Having just gotten back from a brief New England excursion (which was quite fun but left me feeling very guilty for abandoning the internet for a few days) I got to thinking about vacations generally. I'm a McSlacker so I take way more than my fair share--but I can see I'm going to have to step it up even more to bring up the national average.
Because a vacation poll from a couple of months ago said that fewer Americans than ever are planning to take summer vacations in 2008--only a third!
The New York Times was talking about the depressing phenomenon of "shrinking vacation syndrome" a couple of years ago. A typical quote, by a AAA spokesman: "The idea of somebody going away for two weeks is really becoming a thing of the past. It’s kind of sad, really, that people can’t seem to leave their jobs anymore."
Another vacation survey from a year ago found that a more than half of the employees polled did not use all of their vacation.
There seem to be two issues here: the inability to take much time off work, and the expense and difficulty of traveling anywhere when such precious time is actually secured. We'll just mix these two entirely different problems together because it's easier to pretend it's all one issue. But anyway, the net result is:
Hardly anyone seems to be able to "get away from it all" anymore.
It is the official position of Cranky Fitness that This Is Just Wrong! (And not only because we were just
This "shrinking vacation" thing sucks for many reasons, but one of them is actually related to the supposed topic of this blog:
It is apparently unhealthy not to take vacations!
For example, researchers looking at the Framingham heart study data found that women who took a vacation every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop heart problems than those who took at least two vacations a year. (And they controlled for other factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and income). And another study of men at high risk for heart disease also found that those who failed to take annual vacations were more likely to die of a heart attack.
So quick, go to your boss and demand that you be released immediately! If your boss says no, simply lie down on the floor and have a heart attack. That'll show 'em.
Or maybe not. Time spent away from work but hooked up to machines in the Intensive Care Unit might not be quite as relaxing as a week at the beach.
But even if you can manage to take a vacation without threatening cardiac arrest, it may not even help you recuperate if you don't take the right kind.
A survey of managers found that a quarter of them returned from vacation more stressed than when they left, with a third having spent at least part of their break checking in with the office, often every day. And according to Dov Eden, an organizational psychologist who has studied the issue, "those who are electronically hooked up to their office, even if they are lying on the Riviera, are less likely to receive the real benefits of a vacation and more likely to burn out."
Another earlier study looked at "health-related vacation outcome." Despite the dry language, the conclusions were kinda interesting:
"Recuperation" was facilitated by:
- Free time for one's self;
- Warmer (and sunnier) vacation locations;
- Exercise during vacation;
- Good sleep; and
- Making new acquaintances
- Vacation-related health problems, and
- A greater time-zone difference to home.
- Don't go somewhere to impress others; go somewhere you're excited about. It could be camping in your local park or something more exotic. But the further away it is, the more time you need to allow to enjoy it without stress. Those "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium" vacations are seldom relaxing.
- And along those lines, don't schedule every single minute with activities. Chill, dude.
- Don't have kids. Or if it's too late for that, figure out how to get at least some time away from them.
- Do lots of fun vacation-related exercise--hiking, swimming, biking etc, but leave your ambitious workout plans at home.
- Ditch your loved ones. Don't feel like you and your spouse/friend/family have to do the same thing all the time--constant compromise can be frustrating. If Beloved Husband wants to tour the dusty old Train Museum or spend all day on a boat
drinking beer"fishing," and you'd rather shop the boutiques, split up for God's sake. You can catch up at dinner.
- Find a tour group. On the other hand, are you single and can't round up a friend with the same schedule or interests? Don't let that keep you at home. Tours have gotten a lot less "touristy" these days and are no longer just for the blue-hair set. The internet is your friend--here's one random company, but a few minutes with google will turn up lots of options.
- If you can't stay off your office email, stay somewhere without internet access. Even if it means (sniff) no Cranky Fitness for the duration.
- Get some sleep. Arrange to have any noisy or obnoxious hotel neighbors arrested or intimidated by local thugs. Failing that, at least complain to hotel management with the hopes that they may do something about it or get you another room.
- Come back home a day or two early. Don't wait until the last minute before you have to go back to work. Nothing will erase a relaxing vacation faster than stack of unopened mail, a mountain of chores, a pile of stinky laundry two stories high and no time to deal with any of it.
- You tell me! (You guys are much better at this stuff).
So are any of you going to be able to escape for a vacation this summer? Or do you have any thoughts about vacationing generally?