– By Judith Fein, Photos by Paul Ross

Some people I know, when they are really stressed out, take an afternoon, evening or full day off. The next day, they are back to work. Others kick it for a weekend, and then dive back into the daily routine on Monday morning. I’m flipping through my mental Rolodex of friends, associates and family and, to my horror, I realize that I don’t know anyone who really takes vacations.

 Visa for World Travel

Visa for World Travel

“What?” you say. “I take vacations. I went white water rafting on the Snake River in Idaho for five days. And last year I spent six in Kauai, hiking and snorkeling.”

I am sorry amigos, but five or six days are a break, an experience, a change of scene and pace, but not a real vacation.

A real vacation is at least two weeks. And even better is a month. This is a startling idea in the U.S.A., where most people are afraid to take off more than a long weekend because they may lose their jobs. This means we are certifiably nuts in the U.S.A. Are we born to work, stress, eat, shop, have sex and then croak? Will we actually take our cell phones and laptops with us to the grave, so we can check the headlines on After Life News or shoot off one last post-mortem tweet?

Talk to people from Europe (they will call it “holidays” and not “vacation” in Britain). Ask folks from South America. They get time off from work. Not a few days here and there, as in the United States, where the nervous system hardly has a chance for a good yawn, and certainly not a real rest.

The truth is, it takes several days to get one’s head away from home and office. And the head starts its’ whirring a few days before the end of vacation. So that’s 4-5 days where you’re not really on vacation—let’s call it pseudo-vacation or ersatz holiday. It takes time to travel to a destination, so let’s add on another day to each end. We’re now up to a week. With that under our belts, we’re now READY to start the vacation when, in fact, you’re probably already home and back to the grind.

Vacations or holidays are not just about getting away, although that’s the part that makes us smile. They are also about giving up on being productive.

If you were the kind of kid who came home from school and your parents asked, “What did you accomplish today?” you have probably spent your life accomplishing. If your parents never asked you, you most likely invented the question all by yourself. Vacation and productivity do NOT go hand in hand. Actually, they cancel each other out. At work, it’s good to be productive. At home, let’s say you’re remodeling or cleaning out the garage; it’s fine to accomplish that. But on vacation, all you have to accomplish is listening to the waves or slowing down enough to watch the sun plummeting over the hills at day’s end; or maybe delight in the joy of exploring the world of an entirely new culture.

It is not easy to take a real vacation. You can expect to have anxiety or depression or guilt around it. There will likely be panic about all you have to accomplish before you go and after you get back. Fine. There’s a place for panic. Let it be. Smile at it. And continue doing what you are doing: planning for authentic, bona fide time off.

Your vacation may be spent in Bali or Brazil, or it may be closer to home. It can be a combo of travel and stay-at-home-with-electronics shut off. The “where” is less important than the “how.” The “how” involves taking your feet and stepping off the treadmill. For real.

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to get the meditation habit or learn a language; or join a volunteer effort. Whatever sings to your soul is the melody of vacation.

The other day I was in the post office and asked the two gents behind the counter how much vacation time they have each year. Besides all the holidays, one gets 3 weeks and the other a month. When they told me this, everyone on line started to “oooh” and “aaaah.” I wonder if they decided, then and there, to make out applications to work for the P.O.

It’s your life. Your nervous system. Your body. Your spirit. They are screaming for vacation. It doesn’t have to be expensive, luxurious or even exotic. But it has to be the thing most people long for: prolonged down time, where renewal and regeneration can take place.

About the author: Judith Fein is a multiple award-winning travel writer and speaker and the author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel. Her website is


Editor’s Note: Original World offers small group and private custom travel to discerning travelers from the United States as well as many other parts of the world. The destinations we offer include: Asia, Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe. Visit our website WWW.OriginalWorld.Com or call 888-367-6147 to discuss your interests.

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