Monday, August 17, 2015

The Elusive Vacation

I thought I was the exception in taking only short and infrequent vacations, but a survey by Allianz finds that less than half of Americans have taken a full week away from both home and work in the last year. Geoff Weiss summarizes the study and discussion at Entrepreneur:

There is a common confusion surrounding vacation in American English, with the same word meaning both a day away from work and a period of travel away from home. Both are important, but the discussion surrounding this new vacation study conflates these separate issues. The study itself seems to share in this flaw by focusing mainly on people who hold the same full-time, salaried job all year long, which of course is the exception rather than the rule. Many workers can’t go away on a vacation because many U.S. jobs allow just 10 vacation days per year, and these few days off can easily be used up with home and auto repairs and health care. Not everyone takes all their allotted days off from work, but those who do may stay home because of the cost of travel.

In my case, I have traveled so much for work in the last few years that travel for pleasure seems, for the moment, like a contradiction. Having a mortgage to pay also makes me reluctant to borrow more money for something so obviously optional as travel. One of the ironies of the American system is that the people who have the most time for a vacation, because they have become unemployed, can rarely get away for more than a couple of days because of both the cost of travel and the rules surrounding unemployment compensation.

Even with all these caveats, it helps to know that the traditional idea of a vacation, a week or more away from home and work, is the privilege of a lucky few rather than a universal experience — at least in the United States. If you haven’t had a “real” vacation in a long time, that is also true of most of the people around you.