The American Travel Ethos
This weekend I spoke at the Savvy Traveler in Edmonds, WA. I gave a talk about Bhutan in the morning and India in the afternoon. As always, some great conversations ensued because everyone loves to talk travel.
I asked one gentleman, who was obviously quite traveled (a lot of shaking of the head throughout my talk was a dead giveaway) how frequently he and his wife travel. He rattled off a long list of destinations and said that they leave the country at least once a year for at least a month. Spoken like a true foreigner.
Sure, his slight accent gave him away, but his travel habit made it obvious to me that he was not American (he was South African, by the way). Even though he has his own practice as a periodontist, he makes time to get away from his business for extended periods of time and readily admitted that this was quite unusual for Americans.
A 2009 survey from Expedia found that 1/3 of employees don’t take all of their vacation time. While this speaks (to a certain degree) to how individuals make personal choices, there might be something else underlying our reluctance to hit the road.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research calls the U.S. the No Vacation Nation. In a 2007 study, they determined that the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation for employees. That means you can take a job, work your 40 (or more) hours a week, and it’s considered a bonus to be given paid vacation time.
But when we are blessed with vacation time, what keeps us from taking the time off we earn and deserve? According to the Expedia survey, people who don’t take their vacation time do so for several reasons. They hope to receive compensation for unused time, they have a hard time planning ahead or their partner can’t travel during the same time period. What’s worse? One in five respondents admitted to canceling a vacation because of work. Ugh.
I think not.
My own personal study says taking a break from our regular routine is extremely important in keeping our sanity. A person simply cannot “go” for 52 weeks at their demanding job without a bit of down time. And I mean more than a weekend. If you don’t take some time off, both your work and your personal life deteriorates.
Have you ever (gasp) canceled a vacation because of work or because your partner couldn’t join you? Would you prefer some cash from your employer rather than time off? What’s keeping you at home these days?