Earn and Burn

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.

Earning and burningI’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.

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