Evidently, Americans don’t like to travel, or at least, don’t like to use their vacation days, which by the term bestowed on them, would make you assume that those days are used to travel. Certainly, you probably do. You’re a traveler and probably visiting my blog because you like to travel. However, approximately half of Americans don’t use their vacation days. They don’t use them. I don’t mean they use them for other things, like taking care of their children, taking a sick day, or other reasons. I mean that at the end of the year, they have vacation days that have gone unused. Do you understand the premise behind vacation days? Well here is how it actually works. You have a full-time job that you go to everyday. As an added benefit, you get these things called “vacation days”. Here’s what you do: NOTHING. Seriously, your employer pays you to do whatever the hell you want to. You can have a romantic rendezvous with your significant other (or not significant other), take a road trip, travel across the world, go to the spa, or whatever the hell you want. And guess what? You get PAID for it! You get paid to not come into work.
A recent travel survey revealed that nearly half of Americans don’t use all of their vacation days. This is compared to France, where nearly 90% of people use all of their vacation days. According to a different survey a couple years ago, it revealed that an average of 500 million vacation days went unused annually in the United States. This is a good time to mention that in France, employees receive as much as two to three times the number of vacation days as Americans do. Yet, even with less time off, Americans still aren’t using the vacation time they have.
So why don’t people use their vacation days? Is it a question of money? Are they afraid they’ll miss something at work? I’ve got it: They love their work so much that they can’t stand the thought of taking time away from it. Maybe it’s even fear of getting fired if they use too much of their vacation time. I wanted to see what others had to say about this, so I took to Twitter and Tumblr to get some feedback.
They’re scared to break from the workforce tradition.-Alisha Miranda
The airport experience these days is a huge, enormous, breathtaking deterrent.-Katherine Spiers
Surely the money savings is a factor, but I also think there’s this romance Americans have with their own country. I grew up road tripping with my family everywhere.-Lauren Braden
Each of these responses had different elements to them: Workforce tradition, airport hassles, and an attachment to home. I particularly liked what Alisha had to say about the fear of breaking the workforce tradition. It’s interesting to point out that from the aforementioned survey, the country least likely to use up all of their vacation days, is the one country that stands out in many people’s minds as one of the hardest working in the world: Japan.
I’m a believer in the notion that most of the time people are always going to default to the things they know, rather than risk change, varying circumstances, and situations they aren’t comfortable with. We do what we know. For most Americans, it’s work. We go to college for 4 years, find a secure job, get married, have kids, and settle in. Much of this revolves around work. I remember hearing at an early age the importance of having to work to get anywhere in life and that nothing was free. However, I unfortunately worry that we’ve taken it too far to the extreme.
Another question this brings up is whether people really know how to travel. Sure, travel can be expensive, stressful, and frustrating. I’ve spent many hours on the side of the road fixing a flat tire or waiting yet again for a delayed flight to take off or stumbling through a conversation with someone in a foreign culture. However for me, the benefits of travel experiences, whether nearby or abroad, far outweigh the unknowns. In a recent interview, Travel + Leisure editor Mark Orwoll highlighted the benefits of using those vacation days to travel. He summed it up perfectly when he said: “Nobody ever said at the end of their lives: I wish I would’ve spent more time at the office.”
As I write this, it marks day 7 of a new life for me. It was just one week ago that I moved to San Francisco after several months of North and Central America travel. I have never loved life as much as I do right now, I cherish my work like I never have before, and I’m 20 pounds lighter. I can’t tell you that traveling, whether for a week or 20 weeks would have the same effect on you, but is it not worth a try?
Why do you think people let their vacation days go unused? What have been the effects of travel on your own life?
Tune in next week when I’ll discuss how I believe technology affects how people travel.