Posted on July 6, 2008
According to Wikipedia: “In the United Kingdom the word "vacation" referred specifically to the long summer break taken by the law courts (and later universities)—a custom introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it was intended to facilitate the grape harvest. The French term is similar to the American English: "Les Vacances." The term derives from the fact that, in the past, upper-class families would literally move to a summer home for part of the year, leaving their usual family home vacant.”
The Europeans are much better about vacating their homes for long stretches during the summer months than Americans are. In fact, most European countries have mandated that companies offer their employees at least three weeks of vacation (or holiday as many Brits call it). Even when Americans take a vacation, they are often on their blackberries (or Iphones or Trios or whatever PDA they might be using at the moment) to keep in touch. The Europeans? Not so much.
For a vacation to really be a vacation, the vacationer should not be in hourly contact with the home office. I have my own small business, so the home office is wherever I might be, so while it is tempting to leave the blackberry at home, that isn’t really an option. My guess is that my experience is not much different from many others, even folks who work in big companies.
It really takes about two weeks to have a good vacation, where you can really relax and clear your mind. But that doesn’t happen as much any more. Now, most people just take a Friday off and make a three-day weekend out of it.
But you have to wonder if that model will work in the future in the face of an airline industry that makes it extraordinarily difficult to travel. With the cancelled flights and full-on inconvenience that is air travel to today, you have to wonder if taking a weekend flight to the Cape is really worth it these days.
We live in an age of anxiety. People are worried about losing their jobs, about losing their station in life, about terrorism, and about a host of other things that go bump in the night. That makes it awfully difficult to completely enjoy the vacation.
When I was a kid, we used to go for a couple of weeks to the lake. We had a great time, even though I would inevitably get sunburned. But we stopped doing that when I was 13, and I haven’t had a really good, long vacation since then. My brother Jim, who has three kids under the age of 5, never takes a vacation. Not worth it, he explains. Maybe when the kids get older.
But I do believe that it is important for people to get away from their daily lives and take a break. Whether they go camping near a lake or take a tour of a strange city, or go to the beach or plan a fishing trip, or take a golf vacation or go to a tennis camp, people need to get away from it all from a while. They need to have some fun, to give life a shot in arm, get away from the humdrum, commune with nature, and if nothing else, give the tourist industry a shot in the arm.
I have vacation on the brain because I just got back from a short vacation, hence the reason I didn’t have any posts on my blog for the last couple of days. I had fully intended to do some blogs from the hotel we were staying in, but my son decided that he would rather run around like a maniac than take the naps that we had planned for him, so my blog-writing window closed pretty quickly just about every day.
This being our nation’s birthday, I know it altogether fitting and appropriate to express our love of country. And I do love this country. But when it comes to vacations, the Europeans have a better deal and a better outlook on life. I don’t government mandates, but I sure do love vacations. I am looking forward to my next one.