Although the European Union has a multitude of problems facing it today, I sure am envious of its citizens who have weeks of paid vacation due to a law which requires countries to offer at least 20 paid vacation days plus the national holidays to anyone who works. In the United States, labor laws are drastically different as they do not require employers to grant any vacation or holidays; it is estimated that a quarter of the working population receives no paid vacation or holidays. However, many states and local governments do require a minimum number of days off for their employees; the average is 10 vacation days and eight national holidays. When you compare these numbers with a country like France, offering five full weeks of paid vacation plus national holidays, the differences are astounding.
My very first job out of college gave no paid vacation time to employees in their first year of service; you had paid holidays and two personal days. Although I didn’t stay at the job to make it to the year’s mark, its policy on vacation time for employees was pitiful. People get sick, situations arise and not being able to take a day off in those kinds of instances is absurd. Unfortunately, I have seen this at other companies too. I understand that for new employees, a company is not going to roll out the red carpet in their first year, yet basic labor rights should still apply whether it is paid time off or medical coverage. (I’ve also discovered companies that do not offer medical benefits until an employee has successfully completed a year of employment.) In today’s economy, yes, having a job is more important than being able to travel, and yet becoming sick, stressed or frustrated at work does not always equate to a happy and productive employee.
Many companies in the United States will increase the amount of paid vacation time for an employee based on their years of service. However, an increase in the number of days usually doesn’t occur until after five years of service. Seeing as how in today many employees switch jobs fairly regularly, this often never comes to fruition. Some companies do value their employees from day one of service and offer them an exceptionally high number of paid vacation days, although this is more the exception than the norm; D was lucky enough to find himself in this situation when he changed jobs last year.
There are big trips I would love to take, many to places that require a considerable amount of time getting there and this, while contending with jet lag, usually makes me operate at half-empty for the first couple of days. However, when only having 10 days of paid vacation to work with for an entire year, a journey through Southeast Asia is entirely out of the question. I know that some people might use their vacation days for one big trip and yet I’m someone who likes to have stuff to look forward to all year, not just one period of time. So while a two week trip to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos would be incredible, I’d be incredibly morose not being able to go anywhere else after the trip was over due to having used up all my time. One way in which I do try to maximize my time off is by planning trips around holidays when I already have a day off-we went to Disneyland over Memorial Day weekend and Portugal over Labor Day.
My mom is a school teacher and during the summer, she would be home with my brother and me. While a teacher’s summer vacation is certainly something to be envious about, I do have to remind myself that time when teachers have off is typically both the most expensive time of the year to travel as well as the most crowded. With the exception of a long weekend in July to Chicago, I have never planned a vacation during the summer, as the costs are too high to justify going then.
As an avid traveler, I have extremely grandiose plans regarding areas of the world I am dying to visit-Asia, a safari in Africa, deep into South America-and so while I know that some of these destinations might be a bit down the road, others perhaps I will just need to “bite the bullet” and make that my one big trip for a year. Afterward I can console myself with the incredible souvenirs I bought and the pictures I took whenever I feel sad about not being able to go somewhere else that year.