When Americans celebrated the Fourth of July in the past, they would do so by taking some well-earned vacation days. It made sense to add the days to a week when they were off for the holiday; however, many people are no longer doing that. They work the day before and after the holiday, and many more are not taking any vacation days at all.
According to a recent report, Americans failed to use 662 million vacation days last year. That is an astronomical figure and highlights the problems in our society – we don’t know how to kick back, relax, and enjoy free time. I know many people like this who claim to be “crazy busy” like they’re wearing a badge of honor, but this is nothing to brag about because it indicates the pervasive notion that not working and taking time off that we have earned is somehow wrong.
Perhaps this attitude comes from the companies for whom people work and our own government. Paid vacations days are not legally mandated in the U.S. That leaves employers to come up with their own rules, though many of them give a standard two-week vacation per year. There are also the 10 national holidays, but employers are not required to pay employees for them.
A look at the chart may explain a good deal of the reason why Americans are not taking their vacation days. In a work environment that does not value employees’ need to take a vacation it would make sense that many workers fear taking the days they are allotted because doing so may be viewed unfavorably by their bosses.
As someone who had been an administrator and managed people, I believed that my employees not only deserved their time off but required it. People cannot work all the time without getting an opportunity to rest and recharge. That is essential to maintain both mental and physical health.
Besides, taking vacation days affords an opportunity for travel. Whether it is near or far, getting away from home is a wonderful chance to learn about other places and people. With such a big and beautiful world out there, there are so many places to explore, cuisines to be sampled, and sights to be seen.
For the most part, my family and friends take advantage of their vacation days and travel. I do make getting away with my wife and kids a priority, and I must say that going away brings us closer as we experience amazing places together.
Years ago, I had a friend who tried taking vacation days, but his problem was that he sat at home for two weeks and never went away. Since he was single and all his friends were married, he had no one to go with him. I suggested taking a tour of some kind, but he resisted. One year he said to me that he wasn’t going to take vacation anymore because it was boring, and that was the end of his using his allotted days.
I don’t know how many people are like my friend, but not having someone to travel with you is no reason not to take vacation. There are so many travel companies for singles that there is no excuse not to research them and decide on what is the best choice. Americans would be a good deal healthier if they embraced the concept of free time. We don’t always have to be doing something for work – it is necessary to be free and on your own time and schedule.
Use every one of your vacation days and go see the world, or if you prefer not to travel go sit on a beach and watch the sunset, and afterwards try counting the stars. Take leisurely walks in the park or a nearby forest, go to restaurants you have always wanted to try, and make a point to see movies and shows and concerts. Most important of all, spending your free time with friends and loved ones when you are not on a schedule is liberating and rewarding.
Time is precious and we are usually using up our minutes and hours on somebody else’s clock. Make the time that is your own truly yours. Take advantage of the vacation days you have earned and deserve, and go have an adventure or do nothing at all.
Doing nothing is not the pernicious evil everyone tries to make it out to be. Some of my treasured moments have been when I’m doing nothing, sitting in a park or on a beach or in my own yard, watching the world and taking deep breaths. I think people will find as have I that doing nothing is doing something necessary and compelling for yourself.
Use those vacation days, Americans; you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.