have taken a great first step. By acknowledging the need for vacation benefits and making a commitment to vacation ownership, the foundation is in place for a lifetime of getting away from the day-to-day.
Exploring new places is the answer for some. Others find that doing something entirely different from everyday life, like fishing or hiking, is the antidote for the stresses of the mundane sameness of our work lives. Still others seek the mind-quieting pleasure of not doing much at all. As it turns out, all three answers are valid. The goal is to change location. Modify the scenery and let all the pressure of work and the stresses of routine abate.
And please, no PDAs, laptops or cell phones. These devices, which have allowed the work week to spill over into evenings and weekends must not be part of your vacation. Part of the problem rather than the solution, anything that connects you back to the site of your stress is not invited on vacation with you. The idea is to get away—far away—and to stay away just as long as you can.
The dream of two weeks off in a row—the classic two-week vacation—is just a myth for most Americans, especially if they live in the Northeast, Midwest or South. Some 24 percent of those dwelling in the West actually plan and take two-week vacations. The percentages drop to 14 percent for those in the Northeast, 13 percent for those in the South, and a paltry 9 percent of Midwesterners.
Examined by gender rather than geography, the survey shows that only 17 percent of men might actually get to take that two-week idyll, while a mere 11 percent of women will. On the other hand, 39 percent of men won’t take all the vacation benefits they’ve earned, while 31 percent of women will give back days they’ve earned.
*According to the Expedia.com 2007 International Vacation Deprivation™ Survey conducted by Harris Interactive.