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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Non-vacation Vacation



Before we get started...lets peruse good ole Webster's Dictionary and refresh our memories of what the word "vacation" actually means.  Go ahead...I will give you a minute if you want to look it up yourselves.  While you are doing that, I will fill everyone else in on what Webster has to say.

Vacation

1) a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday

2) freedom or release from duty, business, or activity

3) a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended

Now I thought most adults and even most younger children had a pretty good grasp of what the word meant, but from I am seeing these days from friends, peers, family members etc is telling me that our Country has totally lost the notion of what it really means to take a vacation.

Families pack up once, maybe twice a year (if they are really lucky) and head out on vacation and one of the absolute must-packing-items is a small laptop.  Well most won't call it a laptop but instead will call it a "smart phone."  But let's be real.  That device you carry in your pocket that now requires its own sub-packing list (i.e. charging cords, portable chargers etc) is in all reality a mini laptop because it does pretty much the same thing a laptop can do.  It sends and receives email.  It can access files.  It has everyone's database installed for the most part.  It edits pictures and can post to all social media outlets.  Oh...and to ensure you stay connected to your work, it rings and dings even while on vacation in foreign countries thanks to international cell plans and sim cards.

So imagine for a moment sitting on a tranquil beach somewhere in the South Pacific.  Palm trees are swaying.  The crystal clear blue seas are lapping up on the beautiful white sand beach.  Got a visual? Now picture everyone sitting on that beach with their laptops open and everyone is typing away.  Quite a sight it would be, eh?  If we actually saw a bunch of people doing that while surrounded by such beauty and tranquility, we would be flabbergasted by such people who can't seem to get away from their work long enough to enjoy some time reflecting on more important things in life and letting their brains and their bodies truly vacate.  If you really want a horrible visual...imagine those same folks with their laptops open and their spouse and children are sitting their being ignored during a time when the family was supposed to be enjoying some time away together.  

Well lets do some self-examination real quick.  There is nothing different between the person sitting on vacation with their laptops open and the person sitting in that same spot staring down at their smart phone all the time.  All the smart phones have done is make it less conspicuous when people are spending their days on vacation wrapped up in work and what is going on back at the office or home.

It's sad, but we have become a nation that no longer truly understands the importance of taking time away from work.   Recent studies have shown that there is even a horrible trend that is being called "vacation shaming."  Co-workers and bosses are shaming those who actually try to take off their allotted vacation time as if it is some less-than-honorable thing now to want to spend quality time with those who should mean more to you than your work.  The shaming should really be going the other direction, right?.  Why are we not shaming the ones who think work is more important than family and health and spiritual wellness?

This non-vacation vacation trend has been getting worse and worse as the years go by and, for some reason, it is more of a US trend.  Other countries have long recognized the need for time away from work and balance in their life.  Countries like France.  The French receive around 30 days of vacation.  Guess how many they actually take on average?  If you guessed 30 you were correct.  Germany also gets around 30 days off of work and they take an average of 28 of those days off.  Finland, Austria, Italy all have around the same number of days off and the majority of the workers take almost all, if not all of the paid time off of work.

Where are we here in the USofA?  We are WAY down the list...almost dead last in fact.  We get an average of 15 days off of work and most only take 12 of the 15.  Some will act as if that is something to be proud of.  But lets also see where we are on another list.  We are third only to India and China when it comes to anxiety, depression and drug&alcohol use.  Go figure!  We wear this work honor badge like it is something to be proud of while our society suffers from mental stress and disorders.  What relieves stress and anxiety?  Balance in life can lead to a much less stressful and anxious life.  Balance meaning taking time to focus on other things than just work and jobs.

Many no longer allow themselves to be free from duty or business.  Many no longer suspend work to go find rest and recreation.  Too many sacrifice the things that hopefully last longer than some job such as their family or their spiritual life. Too many are wasting the precious moments they have with their spouses, kids etc while they bring work with them on the very thing that is supposed to be a break from work and stress and anxiety...that thing we used to call...vacation.

So what happens to us if this trend continues?  If more and more of us decide work is more important than being "present" with those we care most about, what happens to our mental and physical health? Ask yourself a question.  If you were to become ill due to stress and anxiety at work and you were hospitalized, how many of your co-workers or bosses would be there at your hospital bedside?  How important would that job really be if you Dr gave you bad news about the state of your health?  Would you say, "excuse me Dr, but I need to check my email real quick before you continue with your prognosis."?

That is where a lot of you are headed if things don't change.  You sit there now engrossed in your phones never giving your brain and body a chance to rest and recoup.  You sit there ignoring what is around you while you check texts, emails, voicemails etc and all the while your body and mind and family are begging you to stop.  Meanwhile your mental and physical health is declining as is your life expectancy.

So stop.  Stop and take a look around you for Pete's sake.  Stop and ponder what is really important in life.  Stop before you regret the moments lost, moments you will never ever get back.  Stop and take a real vacation for a change.  Your body, mind and soul and for sure your family will appreciate you for doing that.

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