matt | February 27, 2011
I’ve been following [http://cnn.com cnn.com] because of the interesting goings-on in the middle east and north Africa, an I noticed this article on why Americans don’t travel abroad. One of the things they mention is:
“There are some differences in terms of vacation time that are hugely influential,” Byrne said. Workers in mainland Europe receive between six and eight weeks of vacation, while Americans average about 16.6 paid vacation days as of 2005, according to the Families and Work Institute. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed didn’t plan to use their full vacation.
Now, I do tend to use my full vacation, but I don’t tend to travel much. Ultimately, if I did have more vacation time, I’d tend to do such things as work on my house. Take two weeks, rip out and remodel the master bathroom. Take another two weeks, add a fireplace, etc. Given more than a few days of idleness, and I get bored – I start looking for things to do. Even more than a couple days at the same “have a look at this place” and I get bored – a couple of days at Disney, and it wears off. Even more than a couple of days at a gaming convention, and I’m ready to be done and back home. The only vacation I can recall of which this didn’t set in for quite awhile was my honeymoon with Liz – and that was likely because it was varied enough to keep me from getting bored. Each day was a new town, and a different activity – hiking and exploring one day, horseback riding another, fishing at a third.
Further, the difference between work and play for me is subtle – play is painting miniatures, reading books, working on cars or in the garden, playing with dog, or cooking food – all activities involving the doing of things. Even recreation, I’d be happy to go hunting or fishing – and since I live in a place where people from downstate come to do this, I’d just coordinate my vacation with a friend who has a boat, or buy myself some kayaks or whatnot – if you’re assuming a transatlantic flight + vacation for two, buying a couple of kayaks and getting some fishing licenses seems a bargain in comparison. For that matter, if we wanted to “get away from it all”, it’s easy enough to pitch a tent down by our creek – it’s not like you can see the house from there anyway.
I’d be curious to know how many people are like this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is quite a few. Perhaps the difference between Americans and mainland Europe is that a larger proportion of Americans own houses and adjacent property, so they tend to take the time to work on them.
All that said, I wouldn’t complain of a couple more weeks of vacation time. Indeed, that was one of my populist ideas to stimulate the economy. Rather than paying for people’s unemployment, etc. if you mandate something like 40 days of vacation time (double for most of us – my company gives 18 days PTO. This includes holidays, sick time, etc.), it forces companies to hire more people to take up the slack. Now, I’m not certain if this is actually a good idea, it’s just an idea.