Opinion: Nobody looks back and wishes they’d taken less time off

Take it anyway.

If you’re even a little bit plugged into the news cycle, the world might feel like a never-ending conveyor belt of terrifying news — and it can be perversely tempting to give in to the despairing sense that travel, like everything else, is beyond repair right now.

Opinion: Air travel chaos leaves us with one simple choice
Those of us who do get vacation days aren’t always taking them — every year there are stories about how many Americans are leaving paid time unused. In 2019, a study from the US Travel Association found that a majority of Americans left some of their paid vacation time on the table. Even for a country that has seemed to be losing its mind in recent years, this seems like inexplicable madness.
Time away from work — leisure time, in other words — is a fundamental human right. It is! The United Nations General Assembly’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Universal Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” None of us were meant to work unendingly. And summer happens to be when many of us are able to take a chunk of time away from our work.
(This is not to say, of course, that all of us are getting our fair share of paid leisure time: A 2019 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in four American workers get no paid time off. There is much work to be done in terms of equity.)
It's time for Americans to un-weaponize 'laziness'

So maybe we should unpack some of the hyperbole surrounding 2022 summer vacations. Yes, there are factors that make certain kinds of vacations more stressful than ever. But that has little to do with whether you allow yourself to take a break from the grind.

Consider this an opportunity to rethink both the how and the why of taking a vacation this summer. Reframing the whole idea of a “vacation” — which we have, in our very American way, imbued with all sorts of consumerist expectations to see, do, taste and experience everything — might be the key to finding a way to enjoy your well-earned time off.

For one thing, vacation doesn’t have to equal extravagant travel. Even if you’re feeling staycation-weary, a short trip to a destination an hour or two away can be refreshing without draining your finances — or your patience. Maybe you’ve always equated summer vacations with trips to Europe, beaches or national parks, but there’s something (a lot of things, actually) to be said for hanging out close to home with a cold drink and a good book. No airports. Less sand. Less sunburn. Better snacks.

Also, bear in mind that, current pile-up of negative headlines aside, travel has always been more stressful than most of us would ever admit on Instagram. We often surrender to a necessary amnesia about the realities of traveling. We go into it thinking, like happy fools, that it’s meant to be perfectly fun and relaxing without any of the headaches, even though a common refrain upon returning is: “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.” We have to delude ourselves about the allure, though, so that we can do it again next year.

Yes, flight cancellations are up, but flying has always been annoying, remember? The debate over reclining and the crying babies and the shrinking legroom — none of that stuff is new. And long road trips? Come on. When they weren’t prohibitively expensive, they were still a challenge. No one really wants to spend that much time in an enclosed space on a hot day.

Finding accessible ways to rest and restore our minds isn’t just a right — it’s also a form of political resistance. Now is definitely not the time to give in to helplessness about the highly problematic state of affairs in our own country and around the world. “Compassion fatigue” is what happens when you simply can’t handle any more bad news — and the world needs people to stay involved. Self-care and knowing when to take a break from the news and being online is key to making sure you can stay sane in the long run. When too many people get exhausted into cynicism and apathy, all of us suffer as a result.
So whether it means putting your big trip on hold and spending a week doing nothing — a lost art that Americans could benefit from studying — or accepting the inevitable imperfections that will come with traveling, grab your vacation days and spend them. Nobody looks back and wishes they’d taken less time off.

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