You Need a Vacation
Over the past two decades we have become a no-vacation nation. There are several real reasons for this. The number one reason is that workers feel less secure in their jobs. Take a week off and maybe there won’t be a job to return to. Other reasons workers skip vacation is the heavy workload they have upon return, nobody else can do their job, can’t afford it, need to show the boss dedication, don’t want to be replaceable. The school year has gotten longer, school sports start earlier, two working spouses can’t arrange a shared free week, kids have arranged activities. Reasons, or excuses?
The U.S. is the only advanced economy that doesn’t require employers to offer paid holidays or time off. Not one state has a paid-vacation law. In 1910, President Taft suggested the average American should take two to three months of vacation! In the 20th century, highways began stretching across the country, and with them came motels. The auto industry spurred the vacation. Organized labor, content with wages, sought ways for workers to enjoy their wages. Paid vacation days were in vogue. Going on a vacation was something every family did, even if it was a trip to grandpa’s farm. In 1968, several fixed-date federal holidays were moved to Mondays to create the new three-day weekend; the birth of the mini-vacation. In the 70s, a slowdown in economic growth and a rise in consumerism forced Americans to work more hours to maintain their standard of living. By 2000, half of America’s work force admitted to chronic overwork, lethargy, stress, sleeplessness, depression and cardiovascular problems.
Americans leave 430 million vacation days unused. A study by the U.S. Travel Association translates that to mean Americans did $52.4 billion worth of work for free. This in a time when flex-hours and technology were to have resulted in more “leisure time.” Yet, not only the quantity of vacation time, but the quality has eroded. Technology that was to free workers has tethered them to the office. Employed vacationers find it hard to shake work even while vacationing. Emailing, accessing work documents on their computers, texting, calling, and responding to requests are all part of their planned vacations. They vacation with their work.
I walked on the beach every day last week. I saw youngsters digging with their buckets in the sand. Their parents lounged with their smart phones, missing everything. I saw teens running along the surf posing with their selfie sticks. I saw a man in a cabana working on his laptop. Many beach walkers talked or argued on their phones, not noticing the surf, or other people. I felt free to be unplugged, but I had this nagging feeling that I might be missing out on some news. Panicking, I thought maybe I needed to plug in to something! But, I watched the gulls and the children, and I put shells in my pocket instead. Take a vacation, y’all. It’s good for the body and soul. Unplug and interact with your family.