Monday, December 27, 2010

An Incurable Bug

Last May over lunch in a busy Atlanta diner, the couple next to us made a startling confession. It'd been eight years since Rev. Brown and his wife had vacationed more than a long weekend. "The economy's in a slump, and we're really busy at the church," he sighed. In our country of chronic workaholics, the Browns certainly weren't alone. "One day...."

Can't remember the last time you enjoyed a real vacation? When did you sneak away for more than a couple days, without even calling into work or checking your emails? Maybe you've seen the figures. A recent study by found that almost 33% of Americans routinely forfeit part of their hard-earned vacation time. As a matter of fact, the U.S. has the highest lost vacation rate of any industrialized western nation.

Some of our fellow citizens are forgoing vacations altogether. Sobering too is proof that European medieval peasants took off more time than today's average working American! Sadly, the U.S.A. has not joined the list of countries mandating vacation time for the nation's work force. We need to fess up. America's national vacation deprivation syndrome is out of control. Our top mission in the new year? To encourage our overworked compatriots to catch a serious case of the travel bug.

No more excuses. Go away in 2011! A vacation is actually good for your health. Eye-popping travel deals abound and are yours to snag. Do it! Mark your calendar right away. Remind yourself you really deserve an escape. From now on, make your vacation a priority every year. While you're at it, plan to stay away at least one week. Really unplug. You'll come home a changed, rejuvenated person.

On his first getaway since 2003, Jack the attorney did. As we cycled along Dutch tulip fields at their glorious peak, he stopped to savor the rainbow of colors. Then he choked up. That afternoon he vowed never to lose vacation days again. When Jack returned to his practice, he emailed us that he had never felt more focused and productive in his life.

Still not convinced? A vacation is the sure cure for burnout; it's therapy for your heart, mind, and soul. There's plenty of scientific proof. Just ask Mel Borins M.D., author of Go Away Just for the Health of It. He says the lack of regular vacations is likely a contributing factor to America's rate of heart disease. Listen to Dr. Susan Biali, a physician who cites studies showing frequent vacationers often live longer than those who don't break away from life's routine. People who took "multiple vacations, up to five a year, had a 32% lower death rate from all causes," says Dr. Biali.

Back to the Browns and our chance meeting at the diner. Jotting down the name and phone number of the Swiss cousins she'd never met, the pastor's wife made us promise to call her relatives next time we were in Switzerland. We not only phoned family Knecht, but were invited to stay with them for three days. As we picnicked in a flower-studded alpine meadow, we raised our glasses to toast the Browns. We felt sure a Swiss dream holiday was soon in the works for them.

After returning to Atlanta, we made plans to meet the pastor and his wife in July. "We've gotten our passports and are ready to make our first trip across the big pond," gushed Mrs. Brown. "We're so excited, and we can't wait to hear all about Switzerland!" On July 11th we headed to the diner early to set up our laptop slide show. "Where's Mrs. Brown today?" Wendy asked, seeing that Rev. Brown was alone. There was a long pause. Then tears trickled down his flushed face. "My dear wife passed away in her sleep two weeks ago," he sobbed.

It was a wake up call that hit hard. There are way "too many places, yet too little time." The benefits of vacationing seem even more precious the older we become. Travel is by far the world's best medicine and greatest education. Each stamp in a passport symbolizes keen insights and new friends on the planet we share. Jump back into life revitalized and grateful. Give yourself the ultimate gift: put your vacations on life's front burner. Catch the travel bug!

~Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell

The Trip Chicks®