We’ve all been there. Staring out into space wishing we were far away from it all. No work, no responsibilities, just the ability to turn it all off–if even for a while. I’ve spent many a long, dark winter day willing the arrival of long, lazy summer days.

For how much time we spend pining away to get away, only a fraction of us actually follow through and take a vacation. A recent study by the US Travel Association found that in 2016 Americans collectively sacrificed 662 million vacation days, leaving them unused. Canadians aren’t much different according to a study completed by TD Bank in 2014. That study found that while 93% of Canadians think vacations are important, only 43% reported using up all of their vacation days. A 2009 study by Expedia found that up to 34 million vacation days went unused by Canadians.  

That only leaves me to say one thing – WFT?

And by WFT I mean Why Forgo Travel?…and maybe a little bit of WTF (which means exactly what you think it does).

When I talk to clients, I often hear a number of reasons, all of them valid. Can’t afford it, work is too busy, too many other things going on in life…you get the idea. The common thread through all of the responses is an element of avoidance. Whether it’s because the idea of planning a trip seems like too much extra work or the thought of going on vacation only to come back to an overloaded inbox causes instant anxiety.

My advice? Take your vacation days. Keeping our head down and not taking a break only increases the feeling of overwhelm. Not coming up for air and working with no pause to enjoy life leads to long-term stress which can have serious health consequences.

In Japan, overworking is so chronic there is a term for sudden death caused by exhaustion and overwork: karoshi. In 2015, the Japanese government tabled a law to force people to take at least half of their mandatory vacation days.

I suggest talking to people you know who take vacations to get ideas to find the right strategy for both allowing yourself to fully enjoy your time away, and for dealing with the backlog of work you will be (or anticipate) facing when you return. Another key to reaping the benefits of vacation is actually taking the time to plan your trip–whatever it is.   

This last point is reinforced by the findings of a study conducted by Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage. He found that when people embarked on trips full of stressful travel, they were actually worse off for it and more stressed when they returned to work then when they left. He recommends taking a vacation “the right way” by creating a “positive vacation so you can return recharged, less stressed, and happier.”

So if you are hoarding vacation days, don’t let them go to waste. Take the time to plan your absence and fully embrace the opportunity to travel or take a staycation, spend time with loved ones, relax and recharge–guilt and stress free.




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