By now, it’s almost a cliché to point out what a terrible job Americans do at relaxing. But it’s worth taking a closer look at the latest numbers: A recent AARP Travel study finds that only 59 percent of boomers with paid time off expect to use all or most of their vacation days in 2017. And 4 out of 10 say that staying connected to work while on vacation is “somewhat” to “extremely” important.
Yet vacations aren’t just fun, relaxing and a key part of living a whole life. Turns out they’re downright medicinal: Studies have linked the amount of time spent vacationing with longevity. So what makes us so miserly about using those days?
“Fear is a really big part of it,” says Scott Dobroski, a career trends analyst at Glassdoor. Some fears are simple, like falling behind (28%), or missing goals (17%). Some (17%) feel they can’t be disconnected, while 17% say they worry they’ll be fired.
But surprisingly, he says, advancement is also a major factor, and workers are all too happy to trade a few days at the beach if they believe it will help shine their star. Many say it’s because they want a promotion (19%), a raise (18%) or to outperform colleagues (13%). And of course, he says, technology has made it easier for people to “cheat” on vacations, checking in 24 hours a day. In fact, he says, some people want to be permanently plugged in: “In their minds, these people are saying, `I am competing all the time.’”
While thinking that way may work for a short period, experts say you’re not just wooing a heart attack, alienating your family, and promoting career burnout. You’re shorting yourself out of the most important ingredient for a healthy life: perspective. Researchers at Northwestern University have found that vacationing abroad, for example, actually expands your mind. Travel away from home sparked “psychological transformation,” resulting in significantly more creative approaches to problem solving.
So go ahead. Start packing.