A world of inspiration: Traveling the World Ten Days a Year

This week’s edition of ‘world of inspiration‘ is brought to you by Liz Borod Wright who hails from New York. It is a delightful story about the amount of free time we have and using this time in an optimal manner to achieve a positive balance in our lives.

Traveling the World Ten Days a Year

On our last night in Santorini on our trip through Greece last July, my husband and I finally made it to the beautiful town of Oia to watch the sun sink into the horizon. While all of Santorini oozes romance, this activity is not particularly romantic because everyone crowds onto the far edge of the town, jockeying for the best sunset vantage point and relentlessly snapping pictures. My favorite was the couple who was having a full-blown photo shoot right next to us – he set up a tripod and she struck about 20 different model poses.

sunset_ia As soon as the sun dove into the ocean, applauses with oohs and aahs broke out. Then the masses dispersed into the winding alleyways of Oia. We decided to seek out the restaurant Red Bicycle, which is renowned for its creative take on Greek cuisine. By sheer luck, we found it easily and settled into a choice table on the terrace.

Shortly after we sat down, another couple was seated at the table next to us. As I’m prone to eavesdropping, I soon found myself listening to their conversation and enjoying their Australian accents. They were enthusiastically perusing the menu and planned to make a meal of the appetizers, which is something that always appeals to me because I like to sample as much as possible. When our first course arrived, they asked us what we were eating and from then on the four of us carried on a conversation as if we were all dining together – the tables were close enough, after all, that we practically were.

Five weeks of vacation! I couldn’t get over it.

I quickly learned that the couple was from Sydney. She was of Polish descent and he was of Greek descent. First they had spent two weeks in Poland and now they were spending two weeks in Greece. I don’t remember what the rest of their itinerary entailed, but I do remember that they were traveling for five weeks. Their jobs allowed them to take six weeks off per year, and they had opted to take five of them in a row, which was perfectly fine with their employers.

Five weeks of vacation! I couldn’t get over it. At the moment, I am self-employed so I am unrestrained by corporate vacation policies. But last summer I was working with the typical American arrangement that gives you 10 vacation days (two work weeks) off a year, not including major holidays. Over the past eight years, I have worked for a few different companies but all of them had the same policy.

I told the Australian couple how little vacation time Americans got. Although they had heard about that before, it never ceased to amaze them. They were especially floored when I told them that we were discouraged from taking it all at once. They only time I ever heard of anyone taking off two weeks was for their wedding/honeymoon. Our trip to Greece was 11 days, but only seven of those were work days thanks to the 4th of July holiday. And I felt guilty about all seven of them.

This couple had managed to travel all over the world and have great careers – they were living the dream. I felt very inspired by them. I think it was their unapologetic love of traveling and vacation that inspired me, as well as that they were able to find such balance in their lives. It was a very eye-opening experience to realize that while Americans usually had to limit their exploring to one-week or 10-day bites, other nationalities could really spend the time to get to know a place. My new Australian friends, it seemed, were really citizens of the world. While I could never hope to emulate their travel patterns, I felt that I was right in my quest to squeeze in as many trips as I possibly could.

About this week’s guest writer
lbwright_fb Liz Borod Wright is a former staffer at Zagat.com, ABCNews.com and Fortune.com who recently turned her attention to her biggest passion: travel. Her travel blog Travelogged chronicles not only Liz’s own adventures but reports on other people’s travels too. That way this lifelong New Yorker can cover as many destinations as possible.

Read more about Liz’s travel stories on Travelogged.

Follow Liz on Twitter.

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22 Responses to “A world of inspiration: Traveling the World Ten Days a Year”

  1. Roberto 04/01/2010 6:50 am
    #

    This post distills perfectly the work-to-live and live-to-work duality. The fine documentary A Map for Saturday explored this American allergy to long vacations, and why you see so few of them doing long-term backpacking.

    But you also have to consider their health care system. Many Americans get health coverage with their jobs. It’s too expensive to pay for it oneself. This discourages people from finding other jobs or taking more time off. This low labour mobility, in turn, creates an inefficient and stagnant job economy: people are just too scared to leave jobs they might not like and lose coverage.

    And if it’s a seller’s market for employers, what’s the motivation to offer better vacation?

  2. Julie McNeill 13/12/2009 7:34 am
    #

    I am in the process of planning my husband’s long service leave of 3 months with pay, a reward for being with the same employer for 10years and more. First stop Athens, so reading blogs to pick the right spots to experience.
    The Government is actually running a campaign with the unions to stimulate the economy by telling people who have accumulated leave, to take a break, (preferably in Australia!).
    Without knowing too much about US industrial relations, like Health care, there seems to have been a brainwashing in the collective psyche against workers rights and unions.
    (Remember that scene in Paris with ex-pats and Mike Moore about family services).
    Whilst Australians are more laid back than the French, the same rights to egalitarianism amongst all blue, white collar workers shows in entitlements that one deserves a good holiday for your work!

  3. Sherry Ott 18/06/2009 7:26 pm
    #

    Great article that highlights the major cultural difference between Americans and the rest of the ‘western world’. Why is it this way? Why do Americans only have 2 wks of vacation and other countries have 4 weeks minimum? Why can’t Americans take off and travel the world like our counterparts? Something I’ll never understand! I personally was tired of the 2 wk vacation and finally chucked my career in for a year and a half of travel – best thing I ever did!

  4. jen laceda 10/06/2009 6:06 am
    #

    I guess I shouldn’t complain–I work in healthcare in Toronto, Canada. I’ve been with our organization for almost 9 years this October. I get 5 weeks vacation. It started with 3 weeks, though. I am fortunate to work in such an environment, but of course, I am in mental health, so that’s probably why we get good benefits! Wouldn’t it be ironic if we didn’t?! That said, I should stop complaining about my job!!!

  5. velvet 08/06/2009 12:53 pm
    #

    Hi Melanie,
    Thank you for your comment. It is a fun challenge to juggle your vacation time and stretch it as much as possible.

    Keith

  6. Melanie@TravelsWithTwo 08/06/2009 2:20 am
    #

    The conversation Liz found herself having with non-American travelers in Greece perfectly mirrors encounters my husband and I have had all over the world…in tiny little increments, that is. To have long, drawn-out conversations about vacation time takes up, well, vacation time! I’m happy to see someone else preaching the gospel of schedule-challenged couples getting the heck out of dodge — any way they can.

  7. Dan Maggs 05/06/2009 1:34 pm
    #

    Here in the UK it’s pretty standard to get around 25 days holiday per year enabling 5 full weeks off or more if you can work your days around the national holidays. Generally the longest amount of time people seem to take off at once is two weeks. The 5 weeks off that the Australian couple are allowed to take off in one go is incredible.

    I think I’d go insane if I could only have 2 weeks off per year, & whilst I see that 5 weeks off is plenty for many….its certainly not enough for me…after all life is for living!

  8. velvet 05/06/2009 2:17 pm
    #

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for your comment. I think I’d go insane too if I had only two weeks off a year!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  9. velvet 05/06/2009 9:51 am
    #

    Hi Amy,
    Thank you for your comment.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  10. Amy @ The Q Family 05/06/2009 5:59 am
    #

    Great post and so true! I have worked at the same company for almost 10 years and yet my vacation time is just merely 15 days. How can we do anything with so little time? Luckily, my boss is pretty understanding so I sometimes did take it all at once for a long trip like Thailand. But it’s not encourage and frown upon if I plan to do it every year.

    Maybe I need to start thinking about relocation. 🙂 We plan to visit Amsterdam in a couple years. Might be a good chance to scope out the possibility.

  11. velvet 04/06/2009 9:40 pm
    #

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s about the same in the Netherlands. Usual corporate policy is 25 days a year. Many companies also have different systems that allow employees to save up for more holidays (for instance, for a sabbatical) or buy more holidays (for instance, by converting part of overtime or bonuses into extra holidays).

    Cheers,
    Keith

  12. Dave and Deb 04/06/2009 9:28 pm
    #

    Canada has the same policy, most of my friends only get 2 weeks a year. We are lucky to both be freelancers working in the film and television business. I couldn’t imagine being tied down year after year. Good for Australia to give people 6 weeks. A lot of countries in Europe do that as well. What is wrong with the North Americans?

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