Utah's Canyonlands

Take Advantage of Your Vacation Time

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I don’t know about you, but I could use a vacation.

Vacation

After just finishing my stint filling in for one of my editors who was on maternity leave, I’m feeling more overwhelmed than ever. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I was doing and the routine of going back into an office after nearly seven years of working from home, but just because I was back in a “normal job”—albeit, temporarily—doesn’t mean all my other work came to a grinding halt during that period. I continued to balance a full freelance load aside from my gig at Nashville Lifestyles where I was both writing and editing, cover multiple events each night for PEOPLE and other magazines, travel on weekends for other assignments, work on projects with Travel Mindset, and occasionally steal away to see my husband and puppy (though not nearly enough). That’s all on top of tending to our fixer-upper house (more updates on that very soon!), having a steady stream of visitors (I’m currently preparing to welcome our fourth group of guests for the month of September alone), and a whole other host of side jobs and tasks. To sum it up in a single word, I’m exhausted.

Which is why next week’s jaunt to California is much needed. While technically we’ll be there for a wedding in Orange County (yes, another one!), SVV and I are flying out early for 36 hours of doing nothing but chilling beachside in Santa Monica. I know we’re both looking forward to a solid day of not opening our computers, ignoring our inboxes and just taking an actual vacation, something we don’t do nearly enough—and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I bet you don’t either.

Florida sunset

It was while I was living in Denmark where my Scandinavian friends had a minimum of six mandated weeks of vacation that I realized how backward we, as Americans, have this whole work-life balance. It seems like a no-brainer, right? A rested human is a more productive human. And yet, the U.S. Travel Association found that 429 million vacation days were left on the table last year. That number is mind-boggling.

MasterCard has launched a #OneMoreDay campaign encouraging Americans to start taking these hard-earned days that are rightfully theirs. As someone who may have location flexibility, my constant connectivity means I am always just an email click away from being contacted by my editors: for an assignment, to rewrite a piece, to conduct an interview with a tight turnaround. On our most recent trip to Europe, I spent many a day in port at a café working on such projects, but no more. Going forward, I vow to use my vacation days for what they’re actually meant for: to unwind, relax, recharge.

That means, if you see me posting anything from California next week that doesn’t involve a beach, you have my permission to publicly reprimand me.

And if you tell MasterCard where’d you’d go using the hashtag #OneMoreDaySweeps on Twitter or Instagram, you might just win your own trip of a lifetime anywhere in the world.

That said, you don’t have to jet off to China or Europe or even the Caribbean to take advantage of time off. There are plenty of ways to use those vacation days within our own country, many of which can be planned on a whim.

Have a long weekend to spare? Why not escape to New York City? Or Seattle? Or heck, come see me in Nashville!

Seattle, Washington

Can manage a full week away? Our national parks are brimming with opportunities to explore. Plan a similar road trip to the one we took a few years back through Utah’s Canyonlands and Arches National Park. If you’re more of a city slicker, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos would make for an excellent weeklong getaway.

Utah's Canyonlands

Want to maximize that vacation time and take a full 10 days? Go somewhere truly special. Montana or Hawaii get my votes.

Montana

Bottom line: You work hard. You earned those vacation days. Now, use them.

COMMENTS
  • September 24, 2014

    I completely agree with this #onemoreday idea. We all can use a vacation, a break away from the day to day. I love reading your blog! If you have time come visit Modern Emporium in the East Village in Long Beach on the way from Santa Monica to your wedding in Orange county. We are right in the middle;) I would love to meet you!

    • September 25, 2014

      Duly noted! I would love to meet you, too =) I’m not sure if we’ll be making it to Long Beach on this trip specifically since the wedding is in Dana Point, but your shop looks awesome and I will definitely check it out next time I’m in the area (I’m in CA several times a year).

  • September 24, 2014

    OMG six weeks of vacation, if only! I use up all of my vacation days (a sad 12 days), down to the last minute. I’m definitely trying to play more, work more, if that’s possible haha. Have fun relaxing in California! You deserve it. xo

    • September 25, 2014

      That’s my girl! I knew I could count on you to use every minute of your (deserved) vacation time 😉

  • September 24, 2014
    Briel K.

    I’ve never had a problem taking all the vacation time that is owed to me. In fact I wish I had more!! The 15 days a year I get isn’t nearly enough IMO! 🙂

    This year I went to Bali for three weeks and I have a week+ off around Christmas & New Years but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I’ll be spending it with my family but I’m trying to convince them to travel somewhere instead of being home for the holidays. My mom wants to go somewhere too since her mom passed away earlier this year and she doesn’t really want to celebrate but she does want to be there for her two grandkids (my 2 nieces) so we may take off somewhere after Christmas.

    I’ve been wanting to go to Amsterdam for a long time now but I don’t think it’s going to happen next year (2016 goal!). I’m hoping next year to get back to NY for a trip and hopefully visit Nashville or somewhere else new. I’ll only have 1 vacation day accrued at the beginning of the year so it will take a while to accumulate enough to take a trip.

    Have a great time in Santa Monica/OC! If your trip weren’t so short I’d suggest we meet up!

    Wow, that was long. 🙂

    • September 25, 2014

      I know, right? I guess we’ll just have to meet up when you finally make that Nashville trip 😉 Unless you don’t have to work next Thursday and want to meet us at Malibu Winery, heh…

      And you know who to come to when you finally make that Amsterdam trip! I’m not super well-versed in the city itself, but have a lot of recs for cute areas in Benelux to visit.

  • September 24, 2014

    Ooo, love the idea of this campaign! I never understood how people could leave vacation days unused… but it’s pretty common in the US!

    • September 25, 2014

      Perhaps that’s why you and I chose a non-traditional career path? 😉

  • September 25, 2014
    Jennifer

    Enjoy your break! We’re also jetting off to LA next week to meet my wee baby niece (who is not quite wee baby any longer). Couldn’t be more excited!

    • September 25, 2014

      Maybe we will cross paths at LAX! =)

      Enjoy your niece time! I’ve got my wee baby niece (also not quite wee as she’s now 16 months) coming out from CA next month.

  • September 25, 2014

    This has been on my mind lately and I must say, sometimes I feel extremely guilty taking my vacation days. I know I’m fully entitled to it, but I feel like the society applauds and sees you as a hard worker when you can’t take them because you are “so busy at work”. It’s totally backward! Anyways, I hope you guys have an amazing vacation! It’s well deserved, I’d say!

    • September 28, 2014

      You are so right! And it’s a terrible way to treat your employees: this unspoken implication that if you’re taking the time off you’re owed, you’re lazy/not a good employee. Europe’s got the mentality right: Rested employees are more productive employees!

  • September 25, 2014

    love this idea! We could all use the “one more day” of vacation 🙂

  • September 25, 2014

    I really enjoyed this post. The lack of vacation time Americans receive gives me so much motivation to create my own business and reality! I also love the idea of vacationing and traveling at home. It may sound weird, but the more I travel abroad the more I want to see from my home, the USA.

    • September 28, 2014

      I feel like traveling internationally really helps shed light on how great our own country is. I, too, didn’t have nearly the appreciation for all the States has to offer until I started visiting so many other far-flung places.

  • September 26, 2014
    AM

    I normally enjoy your blog but I found this post really out of touch. Didn’t you JUST get back from a major (2 week+) European vacation? To then whine 3 months later about needing a vacation comes off incredibly poorly. I understand that a lot of your travel is work related and believe me I know that business travel is not always glamorous. But the fact remains that you take more vacation-vacation to cool places than just about anyone I know. Most people in the US who have the funds to travel internationally or even domestically with regularity have jobs that make taking vacation difficult to impossible. In my industry and the industries many of my friends are in (law, tech, finance, consulting) taking a 2 week vacation is almost unheard of unless its your honeymoon. I have a paltry (by international standards) 3 weeks of vacation per year and in the 5 years I’ve been working, I’ve never used all of it. I would love to of course, but the fact is that taking repeated vacations makes people see you as lazy in many American workplaces. Even without using my whole 3 weeks, I take more vacation than just about anyone I work with (because I insist on taking one “real” – one full week or more – vacation per year). I know many people think less of me for it, even though I work my butt off the other 50-51 weeks. I think that attitude is terrible but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s reality for many (most?) Americans who have demanding office jobs. I understand that people like you who are self- employed have considerably more flexibility, but I think some recognition of the fact that you’re so fortunate in this aspect would have made this post a lot more tolerable.

    • September 28, 2014

      I think you missed the entire point here—or perhaps didn’t read past the first line. I work six to seven days a week, no matter where I am in the world. On my recent “major European vacation,” which yes was meant to be a “vacation-vacation,” I spent every morning and evening on the ship writing, transcribing interviews, researching and meeting deadlines, and every afternoon in port finding an Internet connection to file stories with my editors back home, much to the annoyance of my husband and family who were traveling with me. Am I an anomaly? Hell no. Millions of Americans have the same work ethic where they don’t *ever* take a day off (my own dad works Monday through Sunday all year long and has since I was born). That’s the idea behind this campaign: encouraging others to a) use the vacation time they’re allotted (because personally I think it’s pretty shitty of big corporations to give their employees x amount of days off a year and then make them feel guilty when they try to use them and b) actually unplug while on said vacation. As someone with chronic anxiety and panic attacks because I’m never disconnected and, thus, am always an email away from an editor or client, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important for me—and everyone—to take an occasional mental break for my own well-being.

      And I totally get WHY people in the corporate world don’t use their vacation time because of exactly what you pointed out: that they’re viewed as lazy by their employers or peers. Still, that doesn’t make it right—and I hope that someday standards and cultural norms change, but as long as employees abide by that sort of attitude (and/or are terrified they’ll get fired for taking the time they’re allowed), it never will.

      Europe for Scott’s 40th birthday was the first vacation-vacation I have taken since we went to visit my in-laws in California in September 2013 for a week, so not sure where you’re getting the impression that I go on vacations all the time. I rarely talk about my work in depth here (often not at all) for the same reasons as anyone who has a 9-to-5 doesn’t blog about his job.

  • September 28, 2014

    I totally understand why some American’s do not see the need for a passport when there is so much to discover on your doorstep. I’ve started planning my road trip across the US and I’ve just realised how vast the country is.

    • September 28, 2014

      Totally agree! That’s my response every time someone from another country fires off the whole “American’s don’t travel/have passports” comment. While I obviously encourage international travel, I think it’s very important to both explore the beauty of our own nation and also recognize that the United States is so vast, it could take a lifetime to see all the highlights.

  • September 28, 2014

    When I had a PR job in Vegas, I was allowed 10 days vacation,but I couldn’t take the vacation in its entirety, meaning I could never leave the country. I see people who live to work versus work to live in the States and I think it is sad. I work two jobs, I work days, nights and weekends, but you better believe that when it comes time, I am taking a vacation from it all. I know how hard it is to actually TAKE the leave we are given in the working world, but I think those two weeks or three weeks or whatever are so necessary for us to unplug, unwind and reconnect with ourselves, our friends, our family. I love the vacation given in other countries. I think they are spot on and wish that the corporate world would perhaps pay more attention to what other countries are doing, and see the importance (which I know some do) of keeping employees healthy and happy.

    • September 29, 2014

      So true! And aren’t you glad you left that world behind? 😉

      Also, 10 days??? *shudder*

  • September 29, 2014

    This is a great campaign. Not nearly enough people take all (or even most) or their vacation. I’m fortunate to have 29 days this year, which is pretty unheard of in the US, and I’m trying to take it all!

    • September 29, 2014

      That’s great! Even my friends who have been with their companies for 10 years are only up to 3.5 to 4 weeks. Take every last bit of it, girlfriend!

  • September 29, 2014

    Oh man, don’t get me started! I think it’s a travesty that taking time to travel or to recharge is seen as a weakness in the American business world. It is an area in which other parts of the world are simply kicking our butts. I have seen how hard and stressful it is for my friends to take their vacation days at times we have wanted to travel together — one high school pal planned a trip to visit me this fall and was explicitly told by her mentor upon starting a new job that it would look bad for her to request the time off within her first six months at the company, even though they knew she had the trip planned when she was interviewing!

    Work life balance for the win.

    • September 29, 2014

      Ugh! The real culprit is corporate America making employees feel like they’ll get fired if they take the vacation outlined in their contracts. It’s ridiculous.

  • September 29, 2014

    This is a great campaign. I’m British and as a European we all have a legal minimum of 24 days. In Germany, most of us have between 50 and 55 days per year (including public holidays), and we do use them. In fact, I’m finding I could possibly do with a bit more LOL!

    However, my company is a British/American one and practically every year, we have to force. Yes force, our American colleagues to take their holidays as they’re not used to it. This is how, besides the fact that I have a full time job, I’m married and have a pre-teenage son, I’m also a committee member of the American Boy Scouts in Berlin, I cover Berlin lifestyle stuff, and I still manage to travel between 4 – 6 times a year and look after my garden LOL!

    • September 29, 2014

      Yet more reasons to love Europe! Seriously, you guys do it right over there. We could learn a thing or two…

      • October 1, 2014
        Abi

        Sounds like you could all do with #onemoreweek! The European Union has actually brought in laws that try to make sure workers have enough time off in between shifts as well (11 hrs) due to the health implications of overwork and shift work. It’s not a perfect system yet but I always feel disheartened when I’m reminded about the situation in the US. Be part of the revolution! Take that leave!

  • September 30, 2014

    This posts reminds me of my days as a full time agency publicist. I’d go out of town on a video shoot for 2 full weeks, working 16 hours a day every day, then I’d come back to the office and get grief for requesting a morning at home to catch up on laundry, bills, etc. There’s no point in getting a great vacation package when you’re not allowed to actually take it!

    The US has a long way to go before people realize that rested employees are more productive than burned out ones! But this MasterCard campaign is really a great start. Thanks for sharing, from one hard-working freelancer to another =)

  • October 7, 2014

    Totally agree the idea…getting away from daily work and enjoying a life for some time..

  • October 9, 2014

    People who don’t write and travel for a living don’t always understand how being away can be just as hard as a 9-5 in the office. There’s a complete difference between being on a yacht with your computer turned on and being on a yacht with just a cocktail in hand. Enjoy your (short) holibobs – and apologies if this has printed twice, comp went mad and I didn’t think it appeared. Dear Lord, I think I need a holiday too! x

  • October 14, 2014
    Mister Sister

    fine, fine… i pledge to vacation more with you

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