If you'll ignore for a moment the total conflict of interest of a travel company telling us about our need to take vacations, Expedia.ca released last week the results of an interesting survey it conducts each year that were shocking and rather sad.
Turns out, Canadian workers suffer from "Vacation Deprivation," a term Expedia's marketing team appears to have coined — perhaps in one of those weird foreign currencies you can never quite wrap your head around if you book one of their more adventurous trips. ("Sorry, you want how many thousand dong for a bowl of Canh chua?")
According to the survey, the average Canadian will take 15 vacation days this year, down from 17 in 2013. In B.C., we will take an average of 16 vacation days, also down from 17 last year. While it's not actual deprivation, like those poor souls who don't have thousands of dong for a meal, it's still rotten news.
The sad part — the crazy part, if you ask me — is that nearly one in five Canadians do not take all the vacation days that they are entitled to, and one in three said "they have cancelled or postponed vacation plans because of work."
Who are these people?
There's an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware who spent several years working in palliative care, looking after dying folks. She wrote a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, from conversations she had with people near the end of their lives.
Guess what? Nobody ever said, "You know, Nurse Ware, if I could do it all over again, I really wish I'd spent more time at the office." Well, Donald Trump might say it, but the jury is still out on whether he qualifies as human. My money is on:
"Alien in a businessman costume."
In fact, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard" was the second-most-common advice of the dying after, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me" — like a mother who tells her son he'll never make it as a record producer. (Sorry, did I say that last bit out loud?)
According to Ware, dying men, in particular, say they wished they hadn't worked so hard, lamenting that they'd "missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship."
People should keep that in mind before cancelling a family holiday because of some new crisis at work. Problems at the office will always be there, but your kids are only young once — and only for about five minutes if my experience is typical. Seems like only yesterday they were waking us up in the middle of the night crying and now they are ... well, actually, they're still waking us up in the middle of the night coming home late from wherever it is young adults congregate these days in the wee hours.
The final three top-five regrets of the dying were wishing they'd had the courage to express their feelings, not staying in touch with friends and not letting themselves be happier. (How on earth did "not eating more chocolate" not make the list?)
All evidence says that taking vacations is key to having a happy life. According to that Expedia poll, 94 per cent of respondents said they feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a vacation, while 87 per cent feel closer to their families.
Even more importantly, taking vacations may save your life, according to Joe Robinson, author of Work to Live.
"Studies show that vacations are as important as watching your cholesterol or getting exercise," he wrote in an article for National Geographic Adventure.
"An annual holiday can cut the risk of heart attack in men by 30 per cent and in women by 50 per cent. Vacations have been shown to cure burnout, the last stage of chronic stress.
"Above all," Robinson added, "vacations help us see through the time-ismoney hoax that keeps life on hold by placing all value and self-worth on production, on dollars-per-minute of output and none on the input — living.
"What we learn atop a ridgeline in the Rockies or a dugout plying an Amazon tributary is that time itself is the most valuable currency," he said.
While it's alluring to think of quitting your job and running off to a stressfree existence filled with leisure time in a tropical paradise, most of us need to work. But we should try to follow the example of the indolent Germans, French, Brazilians, Swedes and Brits, who take 25 to 30 vacation days a year.
So, given all that, I'm outta here for a few weeks. I'm removing my weary nose from the grindstone. It's a matter of life and death!
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