The American Vacation is Becoming Extinct

The American vacation does not exist anymore. Used to be our parents would take a couple of weeks without cellphones and computers and would just call in. Amazing. I remember my father driving in from our cottage along the outerbanks of North Carolina to a general store where a man would let him use the payphone and he would make one call … one call. And then we would drive back to the cottage without cable or phone and he would not call in the rest of the vacation which was usually three weeks long!

Now … now we cant go one day without being connected. To make matters worse most of us do not even go for the one day. Statistically more than half of American workers fail to take all their vacation days. Thirty percent say they use less than half their allotted time. And 20% take only a few days instead of a week or two. Basically the classic one week two week three week american vacation does not exist anymore. What a shame.

I remember those summer vacations. They denoted a year ending, a cycle, another year beginning. They were sort of the capstone after Christmas, Easter, all the holidays really and then this incredible holiday of two weeks, three weeks, and by the end yes an incredible five week vacation. And we went out the same beach year after year. Kitty Hawk North Carolina was still something of a discovery then and the other families in the cottages all were there for their annual vacations.

I would walk to other cottages where people had set up their temporary home. And that's what it became. After the first week you forgot all about your old life and that that family living on a sand dune next to the ocean. The transformation took about a week and we would all slow down to the heat and the rhythm of the ocean surf. We tuned our clock to leisure, going to the beach and reading, swimming, and then the inevitable seafood meal. Our life became that vacation.

When it was over I remember being in shock that we still had a house in Baltimore or Virginia, depending on where we were living at the time. And the adjustment back to normal life took about a week and we all went through serious withdrawal at the loss our leisure clock. But the point is we did leave our lives for a while which is the definition of a vacation. It shows you what is important, what you have been missing, and hopefully informs the rest of your life. And finally, a vacation is just a great time.

It is our loss that we can no longer unplug from our wired existence. I too have fallen victim to the shortened vacation, squeezing in a week with BlackBerry on. Maybe some day I will return to those cottages on the beaches of the outer banks. Maybe that man is still there in the general store and I'll ask to use his phone. Just for the hell of it.