When’s the last time you took a vacation? I’m talking about a real vacation, where you’re not busy checking work emails or constantly checking for wifi. The kind where you’re actively doing things you enjoy. A vacation that takes you away from work and your daily duties for at least a solid week.
For a large percentage of Americans, the answer falls somewhere in the range of “definitely not recently” to “uhhh, childhood?” And guys? That’s not a good thing — for any of us.
Vacation feels like a luxury, but in truth, taking time off is good for our health, our relationships, and — believe it of not — our job performance. Other countries around the world acknowledge this, according to a really good article on the subject at POPSUGAR (which I recommend reading in its entirety if you’re interested in this topic at all). Europe, Australia and New Zealand all mandate a legal right to at least 20 days of paid vacation annually, says the article — Canada and Japan it’s 10 days. That right to paid time off removes the stigma of taking time off, meaning people actually use the vacation time available to them.
That is not the norm in the States. Here are a few of the more common reasons — and why our attitudes need to change.
Why You Need to Take a Vacation
It’s nice to feel needed. Obvious, right? This is probably universal (and perhaps a wee bit related to our old friend, stress addiction), but when we always show up at work and get the job done, we seem indispensable. That makes us feel important and boosts self-confidence. Truth bomb: You can be needed and still take time off. It can even give you a chance to show off your organizational and planning skills!
We’re trying to get ahead. Always being “on” and being indispensable must be a surefire way to reach the next level, right? Truth bomb: Nope. Taking time off from work leads to feeling refreshed and doing a better job during the hours you spend at your job. Seriously — that vacation can help you be a better employee … and therefore a better fit for that next promotion.
We’re afraid they’ll see we aren’t really necessary. If you’re out for a week and business continues as usual, more or less, won’t everyone see that they don’t actually need you? Truth bomb: If your boss is out sick (or even — wait for it — on vacation) for a week, do you assume they aren’t needed because the world didn’t fall apart? I can honestly say that’s never been the case. Usually, it actually makes me extra grateful that I don’t normally have to pick up that extra slack. Same thing will go for you.
We can’t afford a fancy trip. Why bother going if you can’t take a super kickass trip? Just work more and make some more money and take the trip once you’ve saved. Truth bomb: This is one a lot of us can relate to, but it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily the destination that’s important — it’s the time away. Look into camping options near you, or an inexpensive road trip to visit a friend. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a whole lot out of your time off! (Also, if your finances are otherwise in order, consider using a credit card to build hotel points or airline miles — I just booked a flight to London with miles and only have to pay taxes!)
We like what we do and it feels good to do it. Why take time away from something you enjoy? Truth bomb: Time off is good for your health. For real. The aforementioned POPSUGAR article quotes John de Graaf, author of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, as saying, “Long stretches without vacation time increase men’s risk of a heart attack by a third and women’s by a half.” It also states that women who don’t take regular vacations are two to eight times more likely to suffer from depression than women who do.
So, hey, it’s nice to feel needed, and knowing you’re killing it at work brings on a high of its own. But that doesn’t mean a vacation — a real one! — isn’t in order.
Okay, let’s fantasize together a little bit. If time and money were no object, where would you go — and why? I’m super into the idea of an African photo safari right now. Let the planning begin! —Kristen