"Probably close to a year."
"Four years now..."
"What is this fantasy you speak of?"
These were the responses we received when we asked the HuffPost Travel community when the last time they really took a vacation was. As community member Michal alludes to, it's heartbreaking.
"We all work so hard. Vacation is just as important, otherwise what are we even working for!"
He's right. On average, Americans forfeit $34.3 billion in vacation days, according to CNNMoney, by simply not taking advantage of all of accrued days off. A 2011 survey by Expedia found that while many U.S. workers earn 14 days off, they take only as many as 12. Those mere two days add up to 226 million vacation days unused by overworked Americans.
"A real vacation? Probably 8 years."
Many people feel like community member Sammy, who admitted to sneaking in quick trips but not a real break. Though we may feel that missing work will hurt us, it's missing extended crucial time off that could be more destructive in the end. In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences found that chronic stress may actually shrink your brain, as well as contribute to overall feelings of irritability, depression and continually feeling unfocused. However, annual vacations have been found to cut the risk of heart attack by 30% in men and 50% in women, while also benefiting sleep patterns and connectivity to loved ones. The U.S. Travel Association points out that four out of ten travelers feel more romantic on vacation, in part to feeling more connected with family and friends. Even thoughts of impending time away generate overall positive feelings about economy, life situations and health.
"Here in Arizona, the trend is staycations."
Heather makes a great point. Vacations don't need to be far-flung excursions. But regardless of how far you go, when you finally get away, don't be afraid to leave your charging cords behind. HealthDay reporter Maureen Salamon reported on a study conducted by the U.S. Army and University of California that determined that groups of workers who took a five day break from email experienced lasting more natural heart rates. In other words, even unplugging reduces stress in ways that are tangible for workers when they return to their desks post-vacation.
If you really can't totally stay away from the office on your break, Forbes contributor Erika Anderson suggests attacking tasks in bite-sized pieces. "During my current 10-day vacation, I’m doing a 30-60 minute email-and-blogging session once a day," she confesses. Setting aside a specific time to check-in makes missing work more emotionally manageable for those attached to their careers at the hip; it also makes your vacation easier to enjoy once you see that the office isn't actually falling apart without you.
"Wanderlust doesn't even describe my need to leave now and travel!"
We hear you, Gloria! Try not to let those undone life tasks spoil your getaway -- they will be waiting for you when you return. If only the 11% of workers who scrapped vacation because they thought they were too busy to get away knew that well-rested brains are often more creative and insightful back at the workplace, they might have taken their full escape.
Need more excuses to take a break? Check out our favorite reasons to take a break below and let us know how long it's been since you've taken a vacation, or your favorite reasons to take one at #hpstressless.