News stories everywhere bemoan the shrinking American vacation. We all know we take fewer vacation days than nearly any other industrialized country. In my most recent job in corporate wasteland I had a total of *seven* vacation days for the year. I used them in one fell swoop (not hard when there’s that few) on a trip to Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Austria. That was in May of 2005 and I couldn’t take another day off the rest of the year.
Traveling in such a rushed style is better, certainly, than no travel at all. But rushing around a la “If it’s Tuesday This Must be Belgium,” is exhausting and not as fulfilling as it could be. In 2003, while working for the state of Kentucky, I took my four hour training class on how to complete my time card. The instructor stood in front of us and proudly shared that she had not taken a vacation in seven years. “Some of you people earn-uh and burn-uh,” she drawled, almost pityingly, “but I have all these days saved up.” “For what?” I wondered? That year was another speedy trip, with four countries in eight days.
“Earn and burn,” far from being a way of life to abhor, for me, is a matter of self-preservation. Staring at gray cubicle walls all those years would have been unbearable had I not had Paris or Tallinn or Budapest to look forward to. I *have * to travel. There’s no substitute for the perspective and feeling of renewal I can gain only when 5,000 miles from my cozy little house. I have to surround myself with other languages, other tastes and smells, in order to get back to being *me.*
I am stunningly fortunate now to work for a non-profit that affords its employees a very generous – by American standards – time off package. I feel almost guilty trying to commiserate with friends with the standard two weeks or less because happily I have 22, count them, twenty-two vacation days (plus a handy floating holiday). This is in addition to a lovely slew of holidays, and more sick time than I can use, so there’s none of this blowing vacation days on the flu you find elsewhere.
I’m earning and burning in style this year — three weeks in Europe to celebrate my 10 year wedding anniversary. We haven’t been there for such a long stretch since our first trip in 2001 when I didn’t take a single day off work for over 18 months to save my time off – and *still* had to borrow against future vacation time – in order to backpack for 25 days. Even with so much time off though, I find myself fretting about whether or not I can take a long weekend at any point in 07 and still hop over to Slovakia at Christmas.
Earn and burn my friends, earn and burn.