August 10, 2006

Do you really want to go on vacation?

I had the feeling it was just me, but apparently it's a big cultural trend that people don't want to go on vacation anymore. Assuming this actually is happening and it's something new, what's the cause?

People have always worried about leaving their work. It will either pile up and make things harder when you get back or it will be a problem because someone is covering for you. They'll either do it badly -- and you'll have to undo the mess -- or they do it well -- and you'll look bad by comparison.

And then there's also the problem -- is this new? -- that the vacation might not be good enough. In typical NYT fashion, the article tells the story of one Manhattanite woman. It's Randi Friedman, the 27-year-old publicist. Can you believe it? She went to a resort and it rained and it was rather cold. But she did -- wince -- gain a sense of perspective when she turned on the hotel TV and saw how bad the day at the beach was for the victims of the Asian tsunami.....

(Oooh, I wish they'd edited that part out...)

Anyway, I'm not surprised people rebel against vacation. Presumably, you have your regular life set up to provide a decent level of satisfaction. Your living quarters are reasonably comfortable, your job is somewhat enjoyable, and you like your town and at least some of your friends and acquaintances. Why go to the trouble of going somewhere else, where every day is going to cost you lots of extra money, and where you have no guarantee you'll be one bit happier than you are at home? To try to ensure the experience will be better than home, you can make a big effort at planning or lay out a lot of extra money, but that increases the burden and only makes it more important that the vacation turn out well.


DB said...

For me, vacations seem like extra work. Getting out of town is a chore and if I'm off I like to stay close to home. There is some nervousness about work as well. My wife feels otherwise so compromises are common.

El Presidente said...

I've been away from work for a couple weeks and the polital prisoners are really stacking up.

Why can't someone step up to my responsibilities when I have to be out of the office? Raul has been such a disapointment.

DaveG said...

I discovered this myself a few years ago. I get a lot more out of five weeks worth of one-day "vacations" than I do out of a full week off. Taking the full week seems to require a trip somewhere, or it simply ends up being a mass of empty do-nothing days, with the ensuing activity vacuum willingly filled with honey-do's. With one day off each week, I find it easy to fill the time with tinkering on the airplane, or taking a short flight somewhere. Yesterday I managed to do both, and returned to work today more rested and refreshed that I would have been after a week of struggling with travel, etc. And I didn't have to deal with a 200 message inbox upon my return!

Steve Donohue said...

Maybe it's just me, but the article just set me off completely.

I got back from college in the middle of May, and since then I've worked two jobs at about 25 hours a week for each job. Only very rarely do I ever have a day off- I think I've had four all summer. I work in college, I work over breaks, etc. because I need to pay down my credit card debt from living expenses from when I'm in college. In short, I really need a vacation. Hell, even a weekend would be nice.

Yesterday, I crashed my car driving between my first and second job. Nothing too serious- just slightly worse than a fender bender, but still damaging enough that I can't really drive the car. One of my jobs is a selivery job, so that's probably over. I also have no way to get to my other job. I only have liability insurance, which means that I'm probably going to have to cover the cost of repairing the car out of pocket. So all of my work from this summer was completely useless- I might as well have just stayed home and read all summer.

But now the Times is telling me that, actually, vacations are passe because sometimes they don't turn out perfectly. Then it goes through all the petty little inter-office stuff that could theoretically happen while your away. That's fine, but what about all the working poor like myself that your editorial board is always lamenting. For some of us, our lives aren't so perfect that they are just going to contribute to our problems with our regular life. For some of us, they are still a much needed escape.

Robert Burnham said...

I wonder if the idea of one long, uninterrupted vacation isn't one of those hang-overs from industrial-era work patterns.

Also, the job-insecurity issue has grown more urgent and spread wider as more and more people feel like "free agents" with no longterm loyalty ties between their companies and themselves. We are al replaceable, and everyone in the system knows it.

Also, keep in mind that the phenomenon of working-on-vacation, while real, may get talked and written about so much because media workers and other symbol-manipulators have easy ways to keep up with the office while on holiday. I have a strong hunch that few industrial line workers feel much urgency about staying in touch with work while they are on vacation.

Dave said...

I don't like vacation.

The lazy Mediterraneanism which is so prevalent in Europe is, of course, the source of their sclerotic economies.

Much better to work and create welath than to sit on a beach for four weeks in August.

Henry said...

Like Dave, I'm a big fan of the day off. Actually I'm a big fan of the regular schedule. Since I generally like my job, I generally like Mondays.

Give me a long weekend, and I'd just as soon do some yardwork and take the kids to the park as bake on a beach.

As far as vacations go, our most reliably good vacations every year are annual extended-family get-togethers. Predictable, loud, fun for everyone.

SteveR said...

My dad was raised on a farm with 11 siblings, no such thing as a vacation, the whole idea in late 20th century. That we are entilted to them and expected to enjoy them.

Load up the kids and go to Disneyland. To the extent that our lifestyles, job functions and technological mobility have changed over the last 50-60 years, the idea of getting away from it for a week, seems like more work than fun, thus is it really a "vacay"?

tcd said...

Yeah, vacations are gonna be even more "relaxing" with longer lines at the airport. Thank you, fucking terrorists and snakes!

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I got over my fear of a vacation when I realized my complete fungibility at work.

My role as wife and mother, however, is not fungible. We vacation together to make memories.

Christy said...

The extreme unpleasantness (especially for America's increasing population of people of size) of air travel these days puts something of a damper on travel. Then news reports tell us how much we Americans are hated overseas, except for our tourist dollars. (Articles like the other one in this week's NYTimes Diner Beware: Turisti Pay More in Roman Restaurants don't help.) Increasingly companies are doing away with "use it or lose it" vacation policies. Government jobs frequently pay out for accumulated unused vacation time when the employee leaves. I've known people to count on that money.

Me? As a skier I never had trouble using up vacation time. But then I chose to retire at 48, so I suppose my commitment to work is suspect anyhow. Although I did find in my early enthusiastic years that it was only into the second week of vacation that I stopped thinking about work projects.

Dale B said...

I do take vacation, although usually less than I'm entitled to take. I don't see my job as something that I need to escape from. Mostly, I enjoy my work. Vacation is for doing things that interest me that I can't do at work.

I'm with Daveg for most of my vacation time. I often take long weekends or a day in the middle of the week. I will work around the house or work on the motorcycles. On a long weekend I may do the same thing or go for a 2-4 day ride over in SW Wisconsin or the Michigan UP.

Going someplace and sitting on the beach or even sightseeing has never interested me that much. I need to be doing something.

When I do take a whole week or two it's always a long motorcyce trip. Most people I know would find this sort of thing boring or fairly stressful but I find it quite enjoyable. It is physically a bit stressful as you're out in the elements all day for many days. It can ge too cold, too hot, raining and sometimes even snowing (in the mountains). Still I like it. Mentally it's very relaxing.

I'm not really going anywhere. My destination is the road. Pretty sights are nice and the mountain twisties are great when they're there. It doesn't get much better than carving the corners up US 14 in Wyoming's Big Horn mountains or the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. But even riding across the nothingness of eastern Colorado or northern Nevada is fine with me.

The main thing is the ride. As long as I'm moving, I'm happy. On the road there are no abstractions, just the road and the weather. All I have to think about is where do I eat, sleep, and get gas.

I wouldn't want to do this all the time but a couple weeks a year is great.

MadisonMan said...

Echoing Ruth Ann, I'd be curious to know how many of the non-vacation-takers are also childfree. Vacations and their memories were a wonderful part of my childhood, and I want the same for my kids. It seemed like the people in the article were going alone to a destination.

dearieme said...

The mathematician Littlewood recommended a precise length of vacation - 3 weeks. When I tried it - my goodness, he was right.

Ann Althouse said...

Do children really appreciate vacations that much? I think doing things with them within the vicinity of home can be much nicer. Parks, day trips, a jaunt to the bookstore, a walk to the frozen custard stand -- and the comforts of home at the end of the day. Easy, no stress, cheap, within a child's tolerance. I don't understand the charm of dragging kids onto airplanes and across the country -- except where needed to visit relatives.

Henry said...

The annual family vacations I mentioned earlier are huge fun for our kids. We do one big one each summer in Cape Cod. The kids get to spend lots of time with their grandparents, aunts & uncles, and family friends (no cousins for them yet). Because they are annual, the kids look forward to them each year almost like Christmas.

Growing up, my parents would drive all of us (7 kids) across the country once every three or four years. In addition to seeing relatives, we generall hit big (and not so big) national landmarks: The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Hoover Dam, The Washington DC monuments, The Dodgers. Those trips are legendary in our family. Now, with kids of my own, I don't know how they did it.

Michelle said...

I find vacation is worth it when I get to experience another culture or another form of living or moving (try scuba) entirely. It brings you out of yourself and will enrich your experience of your everyday life at home.

al said...

And I didn't have to deal with a 200 message inbox upon my return!

Ha! After 2 weeks away my work inbox was almost 3000 messages. And another 3000 were foldered by server side filters.

As for vacation I look forward to it. Growing up we never went on them so since getting married my wife and I have taken at least one every year. The kids love them. It's time together and we explore things that are off the beaten path. All of us are into history (and since history is glossed over in the schools around here) we try and incorporate American history into our vacations.

I don't understand why people don't want to get away. Work will still be there when you get back. Vacations aren't that hard to plan. Maybe they don't always work out exactly as hoped but what in life does?

And, as Ruth Anne stated, vacations are for making memories. Both of my kids remember something special from every trip we've taken that they were old enough to remember. That is priceless.

Jeff said...

Growing up, the family always took a week or two and went somewhere. At the time, so of it seemed like I was being dragged along, now looking back at it, it gave me expirences that I couldnt get around the house. I saw places and things that didnt exist in my neighborhood. I just got back from a week vacation riding my motorcycle in the mountains of Colorado. I couldnt do that in a day or two. Well worth the time, the money and I enjoyed every minute of it. I also got rained on and blew a tire going down one of the mountains so it wasnt perfect by any means. Now taking a European type 4 week vacation? Not sure I would want to do that.

Elizabeth said...

Vacation is a scary concept this year for many New Orleanians. Most people I know have sworn not to leave town from Aug 1 through Sept 30, the most dangerous part of the hurricane season. In our case, if we wanted to go away now, we'd have to take our two dogs and two cats somewhere out of the strike zone to board them before we'd feel safe leaving. Vacation just isn't relaxing when it's tinged by fear.

Jake said...

One of the principles of financial controls is to make employees go on vacation. Most cases of embezzlement or employee misconduct are discovered when replacement workers fill in for the vacationing employee.

Any employer who does not require vital employees to take their vacation is stupid and is a willing target for financial shenanigans.

Maxine Weiss said...

Why would anyone take a vacation during the Summer?

It's too hot to enjoy anything.

The days are longer in Summer, which means there's more time to get bored, and irritable over little disturbances.

Much better in Fall/ Early Winter, when the days are shorter = no boredom, not to mention the climate is easier to deal with.

There's so much more to see what with the Christmas decorations and such.

I think Ann should have taken her little drive during Christmas.

The West is beautiful and so crisp at that time of year, with all the different Christmas lights and decorations, and such.

Summer is a time to burrow under, stay inside, and ride out this heat. I wouldn't be out running around during this time of year.

Peace, Maxine

Pogo said...

Vacationing just my wife and me is practically the only way we can go on a date anymore.

Otherwise, home becomes just another job, and we its dutiful employees, on call evenings, nights, and weekends. (We never close.)

Meade said...

Jake said...
One of the principles of financial controls is to make employees go on vacation. Most cases of embezzlement or employee misconduct are discovered when replacement workers fill in for the vacationing employee.

Whew! I guess that clears Ruth Anne of embezzifungispicion.

PatCA said...

I love long vacations and don't think they're passe at all!

I just received an email from a friend vacationing at the cluster of family cabins on a Minnesota lake and it sounds like heaven: kayaking in the morning with her sister, playing with the cousins, throwing hamburgers on the grill as the sun sets.

It doesn't need to be grand, but it does need to be of sufficient time to disrupt the gerbil wheel of daily life. And some of my most vivid childhood memories are of our few family vacations. A modest cabin on the Jersey shore, with a trampoline center next door, is an object of splendor for an 8-year-old.

I do try to avoid flying, though, as many people now do. The insulting, ineffectual "security" is too much of a hassle--imagine now it will be much worse after the arrests today.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Professor A: I agree that home can have splendid moments as well. But as a kid, the things I recall were the family vacations in the station wagon, staying in a Holiday Inn, eating out, seeing cousins and grandparents and the Cubs play the Phillies.

In our household, this is the lexicon:
trip at home: family fun outing
trip to see relatives [no matter the distance]: a visit
trip for fun or edu-tainment: a vacation

tiggeril said...

For me, vacations meant trips to India to visit relatives.

Nothing like projectile vomiting and diarrhea to make you miss being back at school.

altoids1306 said...

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of vacations taken by marriage status.

IMHO, the main purpose of a vacation would be to "create a memory" with family or close friends, so if previous NYT articles about less confidantes and less marriages are true, than you would naturally see a decline in the number of long vacations taken.

If the main purpose of a vacation is relief from work, than, given all those happiness studies, five one-day vacations would be better.

knoxgirl said...

Nothing like projectile vomiting and diarrhea to make you miss being back at school.


I have found that my vacations have to be very scheduled with sight-seeing or events for me to enjoy them. I get bored VERY easily and if I don't have a sense of purpose on a trip, I slide very easily into a sort of blurry malaise. Being on a schedule or plan does make vacation more like "work" but that's better for my temperament.

I am also quite happy to stay home and get home-improvement projects done, mixed in with some extra leisure time.

Finn Kristiansen said...

On Steve Donohue:

I agree pretty much with everything Steve said. Questions about the desirability of vacations are often raised by those in jobs and economic situations that are ideal.

For the rest of us, vacations are a blessed respite from the difficulties of regular life, and usually we never get to take them, let alone actually getting paid vacation time or vacation time at all.

It seems to me that if your vacation is a pain, it's more a matter of planning, destination choice, and the company you keep. Anyone armed with the knowledge that sometimes you need a vacation from vacations, would leave cushion days between returning from vacation and heading back to work. If a vacation isn't too good, hate the player (yourself), not the game (vacations).

On Ann Althouse:

And I can't believe what Ann just said about vacations and kids. Somehow I am not surprised such a statement would roll off her lips.

I've yet to find the child that did not like airplanes, or buying junk in the gift shop on the road. Usually, in the rare instance when kids don't wanna go on a vacation, it's only because the parents are too self involved, dragging the kids off to see something utterly dull. ("But it's authentic shaker furniture son, isn't that fascinating?") Or the parents spend the time bitching and moaning on the road, uptight and unable to chill.

I still remember heading to Chattanooga from NYC, and stopping in Stuckeys, and also being mesmerized by the condom machine in the men's room at truck stops. I didn't even know what they were, but they had pictures of women on them, and I just knew if my dad caught me looking, I would feel pervy. "Awesome," I thought to myself, before heading out to feast my eyes on belt buckles, comic books, westerns, knives and cinnamon logs.

jeff said...

My vacations this year are a couple weekends camping or at family reunions, and a week here and there for Annual Training in the reserves. Prior to this it was weeks at an orphanage in Mexico.

... I need a Disney fix.

Icepick said...

Maxine wrote: Why would anyone take a vacation during the Summer?

But Maxine, some of us LIKE the heat! Especially when the humidity is high. But then, I'm a native Floridian, so hot and sticky summers account for approximately 58% of the calendar....

Drethelin said...

For me, it's probably a matter of people. at this point, any vacation I'd go on would most likely be with my family, and I'd simply rather spend weeks at home with friends than weeks elsewhere with no one I know but my family

Charlie (Colorado) said...

And double that for retirement.

If I retired, I'd spend all my time writing and messing with computers.

I do that now and get paid for it.

Tom Goodwin, G.G. said...

Let's take a look at the difficulties in traveling. Flying is frought with anxiety and delays currently over increased security considerations. The high cost of gasoline deters many from extended ground vacations.

It is possible that we should closely look at the word "vacation?" as in vacating something? Or as in vacancy or NO VACANCY when looking for accomodations?

When I travel I want to see and do things that I would not otherwise be involved with ever.

As in photographing the Liberty Bell and visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Or how about seeing the Alamo in San Antonio? I had no idea how small it actually is. My reference was always the epic paintings of it, JUST LIKE Independence Hall!

It seems to me that those of us who are work-driven Americans have difficulty prying ourselves away from the workplace that we are anchored emotionally and financially to.

My late Father was that way. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I am also like that.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself over it........

Ken said...

qIf your job is cushy enough that you don't want a vacation then we probably should demand more work for our tax dollars. I assume that Wisconsin, like California, could eliminate about half the tenured positions in its university system and brig the profs' work week up to enough that a vacation would sound good.

Shogaz said...

From an Auditor perspective, we must not forget the fact that vacation is primarily to get persons away from work for a period of time to reduce the likelihood of that person committing a fraud and it going unnoticed!