24/7/12 - Vacationless America

Technology, lifestyles, and fear of falling behind have gripped America like never before.  Fewer and fewer people take vacations, turning the country into a troubled land where people are “on” all of the time.  Why? And, what does all this do for quality of life?  Have we lost the ability to be by ourselves? 


Studies show that more than half of the workforce no longer takes a summer vacation, the lowest proportion recorded in three decades.  Going away for a couple of weeks has become a thing of the past.


America is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate a certain number of days off.  France, with 30 days each year, is of course in the lead, but even Japan and Canada require that employers give workers at least 10 days off. 


Taking time off, actually, has become an excuse for failure or trouble.  How many times do we hear the politicians or CEOs who have had to step down say that they were leaving “to spend more time with family.” 

On the surface, it looks as though no one has time for down time or for relationships that are not part of work or family.  We will do fine in the short term, even while China is moving ahead, but when we are no longer the leading economy and no longer the world leader (as France has learned), we better figure out how to enjoy and treasure free time and time without being connected to something.  And, being out of cell phone and internet range just might be good for one’s health.  I can see, in time, a new industry developing to complement gyms and other “health” clubs.  It would be one where people went to find quiet, unconnected spaces and alone or in groups to contemplate the weather, a book, or a piece of music.  In meantime, expect a nation increasing of busy, able, but decidedly uninteresting people.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to bank transparency and the climate crisis. Since co-founding this website in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

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  • PhilR

    August 06, 2007

    I don't disagree but it's hard to relax with countries like China and India breathing down your back. Those people work non-stop and are willing to break their backs to get ahead. Europe has to some degree ceded the lead in the global economy.

    Of course, I'm not sure if there is a correlation between time off and success. Someone should do the study.

  • Pam

    August 07, 2007

    I read somewhere that only the top wage earners are killing themselves with work. The bottom 90% of income earners actually have more free time now than they did 40 years ago. Maybe not by choice.

  • Dave Lloyd

    August 07, 2007

    I do a lot of work in Western Europe and it is remarkable to see these people disappearing for the entire month, while we sit here working ourselves to death. I am not sure if the discrepancy between the US and Europe has ever been so great.

  • David Walsh

    August 11, 2007

    I think it's terrible that Americans don't take more time off. It's really necessary for mental health and rejuvenation.

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