We have been home for 2 weeks now. The jet lag has cleared. We’re getting back to our normal routine and coming to terms with winter’s presence. How quickly things change.
But something is different, lingering. It’s that post-vacation bliss. The relaxed slowness. The lack of urgency. The sense of peace.
I love this feeling.
This feeling is as much the reason I take vacation as is the desire to see new places and experience new cultures. It’s the sense of truly “vacating” my busy life and giving myself time to relax and recharge. And when I truly allow myself to vacate (ie, no checking work emails on vacation, no multi-tasking, no to-do lists!), I come home feeling invigorated and inspired, with my creative juices flowing. Simply lovely.
But what saddens me is how many of my fellow Americans don’t get (or take) their chance to have this feeling.
For whenever Jeff and I go on vacation, we always hear comments like “I’m envious, I wish I could take a vacation like that” or “I can’t take vacation, I don’t have time.” While I acknowledge that this may be true for some (especially in the recent economy), there are myriads of surveys that say as many as 75% of Americans don’t take their allotted vacation time each year.
My question is: Why is that? Why do we do that to ourselves? Don’t we believe we deserve the (usually little) time we are allowed?
My answer is: We should. We deserve it. We have earned it.
This shared opinion about the value of vacation is one of the reasons I feel at home in New Zealand. [I think I am a Kiwi born in an American’s body!] The governments in New Zealand and Australia, as with many European countries, require that employers offer at least 20 paid vacation days per year (US requires none), and for the Kiwis I know, 6 weeks is more the norm (12 days is the US average). But most importantly, they take it. And better still, they inherently understand the value of it. Quality of life is at least, if not more, important than work productivity in New Zealand. Or so it would seem from my American perspective.
Refreshing this focus on quality of life is always the biggest “souvenir” (well, aside from my husband) that I bring home from New Zealand each time I visit. The reminder that I should always “work to live” rather than “live to work”. That life is too short to do anything else. I seem to forget this sometimes, when I get caught up in the rat race.
Hence the reason I need my vacations.
These feelings are priceless.
So tell me, is there a way that YOU get this true feeling of peace, slowness, inspiration, and invigoration in your life aside from vacations? If so, I’d love to know! Please comment on this page with suggestions. I aim to keep these feelings until our next vacation (in May) and am open to suggestions how!
And on that note, aside from responding to the myriad of comments I expect to get based on the questions above (hint, hint!), the blog will likely go dormant until May (save a couple weekend trips if we feel so inclined).
Until then, may all of your vacations be taken and savored!!!!
The relaxed, recharged, (and apparently opinionated!) Curious Travelers
Post-script 1: I recognize that I have been extraordinarily fortunate with my previous and current employers. That said, I never would have been able to take such vacations if I didn’t ask for them. (How do you know the answer is no, if you don’t ask. Right?). And if you work in a corporate culture where taking vacation time isn’t supported for whatever reason, try to change it. We all deserve our time to recharge, whether it’s to travel to far-off lands or just stay at home and relax. Our bodies and minds need quiet time to heal and slow down. We should all support each other in that quest.
Post-script 2: For a Kiwi perspective on the American vs. Kiwi mindset on vacation time, see http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/blogs/voyages-in-america/8153908/The-great-Kiwi-holiday-surplus. This blog (Voyages in America) is written by a Kiwi guy who married an American girl and is living in San Francisco. He writes posts on the American lifestyle from a Kiwi perspective. Very interesting. Lastly, please be reminded that his views no more represent all Kiwi opinions than mine represents all Americans.