I worked at a job in the US where my allocation of vacation days for the first year of employment was 5 work days. That’s one week, marginally sufficient for even a one week vacation and certainly only really available for less than a week away if you needed a day off at any time for any reason. It was a miserable circumstance, but one that is not uncommon in the US. In contrast, the official allocation of vacation days in the UK, and throughout Europe in general, is extremely generous. Furthermore, the culture supports the idea that holidays are important. There is almost an expectation around my office that all will enjoy partaking of an extended travel time in the course of the year, perhaps a two week period spent on a beach somewhere. This is apparently independent of any time taken off around Christmas, where I did not find there was much of an expectation to be seen in the office between Dec. 25 and 1 Jan. (and again in stark contrast to the US).
My work does include a fair amount of business travel and sometimes to interesting places. I have made do over years spent as an adult in the US without taking much in the way of proper vacations, but enjoying an extra day or two on work travel when circumstances permitted. This was supplemented with an occasional long weekend spent truly goofing off (and preferably not at home), and this programme has more or less sustained me for many years. I do admit to falling into the group that always travels with both laptop and mobile phone and thus perhaps never really takes a vacation at all.
However, in light of the “when in Rome” philosophy, and the enthusiasm for extended proper vacations here, I had been secretly hoping to take an actual vacation this year, maybe somewhere on the European continent, and most certainly lasting more than one week (and thus setting a new personal record for me). I am sad to say that I can see these plans evaporating before my eyes.
I have work travel coming up, including a marginally ludicrous world tour of three continents in three weeks. I need to return to my homeland, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, for many reasons (including a nostalgic visit to the State Fair) but most importantly to visit the nonagenarian family matriarch. For many reasons–including all the administrative things I will have to do while “home”–I simply cannot count this trip as a proper vacation. It will cost me plenty of money, but not be associated with the kind of relaxation that a true vacation would reward. And so my summer is evaporating into thin air, the travel slots more or less fully booked with responsibilities and obligations, leaving me no easy mechanism to experience this fascinating cultural adventure of the European holiday. Oh well, maybe next year.