Vacation Daze

Do you get enough vacation time to relax and refresh yourself?

Just an hour ago I arrived home from the airport after a glorious vacation, so the memories are still fresh and delightful. We visited an art museum, saw some great live music, ate some delicious meals, took leisurely strolls through scenic areas, toured historical sites, visited some cool shops — and just enjoyed the simple pleasure of taking a break from work.

It was a short trip, not-too-expensive, to a not-too-glamorous place, but it was thoroughly refreshing.

When’s the last time you took a vacation that really recharged your batteries? Do you have enough time in the course of a year to renew your spirit? If you suspect you are vacation deprived, you may be right.

Americans are among the hardest-working people, at least when compared to residents of other industrialized countries. European nations are notorious for their generous vacation policies – the effect of government law and a general culture that values time away from work.

For comparison’s sake, here is a 2007 roundup of average vacation days, according to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization:

Italy, 42 days
France, 37 days
Germany: 35 days
Brazil: 34 days
United Kingdom, 28 days
Canada: 26 days
Korea: 25 days
Japan: 25 days
U.S.: 13 days

OK. Anybody want to move to Italy? How about Japan, where five weeks of vacation is the norm? That sounds pretty good, considering that most Americans are lucky to get two weeks. At my old place of employment, you received one week after the first year, two weeks after three years, three weeks after five years, and the maximum — four weeks — after 10 years.

Question is, what is it about the way Americans think that places work above leisure? Certainly part of it is that old Protestant work ethic that values industriousness and is suspicious of leisure and – gasp! — pleasure. And we STILL say that the devil makes work for idle hands.

In her landmark book, “The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure,” sociologist Juliet Schorr argues that the industrialized world has made enormous gains in productivity since World War II. But, whereas Europeans have tended to take productivity gains in the form of increased vacation and leisure time, Americans have tended to take it in the form of increased pay to buy consumer goods.

“After four decades of this shopping spree,” Schorr writes on page 3, “the American standard of living embodies a level of material comfort unprecedented in human history. The American home is more spacious and luxurious than the dwellings of any other nation. Food is cheap and abundant. The typical family owns a fantastic array of household and consumer appliances.”

The question is, are we more happy? And are we more healthy as a result? Here the research, unfortunately, indicates no. Surveys show Americans to lag behind other nations in happiness. But granted, that’s a subjective thing to measure. But medical statistics show Americans are 49th in life expectancy — behind all of the nations on the above list except for Brazil (source).

In their book “Your Money or Your Life,” authors Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin say that Americans are not so much working to make a “living” as they are working to “make a dying.” What do you think?

Stewardship of life means taking care of yourself in all the ways that help you to live the best, happiest and most godly life possible. That includes taking adequate time for leisure and vacations?

Are you getting enough time off? How do you cope? What advice do you have for others? Share your ideas!

© Copyright 2010, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.

Reprint rights granted for congregations for nonprofit, local use. Please reprint with the following copyright notice:
© Copyright 2010, the Rev. Rob Blezard. Reprinted by permission.
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Photo by 19Melissa68, Creative Commons license

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