When I was a child, my family went on a two-week vacation every summer.
These were not luxurious trips. One summer we rented a cottage, but otherwise we camped in a very large tent because we were a very large family and that’s what we could afford. I didn’t sleep in a hotel or fly on a plane until I was an adult.
But now I realize those vacations were a luxury — one that many American children today are denied.
An annual survey, sponsored by Expedia, reveals the details of something that most of us have already recognized in a general way. We have become a vacation-deprived nation.
Americans get far less vacation time than Europeans do, are more likely to leave vacation days unused and often bring their work worries – and laptops, cell phones and Blackberries – along on their leisure trips. The two-week vacation is increasingly unlikely; only 14 percent of American surveyed are planning a vacation that long in 2008.
The toll that this takes on our psyches, our health and our productivity can’t really be calculated. I believe it’s enormous. Arthur Frommer, an outspoken advocate for Americans’ right to leisure time, has said it better than I ever will.
When I think back on those two-week camping trips, I remember idyllic times. Campfires, canoe rides, swimming, hiking. We went to beaches from Canada to the Carolinas, dug clams in Maine, visited the Smithsonian museums in Washington, toured Boston, Quebec City and beyond.
It was fun. It was good for the family.
I am fortunate because, having worked for the same company for a long time, I can schedule a three-week vacation this fall. I’ve been planning this trip for years to celebrate a milestone birthday of the husband’s.(I’ve been saving for it for years, too.)
I wish more Americans could do that. And take their kids, too.