The Value of Vacation


“Clark, let’s just skip the house of mud. I think Dodge City was enough fun for one day. Besides, Catherine and Eddie are expecting us. ”

Ellen Griswald from Chevy Chase Vacation.


As I reflect on my recent vacation I am struck by the thought that everyone needs some time off and we should value our vacation time more.  In Europe, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not take their vacation days. The US is a bit different in that we are culturally not as in tuned with the value that our vacation days offer. How many times have you taken vacation just to spend it on your phone or connected with your email back to the office? How relaxing is that?

Vacations are not just important for the mental down time, they are also essential to our longevity as proven by the Framingham Heart Study where it was found that the more frequent the vacations that were taken by the research subjects the longer they lived.

The article written by Brenda Wilson and quoted below, illustrates the discrepancy between our European counterparts and us in the US.

“…Europeans embrace this idea almost religiously. Vacations are enshrined in law. In countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, employers are required to provide up to 20 days of paid leave. Americans, on the other hand, get an average of 12 days every year. A study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that less than half of U.S. employees take the full vacation…”

At one point in my life I too fell into the camp of those who could not cut the umbilical cord that connected me to the office. I would fly to some exotic place and drag my phone and laptop along only to set up meetings first thing in the morning and last thing at night and try to sandwich activities with my family in between.

I would like to think that with age has come wisdom. On my recent vacations I have limited my email responses and tried to not attend any meetings. While I remain devoted to my work, at the same time I understand that to rejuvenate through down time enables me to return to the office with greater focus and clarity.  Some of my most creative moments have come while hiking in the Redwoods with my sister and great-niece. It did help that my cell phone did not have service and that the internet connection was non-existent in our room at the lodge.

I have now returned to the office with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. Facing challenges is exciting rather than stressful. Here it is the second day back at work and I still have the “vacation glow.”

I would encourage you to think about your next vacation and how you can make it a time to contemplate and reflect. Relaxing and leaving all things work related behind at the office. Stop and smell the roses, clear your mind, eat chocolate for breakfast, and make sure to have wine with dinner every night. You’ll be surprised how much more productive you will be when you return to the office and at the same time probably add years to your life.