Why don't people use their vacation time?

It is an interesting thing integrating back into your home culture.  We have been attempting to do this for a couple years now and truth be told there seem to be more bad days than good.  Don't get me wrong this is the choice we've made and we're sticking to it!  Being a citizen of the United States comes with many benefits and we are so grateful to be here but after being away so long it is hard to not see some of the strange "norms" here in my home country.

I have started working a "normal" job again and although I love many components of it there are some really strange issues I've been noticing.  One of the biggest oddities to me, after placing so much priority on travel and experiencing other areas of the world, is the fact that less than half of all workers even use the paid vacation days that they have earned according to Alamo Rent a Car's family vacation survey.

What is it that stops us from placing priority on travel, on vacation, and on relaxation as a whole?  Is it the employer pressure?  Is it the feeling that work needs us to be there all the time?  Or is it more a cultural norm?  Is it the guilt we seem to feel from relaxing and not being "productive" 20 hours a day, 365 days a year?  I happen to think its all of the above!

Lets explore a bit more on the why and the how to change it.

Employer pressure
It has been my experience, and i'm not entirely sure why, that most employees simply do not know their worth.  They often times allow the employer to pressure them and make them feel that its some type of gift to even have a job at all.  I think it is important to know your worth and to let the employer know that you know.

Employers often times try to guilt workers into skipping the vacation they earned simply because they need them there and finding coverage can be difficult.  They assume you don't know your worth and prey on that.  Not every employer obviously but far too many to count!

My advice: Let them know you know your worth right from the start!  Let them know you are 100% there when at work but that you need relaxation and you plan on taking those days even if it is only to recharge at home. Even better have a staycation and jump in the car and explore your area, take a road trip, or just stay in a local hotel so you can truly relax. And for heavens sake, stop feeling bad about it.

Staying Productive
This is probably the concept of life here in America that I like the least.  After spending years in Asia and Central America I learned the value in just being, in relaxation, in the importance of massage and in taking breaks.  The culture revolves around it and most people seem to realize just how important it is for overall productivity.  But in the US there is a culture of being busy, of always being productive, and of shaming those that aren't.

I believe that I can be an excellent employee and still take vacations.  I believe that I can be a productive person and still relax everyday and take time for myself.  And I most certainly believe that I am worthy of a break from work, from the pressures of home, and that I should and will take a vacation because I earned it and I need it!

My advice: Forget it!  Seriously, stop caring what others think and do what you need to feel happy. Stop killing yourself running around trying to stay "productive". Do what you have to do, then do what you enjoy and what makes you feel your best.  I guarantee if you place an importance on you and yours you will take that week or 2 and relax! Don't feel guilty or less of a person because you need that.  We all need that your just willing to admit it! If someone shames you or makes you feel badly for wanting to use the time you earned for relaxing or traveling forget them.

So now what?

What to do if you are being shamed into skipping that vacation time?  What to do if you just can't seem to see the value in relaxing?  I get it, I really do.  I used to be there.  I know how bad that feels and I know that the cultural norms run deep.  But you are missing out, that I can promise.  Once you take the time to relax and throw away all the notions that got you to this you will feel relieved, less stressed, and in all reality that in itself will help you to be more productive overall.

Know your value!!  You worked hard for years and you earned this vacation time.  Take it, each and every second that you earned.  Use it to be a better worker, use it to be more relaxed, use it to de stress and focus on other things that hole value in your life!  Use it all and use it now!  Now you only have to decide where to!

Have you felt this way about taking time off?  Do you skip out on vacations?  Do you value your relaxation?  Tell us more about it in the comments below!

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