Your Vacation Needs an Overhaul: Here’s Why

Traveling to some of the most inspirational and life-changing places on this Earth is an impossibility to most Americans. And, it’s a problem.

Gaining new perspective in Cusco, Peru. Photo by Joel Badzinski.
Gaining new perspective in Cusco, Peru. Photo by Joel Badzinski.

In this world economy, it is essential that we allow employees the chance to better understand the world – not through YouTube or Twitter or travel shows on CNN, but through that stern, uncompromising teacher: travel.

I’m not talking about a 7-day escape to an all-inclusive on the Mayan Riviera, which indeed, has its place. I’m talking about longer term travel to places that take days to get to, by plane, bus, train, minivan, taxi boat and tuk-tuk….all of them. I’m talking about places that allow Americans to experience what it’s like to be a true minority, places where you have to work hard to understand the language and culture–where things don’t come easy, but might come better; places that baptize you with discomfort, places that show you there are other ways to do things than what we assume is the only way.

Many companies I’ve worked with list innovation among their core values. But when put into practice, innovation is rarely extended to employee vacation time, or paid time off, and the people being hired to make a company competitive on a global scale often have no experience traveling the globe. When have they had the time, or the opportunity to travel? Upon starting a new job, the benefits extended typically include 10 days of paid vacation, to be accrued over the year following hire, and staff are frequently discouraged from taking those days together. After 10 years at a company (!) you might earn your way to 5 weeks of paid time off. A few sick days might be extended as well, lumped in, which all too frequently encourages staff to come to the office sick so as not to have to use their “vacation days.” When you only have 10 days, they become very precious indeed.

The current system is a breeding ground for ignorance and ethnocentrism.

Tourists from Australia and France enjoy the leisurely ride down the Mekong River on the showboat to Luang, Prabang, Laos.
Tourists from Australia and France enjoy the leisurely ride down the Mekong River on the slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Let’s take a look at a few other First World nations:

  • Annual leave for workers in the U.S. is 12 days of vacation time. That ranks below India, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Austria, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Romania, Egypt, Ireland, Switzerland and Japan.
  • Workers in India get 40 days of annual leave.
  • In France, workers get 30 days of vacation a year, and they take them all at once, to travel. Many also have the option of up to 22 additional days, plus holidays. They also have a 35-hour work week.
  • Australians are required to get 4 weeks of paid vacation, plus 10 paid holidays a year. Shift workers get 5 weeks of paid vacation a year.
  • Workers in Brazil are required by law to get 30 days of paid vacation a year, plus 11 holidays.
  • In Italy, workers get 20-25 days a year, plus an additional 105 hours for personal/family time, and 12-13 paid holidays.

Not all nations are so generous, and some have even more flexibility. Read more here. 

What’s more disturbing is that it goes both ways. Studies show that even though they have the time, the typical American only takes 51% of their paid time off. And when they do have time off, only about 35% of Americans have a passport enabling them to travel overseas. But most of those who have it don’t use it – by some estimates, only 5.5% of Americans take an overseas trip over the course of a year.

Does anyone else think this is a problem?

We cannot raise a generation of global thinkers, when traveling the globe is not an option for them. We cannot afford to live in our silo of Americanism any longer. Forget Canada. Forget Mexico. (And by the way, Puerto Rico is not a different country!) One week a year, maybe two, is not enough time to grow your worldview. If, because of our time poverty, all we are able to do is take a week at an all-inclusive resort, when our only cultural exposure is being served by locals, having every need taken care of without so much as having to learn a word of a foreign language, that experience translates only into a sense of entitlement.

Not exactly fertile soil for innovation.

Changing your perspective isn't easy, it requires some legwork. But the payoff is big. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Changing your perspective isn’t easy, it requires some legwork. But the payoff is big. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Travel, true raw travel, dissolves our sense of entitlement, transforms it into gratitude, and changes our perspective.

And that’s the seed of innovation.

It’s time to overhaul our vacation system, and really think about why we take time off, why so many aren’t using the time they are given, and how we can encourage Americans to travel abroad for their benefit, for the benefit of our world and, of course, the benefit of the business world.

 

How would you change the vacation system in the U.S.?

 

Resources: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_statutory_minimum_employment_leave_by_country

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/15/france-living-well_n_5148599.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annual_leave

 

———————-

Charish Badzinski is an explorer, food-lover and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb

Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.wordpress.com.

———————-

Charish Badzinski is an explorer, food-lover and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb

Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.wordpress.com.

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