Vacation Time

Last week I took a mini-vacation, and it was wonderful. It was supposed to involve a trip to see my spouse’s family, but conflicting work schedules made it necessary for me to stay behind. Because we could not go to New England with the rest of the family, my two girls and I determined that we would take the single day neither one of them was scheduled to work and go to the beach. Yes, that’s right. We got up very early, drove four and a half hours to spend seven hours at the shore, and then drove right back home. It ended up being a fine adventure and gloriously good time.

Our lovely mini trip cost less than a night’s stay in a budget beach motel, and we enjoyed a full day of fun, quality time together, and relaxation (I took a two hour nap and read while they walked the boardwalk). I am so thankful my youngest daughter insisted we take this whirlwind girl trip getaway. Just a few hours of ocean air, salt water, surf, and sun helped melt away accumulated stress.

Maybe it has something to do with the American work ethic, or perhaps it is my Germanic heritage, but whatever the root cause, I have a difficult time taking vacation. I am lucky; I have a job that provides generous paid time off. Not all Americans have that luxury. In fact, about one in four Americans has no paid vacation time or holidays as a  job benefit. Even so, I still have a hard time breaking away.

And yet, God commanded us to take Sabbath time., designating the first day of every week as time to reorient oneself to a right relationship with God, and to take sufficient time to rest and recharge. If God considers Sabbath time so important, why do I have such a difficult time taking the vacation time I am granted? Why are many Americans working themselves into illness and poor health? Why is paid vacation and holiday time a “benefit” offered to the lucky workers and not all working Americans?

In case you think I’m odd, read this article posted on Salon’s website. You might also wish to review this policy brief, entitled “No-vacation nation USA– a comparison of leave and holiday in OECD countries,” by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt that is referenced in the article. Produced for the European Trade Union Institute for Research, Education and Health and Safety, the report provides a comparison of paid leave and holiday time for 21 wealthy countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States). After reading the entries for the other countries describing the various governmental policies for how paid leave and vacation time is guaranteed to workers, here is the statement for the United States: “United States law offers no statutory paid leave. The only exceptions are for government contractors and subcontractors covered under the Davis-Bacon Act (18).”

Here’s another telling excerpt from the report’s introduction (p. 2):

In the absence of government standards in the United States, almost one in four workers there has no paid leave and no paid public holidays at all. According to U.S. government survey data, the average worker in the U.S. private sector receives only about nine days of paid leave and about six paid public holidays per year, substantially less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world’s rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid-leave days and requires no paid public holidays).

You can access the entire report here.

We are conditioned to think that vacation and holiday time may lead to lower productivity and sloth, even though credible research says otherwise.  If you do have paid vacation time and holidays as part of your work package, be thankful–and take it. Your body, your mind, your family, and your spirit will thank you.

Vacation Reading

Today I’m off to the shore with my daughters for one last “girl trip” before college (the younger) and marriage (the older). It will be a quick trip, but what I’m most looking forward to is curling up under the umbrella with a tall glass of iced tea, a good “fun” read, accompanied by the sound of waves, the smell of salt air, and the warmth of the sun.

I’m taking Stephen King’s Bag of Bones and Debra Marquart’s memoir The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere. I will also have, of course, a journal in hopes of continued inspiration interrupted by yesterday’s kitchen fire.

The two books I’ll be reading are worlds apart, but both authors know how to tell a good story and paint a vivid scene with words. Add a little beach music to the mix, and I’m good to go.

What’s your pick for vacation reading this year, and why did you choose it (or them if you lug multiple volumes or an e-reader with you)?

Photo by ngader used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

A Tech Sabbath . . . Can She do It?

Technology keeps us instantly connected–no doubt about it. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and texting all serve an important function to keep our digital plates spinning and connections with one another intact. The immediacy is both blessing and curse. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I’m more than just a little bit addicted to this flow of information and seeming connectedness. Even when my family goes on vacation, either my spouse or I haul along a laptop and pray for WiFi. To be fair, as writers we do a lot of web research. Vocational concerns aside, do I really need this kind of connection to live thankfully and fully? This is a question I’ll be exploring during my mini-vacation this long weekend. Am I really addicted to this web of connection, and can I disconnect at will without going into spasms of techno-withdrawal?

My youngest daughter is about to exceed her data plan for her iPhone with five days remaining in this month’s billing period. She blames it on the fact that she no longer has a computer that works. When I suggested that she simply not use the data features until the next billing period, she looked at me like I had one eye and three heads. However in the world can one not be “connected” to the world?

A recent study published by the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, shows that being cut off from e-mail at work reduces stress and increases focus. Imagine that! Click here for more information about the study and a link to the report (downloadable PDF).

Why is it so difficult to disconnect? What am I afraid I will be missing? The world will go on without my participation in social media. If someone really wants to contact me, we do have a land line with an answering machine. Plus, I am on vacation. That means I am supposed to disconnect from work and the regular cycles of my daily routine.

So, to that end, I am resolved not to check my e-mail or Facebook until my vacation ends on Monday. And, no, that does not mean that I will be logged on at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning to see what I might have missed. It’s only a weekend right? What could be so tough about that?

I’ll let you know next week how this little experiment goes. Until then, enjoy some pre-planned postings and keep living thankfully one moment at a time.

Photo by photosteve 101 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!