Vacation Starvation

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Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

For some reason every time I take a vacation, I come back irritable and feeling depressed. You open up Instagram and see all the world travelers and the beautiful photos and you just wonder if there is a life after this. Vacations feel like just a taste of life. We all know the expression of being “hangry” which is when you’re both hungry and angry at the same time and hopeful for the arrival of food. Vacation starvation comes from putting off a vacation for too long or just not being able to take one. Is life really just mostly work with a hint of vacation?

I also know people who were unfortunately diagnosed with rare cancers who would have loved to take a vacation one last time but could not because either they couldn’t get on a plane or were in and out of hospitals and too sick to travel. When unforeseen circumstances appear so suddenly there are so many “could have, would have, should haves”. Each time I’ve lost someone it seems I am intent on living life to the fullest for a time and then I go straight back to the rat race.

I remember reading Tim Ferris’ the Four Hour Work Week where he seems to be a fan of taking “mini retirements”. You avoid or temporarily put off burn out and opt instead for taking off several weeks to months at a time of real vacation. The problem people seem to face when they’re finally at the age most people retire is that by the time they do retire they’re not physically at their best (age takes a toll) and they are living on a budget. So you’ve waited most of your life to travel or take vacations only to be limited by your body or your budget. I see the point of a mini retirement but short of job hopping and taking a break in between each new job, the concept seems near impossible.

If we can’t take a mini retirement, then it seems vacation time is one of our only options. A study conducted by US Travel Associations Project Time Off concluded that 52% of Americans reported not using all of their vacation time by the end of the year. The average vacation time offered seems to be anywhere from 10-20 days off. Typically employees who have been at a job for under a year start off with less vacation and then build their time as they become tenured. At around 5 years of employment, employees typically accrue an extra week of vacation. On average, Americans use 17.2 vacation days each year.   Another interesting tid bit in the study was that about eight days on average were used for travel and 24% of Americans have not taken a vacation in a YEAR! Being that “paid time off” is now the catch all phrase for both sick and vacation time, of those PTO days reportedly used each year, were the numbers at all inflated by some of them being used as sick days? Meaning: is it at all possible that we are using even LESS true vacation time than is being reported?

I understand that vacation time is a privilege. One that I have to take advantage of more, so that when I finally am off I’m not suffering from vacation starvation beforehand. We all need a break sometimes and I’m in favor of sabbaticals, mini retirements and extended vacations whenever possible. I love the idea of working 100% remotely. Have you done it?

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