Just Had a Bit of a Revelation

Old Jan 5th, 2008, 07:54 PM
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Just Had a Bit of a Revelation

You know, as I responded to a couple of posts today telling people I thought they were trying to do too much in Europe in too short a time, I thought to myself, this is probably the millionth time I've written a response like this.

And then I heard a bit on NPR about American companies like INTEL and AMEX that are now letting their employees take 1-6 months' paid leave every 7 years or so (and don't even get me started on how nuts it is to expect folks to work for 7 years before they get a real vacation), and some interesting stories about what employees do with that time and how great it is for them to, say, spend a full month in the Caribbean (I know, not necessarily the ideal vacation for anyone on this board, but still...)...and I got to thinking....

Americans want to rush around and see everything they possibly can in Europe in a week, 10 days, 2 weeks, whatever, because first of all we have this overdrive mentality and second of all we get no bleeping vacation time!

No wonder we're always saying You Can't Do All That In 10 Days! Many people on this forum have lots of disposable income. A good number, like myself, work for ourselves and can kind of (and yes, it's a real kind of) take more time than most people can (but make other sacrifices for taking the time off), or are retired and have lots of free time. Generally speaking, we're privileged to have a good deal of time, whether it be leisure or otherwise, to travel. We can plan trips that allow us to linger here and there because we have time and we know we'll be returning. We're not the average American traveler to Europe.

I know...a stupid DUH moment, but jeez, we never, or hardly ever, have to respond to posts from Europeans who are trying to cram the impossible trip into two weeks. Of course, they live there, it's cheap and easy to get around, but it's also because they have GOBS and GOBS of vacation time. They'd never plan the Hampster On A Wheel type trip that so many Americans try to plan.

Not sure about Asians and Aussies...I don't know how much vacation time they get, but I'm guessing they have more than we do and less than Europeans.

But really, isn't the lack of adequate vacation time a major reason US travelers are always trying to pack too much into too little time?

I know it's more complex than that, but was just thinking about this as I wrote my 798,465th response sayin I think you're trying to do too much. Well Jeez, if you only have 14 days a year and the exchange rate is horrific, no wonder!!!
Forgive me if it seems simplistic that I just hit on this idea....
StCirq is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2008, 08:13 PM
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I feel we have been lucky to travel to Europe as often as we have the last ten years. It is only in this amount of time that we have done so. And we really haven't been able to do so as often as we would like.

I don't know what the metality is that allows so many to rush around like they are never going to see a place again. Maybe they never will.

I just know that even from our first trip, when there was so much to explore and I wanted to see it all, we didn't rush.

We visit one country at a time. We usually go for two weeks at a time. And we usually explore only a small portion of that country when we do.

Americans are a somewhat tour oriented society. And tours whisk you to so many places in so few days so that you can tell your friends how you have seen Europe. The tour companies make it sound so lovely and many think that they can duplicate this.

Maybe that has somthing to do with it. Who knows.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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I agree with your thinking, St. Cirq. When I first traveled to Europe, I was a teacher and took 3-6 week trips every summer. Then I was a travel agent, and even though I only got 2-3 weeks off per year, I got to travel for work, too, and that made it OK. Now, my husband and I have our own business, and even though we don't have the money or time to travel as much as I'd like, we decide for ourselves when and for how long we go.

For me, there's traveling, and then there is vacationing. I love St. John in the USVI - a nice, relaxing week or two going to the beach, snorkeling, and hiking. But when I go to Europe (never enough...) I want to see and do as much as I can; not necessarily rush around on an "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" bus tour - I'd rather stay in a relatively small area - but I don't think, "I'm on vacation; I'm here to rest." I can rest when I get home, and the Louvre isn't 20 minutes walk away.

Soon, our kids are going to college and we'll be directing much of income towards tuition. After that, I'm thinking about living abroad for a year, maybe in Paris. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks for your epiphany. Hope my thoughts aren't too rambling.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 08:48 PM
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Generally speaking, Aussies have 4 weeks paid leave p.a. Some get more (5-6 weeks) if they are in a high demand profession. Depending on the industry they're in, some are forced to take 1-2 weeks of this at Christmas time when a lot of small businesses, factories and professional firms (lawyers, accountants, engineers etc) close down. This is a summer break for us, but not the most opertune time to travel o/s if heading north.

We also have a system called Long Service Leave (LSL). If one stays in the same organisation for 10 years, one gets 3 months paid leave. This is in addition to 4 weeks annual leave. If you leave after 7 years service you get paid out (pro-rata) for the LSL leave you have accrued.

I believe Australians tend to take longer holidays when travelling to the UK, Europe and north America (ie 4 weeks+). Part of this is to do with the extra time we get and partly the time and cost involved in getting to these places. To get to Europe/UK in the summer it costs at least AU$2000 and takes a minimum 20 hours of flying with 1-2 stops along the way. It is one of the few downfalls of living in Australia.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 09:03 PM
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"we never, or hardly ever, have to respond to posts from Europeans who are trying to cram the impossible trip into two weeks." I really agree w/ you up to a point. But over on the USA forum we do get all sorts of Europeans and Aussies who do ask about visiting - oh say, San Diego, LA, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, Death Valley (always Death Valley for some reason), Sequoia, Yosemite, Big Sur, Carmel, SF, Napa/Sonoma in 2 or 3 weeks. And wondering if there is a way to squeeze in Monument Valley.

We get folks from the East coast/mid-west asking the same sorts of questions - so I'm not saying Europeans are the only ones w/ unreasonable expectations.

Maybe it is more a matter of visiting someplace far away and "exotic" and unknown to the traveler. People may feel they won't get back anytime soon so want to "see as much as possible".

Many of us on here are "old hands" and have been many times or know we can return some time. When I first moved to the UK and my middle aged parents visited me I ran them ragged (REALLY ragged ) trying to take them everywhere. It was only after I got more used to living there and realizing that my folks could come back whenever they wished did I slow down and start taking things easier.

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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 09:09 PM
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In France, there is a law that allows anyone to take up to a year off as sabbatical leave, but it is not paid. Therefore, hardly anybody ever uses it.

But in any case, everybody gets 5 weeks paid vacation. My own company gives me 10 weeks, so I am not complaining.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 09:30 PM
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When I see itineraries where the posters are told that they are doing too much, I see roughtly two types. One is simply not adding the time required to accomplish proposed activities. The other type is those who think about more and come up with itineraries some consider too much. When I see this type of posting, I trust that the posters have good reasons to visit the intended places and help them reach their goals. This usually involves pointing out unnecessary backtracking or better choices of transportation; e.g. if one is short of time, fly between Andalucia and Barcelona, and don't drive or take a train.

As StCirq pointed out there may be valid reasons why a poster has to compress what seem to be too many destinations in a short time. For one thing, what is too much, after considering practical matters, becomes a matter of taste. For example, one of my collegue only thinks about taking a vacation where he can stay in the same place for two weeks doing the same thing every day. Anything more is a too rushed trip. Some might be considering getting into a situation, such as a medical procedure, where there is a posibility of not being able to travelling again. It would be discouraging to be told not to do too much and visit again later when they could spend more time when they know such time might never come back again.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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StCirq - I know what you mean. I sometimes look at a poster's itinerary and get exhausted just thinking about it. To be fair, my plans often start out rather complicated....but then get narrowed down quite quickly as I start looking at logistics (case in point - our recent Italy trip, for which I am still working on a trip report!).

We never really took big vacations until we moved overseas. Before then, my DH had about 3 weeks of vacation time and we would use it going skiing, visiting Wash DC or visiting family. When we moved overseas, his vacation time immediately doubled and we vowed to take full advantage of it.

Our first trip as ex-pats was to London. Our boys were 8 and 9 and I thought London was perfect. We took them out of school for a couple of extra days and went non-stop, morning till night, for a week. I had our daily itinerary mapped out in detail (including underground transfers) and wanted to make sure they saw everything - in case we never got back there. We came home absolutely exhausted, swearing to never do that again.

Over 7 years, the vacation time has increased and we've learned several things. (1) We like doing things on our own, so we rarely do tours. (2) We've learned that after about 10 days - we're ready to go home. (3) We don't like hopping around, so we stick to one country and try to stay a minimum of 3 nights wherever we go. (4) We rarely go "all day." We often head back to the hotel in the late afternoon for a rest, then go back out for in the evening. (5) We pay the extra money to stay in the center of town (near the sights) for the added convenience.

We also put together a "must see/do" list and a "wouldn't it be nice to see/do" list. We focus on the "must" list and if any of the other list gets done.....great. If not, no worries. Makes for much happier, relaxing vacations!!!

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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 10:07 PM
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StCirq, I think that, as you say, there is more to it than just vacation time. But I also agree with you that the difference in vacation is a huge factor. I'm young and on a budget, but I'm used to that and can do a trip cheaply. The main reason I don't travel more, internationally or domestically, is that I just don't have the time. I get three weeks' vacation every year, which is quite reasonable by American standards, especially for only being out of school a few years. But I take out one week for things like Christmas holidays, and another week for a non-sightseeing trip I go on each year. That only leaves me one week for long weekends, random days off and trips to Europe. So my main thought process is always "in 2009, when I've accrued a couple more weeks of vacation, maybe I'll go to Italy!"

And that does result in my (theoretical) trips being much more full than many others would advise. But I really don't know when I'll be able to go back, and there are so many places I want to see. In my situation, I'm not going to pay thousands of dollars and spend my vacation time to lounge on a European terrace or beach for a week. I can do that much more cheaply in the US. I just want to get the most bang for my buck, literally and figuratively. Not everyone needs to travel that way, and I'm definitely not knocking those who spend their vacation time differently, but it's my reality right now.
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 11:57 PM
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St Cirq, I think what you say is partially true, but as janisj says Europeans do the same thing when visiting the US. It is partly the lack of vacation days, but maybe more the need to see as much as possible in the time available having spent so much on just getting where you are going. After all you may never get there again.

I have no idea how much leave my OH gets a year - he rarely takes it all, unless I force him too. We try to do a three week long haul trip every other year. In the short haul year he may take only a week off, and a few odd days.
My cousin in Canada used to have an arrangement with his boss whereby he could take unpaid leave every other year. This enabled him to sail across the Atlantic single handidly, and sail down the East Coast of the US for instance. Now he is retired he spends all summer sailing I believe.

I like the Aussie long service leave idea! (OH has been with the same company 20 years next year)
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 12:45 AM
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I watched "The Amazing Race" on TV some time ago. Rather entertaining , and the typical way for americans to travel, isn't it?
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 12:59 AM
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I hate to say it, but I suspect it's also a function of age and experience. Not so much that you CAN'T do so much as you get older, but that you find you don't want to, or need to.

In my 20's I left my job in Canada, travelled through Europe for 4 months, and then lived and worked in England for about 18 months. During the 'Grand Tour' we drove through France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, Holland and Belgium - possibly more. In each country we went to the capital city for several days, seeing the cathedrals, major art museums, chateaux and palaces, etc. Then drove through the country staying in small hotels, B&B's, peoples bedrooms.

When I look back, I'm glad I did this. The experience of having to make myself understood in numerous different languages, having to eat and drink new things, find our way around for 4 months made me more confident and probably more open to new ideas.

However, when I look back at all the things we saw, I have to admit that very few of those museums changed my life, or even stayed with me. I have great memories, but they tend to be of smaller places, funny things that went wrong, interesting meals.

The trip that did change my life was coming to France in 1987, where we were so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Dordogne that we decided that we had to live here. And so we do.

But what I'm getting to is that as I have grown older, I realise that I don't have to see EVERYTHING. That one more city, church, museum, or even country probably won't change my life. That it's better to know a few things or places well. That for me the beauty of the countryside and interaction with people is most important, and you don't get that from dashing from one place to another.

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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 01:26 AM
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It's something to do with how people categorise whatever it is they're looking for when they go away.

I can't say I "know" even my own country, in the sense that there are lots of places people here have visited that I've never been to; still less would I claim to "know" Europe. I don't expect to.

I can understand the impulse, when the idea arises to visit the US, or Canada or, particularly in my case, Australia.

But seeing is only part of an experience, even (especially?) of a "must see". We just have to stand back a bit from "completist" thinking, and accept that we'll never see everything: a lot of things you'll see better in a good book or DVD anyway.

Why not ask ourselves instead what it is we're really hoping to get out of a trip: experiencing a different language, way of life, food and eating habits, seeing beautiful scenery, great art, what? And then focus on a limited number of examples of exactly that.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 02:14 AM
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This is one of those great threads where I find myself nodding at the points previous posters have made.

While I do think that short vacation allowances might stimulate some travellers to develop an ambitious itinerary, I think one's style, temperment, and interests have an even greater impact.

In my own case, simply being there is as good as doing something; idling a morning away under the plane trees in the village square is just as memorable as gazing up at the Pont du Gard. An afternoon cooking at our gîte is as wonderful as the morning spent in the market.

I guess some of us are naturally slow travellers, although some people might describe my style as glacial.

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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 02:21 AM
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I think you're right, Mellen. I get plenty of leave (never enough, you understand, but 7 weeks or so when it's all added together); but I, too, run my own business, and I couldn't dream of taking more than 2 weeks or so off at a time. I've recently started adding on the Friday before for travel time, so I get the full 14 days of holiday.

For me a holiday's a holiday. The only necessary criterion is that I'm away from home- otherwise it's just the same old, same old.

I wouldn't dream of travelling to Australia, or even the west coast of the US for 2 weeks, so my current goal is to get a better delegatee so I can take longer off.

But even if I only had a week, I'd spend it getting to know somewhere, rather than fleeing over the surface.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 03:03 AM
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I actually began to plan for early retirement (not complete leisure but consulting on a much reduced schedule) when I saw how much more sensibly the French lived than we did.

When we travel, we ordinarily do not plan more than one "event" per day -- one museum, exploring one neighborhood, visiting one garden -- and one meal out, supposing that we have an apartment, which we usually do. We fill out the day by browsing in another area, people-watching, or, in Paris, riding busses to scout out new areas.

We love art and music and gardens. In NYC, we get opera or dance tickets but haven't had much luck in Paris. In the UK, we often go to religious services that have great music.

We feel that we see and feel more by doing less.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 03:17 AM
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Another Australian who's taken advantage of company long service leave plus 4 week annual holidays and some extra accrued leave which gave us 4 and a half months for a European trip.

Not so these days am afraid, self-employed now, lucky to manage 2 weeks at a time.
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 03:39 AM
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Very interesting thread.

StCirq - I'm curious when you say

'American companies like INTEL and AMEX that are now letting their employees take 1-6 months' paid leave every 7 years or so (and don't even get me started on how nuts it is to expect folks to work for 7 years before they get a real vacation)'

Do you mean that they don't get any leave at all for the first 7 years? If they do get annual leave, how much would they get, on average?

We lived in Australia most of our lives and got 20 days annual leave per year, plus public holidays, and did one big overseas trip per year, usually Europe or USA.

Now we live in the UK we get 24 days per year, plus public holidays, and travel to Europe roughly once a month, for either a long weekend or a week here and there. The time it takes to get there is the biggest difference for us and also the cost is a fraction of what we used to pay for longhaul fares.

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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 04:13 AM
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Hi SC,

It's a good observation, but I don't think that the proclivity for rushing around is due to lack of time.

I think that it is because **most** of the folks who want to see 12 countries in 10 days:

A: Think that this will be their only visit to Europe. (Last year we visited Europe. This year we will do Asia.)

B: Get their ideas mostly from tour groups and think that this is how it is done

C: Are hyper.

Many years ago, when I was in my early 20s and fell into category B, I did 7 countries in 3 weeks. Slept on trains a lot.

My only real memory is of being in a train station in Holland and so exhausted that people were standing around me wondering whether I was stoned, drunk or sick.

Hi K,
In the US, one generally gets 2 weeks (10 working days) paid vacation, and about 10 days of holidays off.

In some places we get only 1 week paid vacation until we've been with the firm for a set time.

Some people, waiters, hairdressers, cooks, might get no paid vacation time.

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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 04:52 AM
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Even if I had 6 months leave EVERY year I'd still run around and try to cram as much as possible into every minute. Life's too short. I've lost too many dear friends and relatives who died much too soon to see a tenth of all the things I've experienced. I know I could kick the bucket at any minute so I want to do it all.

Of course, the logical reply will be "Slow down and you might live longer". And I could have a piano dropped on my head at any minute too. As a guy that has become increasingly fearful of flying, I want to see as much as I can before I risk my life on one of those rickety uncomfortable metal tubes.

As Arnold Jackson-Drummond would say; "Different Strokes for different folks."

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