This morning I cracked open the October issue of AFAR. This time, it wasn’t a beautiful travel photo or sentimental story that floored me. Instead, it was AFAR Founder and CEO Greg Sullivan‘s Founder’s Note. In it, he explains that Americans leave 429 million vacation days unused every year. And worse? The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t require employers to provide paid time off to their employees.
That. Is. Insane!
Especially, given that nowhere in the world are workers more tightly tethered to their desks and their deliverables than here in the U.S. If there’s any place where a break is deserved—and where simply providing the option to take one should be mandatory—it’s here!
Kudos to companies like AFAR, which Sullivan says offers full-time employees 30 days of paid time off and a $2,000 stipend each year to travel to places they’ve never been to before. Granted, AFAR’s whole philosophy and product offering is based on the virtues of exploring the world, but a vacation doesn’t have to mean hopping a plane to the planet’s farthest reaches. Sometimes, a break from the grind need only be in the form of a drive to a neighboring state, or eating your way through a city you haven’t yet explored.
While I’ve been fortunate in that all of my past employers offered PTO, convincing myself that it was okay to step away for a few days wasn’t always easy. In fact, I often couldn’t do it. Apparently, with those 400 million-plus vacation days left unused, I wasn’t alone. Why do we feel such guilt about taking time away from work?
Now, as a freelancer, I’m in the ironic position of having unlimited vacation days but working entirely on commission. So, the prospect of unplugging for a few days brings with it a whole new degree of guilt (and, frankly, fear).
I’m curious—does your employer provide paid time off? If so, do you take advantage of it? If you don’t, why? If you’re not offered PTO, do you take vacations anyway? If you’re self-employed or non-salaried, how do you ensure an escape every now and then?
There are unfathomable numbers of walking tours, hole-in-the-wall finds, mind-melting meals, sun-drenched beach days, fireside conversations, rocking chair cups of coffee, museum explorations, priceless photographs, soul-freeing boat rides, breathtaking views, self-discoveries, and so much more to be had in 400 million days. And at the end of our own days, the memories of those experiences—not the bonuses, the buyouts, or the overtime—are all we can take with us. I say, let’s go out and get them.