I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand why America disregards the mental and emotional benefits of vacations. Unlike many European countries where workers receive up to eight weeks mandatory vacation, Americans average at about two weeks (and that’s if you’re lucky). Dreaming up my next foreign adventure has kept me up many nights wondering why I don’t take advantage of my dual citizenship and move back to London. That way, I would be closer to multiple countries and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about traveling.
Most recent grads must face the facts and accept that they may get one week vacation their first year. My first job out of college was in the music industry, where we received 3-4 weeks of vacation during the holidays (some paid, some not), when most radio stations and labels shut down. I was able to plan trips during this time and then still had two weeks vacation and one week of personal days to use throughout the year. In a way, I felt very European and knew I was in the lucky minority when it came to paid time off. After awhile, this became my number one reason for staying with the company. I couldn’t bear the thought of not getting those three weeks off around Christmas.
The tough thing about getting one or two weeks off each year is that you usually aren’t allowed to take more than a few days off at a time, and if you are really interested in learning about a different culture, a few days simply isn’t enough. Flying across the globe will eliminate two days, leaving your with three days to explore another city. And when you are just starting out at a company, you are afraid that taking days off will disappoint your employer and send the message that you are lazy or worse, keep you from that next big promotion.
So many studies have indicated that vacation helps relieve stress and boost morale so I wonder why employers are not taking the steps for a better work environment for their employees. With more motivated workers, the company will only benefit in their yearly monetary gross. I also think workers should force themselves to turn off their BlackBerries and iPhones during a trip. The first few days will be difficult, but after the initial shock you will enjoy your time so much more. I had horrendous cell service when I traveled through South America and Egypt but as a result I was able to completely lose all sense of time and immerse myself in my new surroundings.
Image via Jstar1223‘s flickr stream