There have been many reports in recent years about the number of vacation days that workers in the United States fail to use each year. In fact, one recent article by CNBC noted that U.S. workers forfeited over 200 million vacation days in 2017. Let that sink in – 200 million days. That’s insane!
Would you ever think that it was a good idea to put money into a burning fireplace, or to insist that your boss keep your paycheck? Of course not, but that’s exactly what you’re doing when you give up vacation days.
I know the old excuses:
“I just can’t take the time right now.”
“I can’t be away from the office.”
“My boss needs me here.”
Forgive me, but it just sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking and makes just about as much sense.
U.S. workers receive very little time off compared to other developed countries throughout the world. For example, French workers receive a government-mandated 36 days off each year (including holidays). In the United Kingdom, the number is 28 (including holidays). The U.S. is…drum roll please…0. That’s right, 0! And yet, we’re supposed to be the gold standard of the world economy. It just doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon. So, what’s to be done? The answer is simple: use your vacation time!
That’s right. Stop making excuses. Get out of the office chair that has a perfect imprint of your backside, hop into your car (or a plane or train), and take some time for yourself and your family. Why can I say this? Because I was once like you, too.
I would fret about leaving work for an extended period of time. I would be that person checking my email at the airport, or calling into the office just to “check in” to make sure everything was fine. Finally, my wife had enough and took my phone away for an entire trip several years ago when we were in France. It was the best thing that could have ever happened.
I actually spent time enjoying the trip. It was turning point for me, and I want you to have that same great feeling. As my wife says: “Your job opening will be posted before your obituary is.” In short, the work will go on long after you’re not there. The office can survive a week or two with you away.
You don’t have to go far. Even just a short trip to another side of your state will do the trick. Just get out of your everyday norms and take time to breathe, drink that glass of wine with (gasp!) lunch, or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Your family and your body will thank you.
Don’t believe me? Well, I’m not a doctor, but Google thankfully puts medical information (for better or worse) at the tips of my fingers. One article from Inc. noted four scientifically-based reasons to take time off from work: stress reduction, heart disease prevention, improved productivity, and better sleep. Need more (scary) proof? Look no further than this quote from a CNN article: “men who don’t take vacations were 30% more likely to have a heart attack and for women it went up to 50%,” according to Brigid Schulte, author of ‘Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One has the Time‘ and the director of the Better Life Lab at the New America Foundation.” If you’re not motivated by now, I have no idea what’s holding you back.
Just take a breath and submit your vacation request. That’s right, now! Done? Good! Now the fun part begins.
The planning’s the time when you can really start to get excited about your time away from work and home. You can actually begin to imagine the things you’ll see and do. Here are a few simple steps to get started:
Where do you want to go?
This can seem like a daunting decision, but it’s not. Just decide your budget and what modes of transportation you’d like to utilize. Again, you can go near or far. The only rule is to go. Here’s some inspiration from my friends at Lonely Planet: Best in Travel – The best places to visit in 2019. My personal favorites include Seattle, San Antonio, Boston (you can vacation at home!), Quebec City, Paris, and London. Just go somewhere that will bring you joy.
Where do you want to stay?
No matter the destination you choose, you still have to find a place to stay. My go-to way to save money and live like a local is to use Airbnb. I’ve used it to travel the world with my family, and to have a comfortable place to stay when I travel for work. I strongly suggest you use them, and you can save some money as a first-time user by clicking on this link: https://bit.ly/2AB7jap.
What foods do you want to try?
OK, this can be a contentious issue for many people. However, I have some easy-to-follow advice for you: forget about looking up online reviews. Just ask a local where they like to eat, or look for that market stall with the long line. Common sense tells you that if there’s a long line, it’s a pretty safe place to eat. In short, eat local and without fear.
Those are the three simple questions you need to ask to get your next adventure into the planning stages.
Remember, your vacation time is a valuable benefit that you get from your employer for the hard work and long hours you put in on a daily basis. Don’t waste it because of some outdated fears or ideas. There’s no better time to begin planning. I promise that you’ll thank me.