Monthly Archives: August 2014

Got Vacation?

Posada Margherita, Tulum.  Photo by Claudia SantinoThe US Labor Department recently released findings that one out of every seven workers does NOT take paid vacation.

If you think that’s crazy, that’s because it is.

There was a time when vacation was the silver lining of working for the man but, apparently, no more. This once sacred cow of an employee’s time has morphed into busyness as a badge of honor. Like a scene out of Network, I keep excepting people to throw open windows and scream, “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.” but the silence is deafening.

Network, the film whose famous line could be a rallying call for folks to take their paid time off.

Network, the film whose famous line could be a rallying call for folks to take their paid time off.

Say what you will but this all started with laptops and cellphones. The insidious lamb to the slaughter takeover of our lives from “smart” devices and constantly being plugged in got in the way of real living. It obliterated the separation between church and state. We’re in a wired world where we are constantly “on.” Once out of the office, some folks have a hard time disconnecting and some managers and office cultures expect a live line at all hours.  These days it’s not uncommon to hear coworkers who do go on vacation tell the office that they’ll have their phone with them.

What the sound of the ocean isn’t entertaining enough for you, you must have your cell phone?

The Employee Confidence Survey, conducted by the transparent career community site Glassdoor, is a window into why employees are leaving paid vacation time on the table. Anyone interested in all the details can read the report but here’s a bird’s eye view on their results:VacationBreakdown-Q1-14

Why would employees entitled to paid time off not take it?

For some, it’s a case clear case of climbing the corporate ladder, company dedication, being a good worker bee, and getting the gold star.  Some are so freaked out by the amount of work they have that the thought of taking vacation is stressful.  For others it’s guilt (about what I have not idea), or fear of losing their job, or being afraid of the boss.

Speaking of bosses, is there nothing worse than a boss who calls you while he or she is on vacation? Vacation for you is vacation for me. The operative part of that word is “vacate.” It’s like the boss who goes on maternity leave but doesn’t leave—it’s sheer craziness.

And here’s the really sad part. A 2013 survey by Oxford Economics found that 13% of managers are more likely to promote workers who don’t take vacation days. That’s real nice.  Another side effect of not taking vacation: heart problems, poor morale, and most likely not that fun to live with or be with.

Not surprisingly, the study found that employees who do use their vacation time are more productive and less stressed out. So why would you want to promote someone who is overworked and stressed out? The benefits of taking vacation benefits everyone.

And here’s where the travel agency and industry has a shot. Everyone knows the Got Milk ad campaign. Why not…Got Vacation? There won’t be white moustaches but the creativity around that tagline is endless and could wrap itself around the planet several times over.

When it comes to people who can’t disengage from work, a friend of mine says, “No one ever spent their last breath saying, ‘I should have spent more time at the office’.” On that note, no one should end up on a hospital bed saying, “I should have taken my vacation days,” but that’s what’s going to happen because it’s turned into the American way. Can’t we take a page out Europe’s book on this one?

It’s August and if you haven’t used any of your vacation or holiday time yet, do yourself a favor and take it. Summer’s not going anywhere but hopefully you are. And that goes for the rest of the year. Use it or lose it because that’s probably your company’s policy anyway.

If you need any more encouragement, this might give you the push needed to call a travel agent, take a staycation, get out the roadmap, or get off the grid.  Whether or not he’s your cup of tea, his humorous take on taking vacation is spot on.  Click here and fast forward past New Rules to the closing monologue.

Enjoy your vacation!

 

 

 

 

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The Grand Canyon—Keeping It Real.

sunset-on-the-north-rim-of-the-grand-canyon-hdr-mark-greenawalt

Do we have to ruin everything?

The first time I visited the Grand Canyon, it was in the mid-90s. Some colleagues and I were in Phoenix for a company meeting and had 24 hours to kill before it kicked off. There were five of us, and one rental car, so we decided to head to Sedona. Once there we went horseback riding, bopped around the town, ate and contemplated the beauty of this destination. Over icy bottles of beer, we were feeling groovy and the last thing we wanted to do was return to Phoenix. I mentioned how I’d never seen the Grand Canyon.

The next thing, one of the guys from our group pulled a quarter from his pocket (obviously that’s when peopled carried cash) and gave us the directive, “Heads we head for the Grand Canyon, tails we’re back at the hotel.”

That night we found ourselves split up between 3 bunk beds in one room of a hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was cheap and we were cheerful and all charged up for our renegade getaway from the claws of a corporate meeting. It felt like camp as our company of two women and three men giggled, whispering tales in the dark until we drifted off to sleep.

Early the next morning we hit the road, three in the back and two in the front. But one of our gang was itching and scratching. He’d had a bunk all to himself and was convinced he had bed bugs. Someone turned the radio up and when signs for the Grand Canyon began appearing, I forgot everyone.

With the exception of a few cars, the parking lot we pulled into was pretty empty. Which way to the canyon, I asked one of my travel companions who’d already been. “It’s right there,” he said pointing over my left shoulder. And he was right, it was right there.

How this glorious force of nature, so all-encompassing, so massive, so breathtakingly, incredibly, jaw-dropping, out-of-this-world, awesomely obvious natural work of art couldn’t have immediately captured my attention bewildered me. Looking back, it’s like being on safari when all of a sudden an elephant appears out of nowhere, without a sound. How is that possible?

We only had two hours and I sat on a rock ledge on the South Rim staring into the abyss of this natural wonder and the Colorado River that formed it. As the sun rose, the orangey-coral, multi-colored striations that paint the canyon walls changed. Birds flew through its corridor, soaring high and low and I envied their view.

One might river.

One mighty river.

The Grand Canyon is humbling. It is also compelling and I almost wanted to throw myself in. It is an all out force of nature and it truly is quite grand.

Every once in a while my eyes drifted and I saw visitors doing the same thing as me. Cameras came out but mostly people sat individually or as couples, losing themselves in the canyon’s vortex. There is no past or future when you are in a space like this, it is nature’s cathedral and she has your undivided attention.

Since then, I’ve revisited the Grand Canyon several times and it is always a unique experience. I’ve hiked down into it, staying overnight in the Havasupai Indian village (a bit depressing) and swam in Havasu Falls (gorgeous). The North Rim of the canyon is my preferred side. It’s less accessible which is probably why I like it, but no matter what vantage point you view it from there’s not a bad seat in the house. And there’s no sunset like a Grand Canyon sunset. New age and woo-woo stuff aside, it is most certainly a spiritual experience.

Bird's eye view of Havasu Falls.

Bird’s eye view of Havasu Falls.

So last week when I read A Cathedral Under Siege, it invoked the question for me—do we have to ruin everything? If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon than it’s a must read. If you’ve never visited this geological wilderness wonder, it may inspire you to experience it.

The article is written by Kevin Fedarko, whose book The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, was featured on PortsAreCalling last year. As a guide in Grand Canyon National Park, this man knows more than a thing or two about this natural monument and the havoc that two development projects underway will wreak upon it.

One is the construction of a residential and community center just two miles from the South Rim’s entrance. Development requires water, which requires tapping into wells, which basically means tapping into the delicate balance of nature connected to the Grand Canyon. The other project is the proposed construction of a tramway that would descend into the canyon, as well as an elevated walkway, an amphitheater and a restaurant. The tramway would provide access to 4,000 plus visitors a day.

Is that really necessary?

This kind of heavy traffic equals congestion, pollution, destruction, and ultimately desecration.

I ask again, do we have to ruin everything?

I’ll leave you with Fedarko’s thoughts:

“Conservationists often lament the inherent unfairness of fights like this. Whenever a developer is defeated, nothing prevents other developers from stepping forward, again and again. But for those who love wilderness, the loss of a single battle can mean the end of the war, because landscapes that fall to development will never return

If you care about places like the Grand Canyon, there’s something inherently wrong about that. But there may be something reaffirming about it, too, because these threats call upon us to reassert our conviction, as a nation, that although wilderness is an asset whose worth may be difficult if not impossible to quantify, without it, we would be immeasurably poorer.

Every 15 or 20 years, it seems, the canyon forces us to undergo a kind of national character exam. If we cannot muster the resources and the resolve to preserve this, perhaps our greatest natural treasure, what, if anything, are we willing to protect?”

Getting ‘Used To’ Travel.

FtrainSeveral years ago when some friends and I and boarded my local F train that’s part of New York City’s lovely subway system, a very funky odor greeted us. Basically, it smelled like crap. I suggested we move to another car, while another friend said, “You’ll get used to it.”

Are you kidding me? Why should we have to get used to it I wondered, as other passengers sat there reading or staring blankly in the practiced effort of avoiding eye contact.

Airline travel can sometimes be a similar experience. We’ve gotten “used to” things we feel we can’t control. Last week on a flight to Seattle, the flight attendant asked all passengers if they would kindly remain seated upon landing so a family traveling together could exit first. The plane had been delayed an hour leaving New York and it was going to be a tight connection for these folks to make their next flight. No problem, I thought, what’s a few more minutes? Apparently, it’s a big deal to a lot of people. The family could barely make it though the gauntlet of passengers who just couldn’t wait to get off the plane first.

We may be captives for a few hours in a flying can but that doesn’t mean we can’t be civilized. We may not be able to move to another subway car to get away from an offensive smell, or passenger, but we can show good etiquette.

Earlier this year Jaunted posted 8 Ways to Avoid Being ‘That Annoying Passenger’ on a Flight, I figured it bears repeating and, hopefully, you’ll pass it on:

Ah, airline travel. Could there be a more perfect example of a love/hate relationship? We feel fortunate for the opportunity to travel anywhere around the globe in a day; however, we’d be lying if we said the experience was always a relaxing one.

Airline travel is no longer comfortable in economy class, and it’s up to us to do our part to stop the bleeding. Some of these recommendations may seem small and trivial, but a little goes a long way at 30,000 feet!

Here are a few ways for you to help make someone else’s flight more enjoyable, and to avoid being “that guy” at the center of happy hour horror stories:

Don’t use the seats for balance as you walk down the aisle. Instead, use the overhead compartments. If you reach up and slide your hand along it, you’ll be able to catch yourself if there’s a sudden bout of turbulence. Every time you grab the corner of a seat, you create an earthquake, and if you’ve ever had someone do it to you while you’re nodding off, you know how annoying it is.

Along those same lines, don’t use the seat in front of you to pull yourself up when going to the rest room. Use the arm rests to push yourself up, as grabbing and pulling on the back of the seat is on par with kicking it.

Turn your bags back to front in the overhead. Time and time again we watch people put their bag sideways and take up the space of two. Don’t do that! It simply delays takeoff when the last people can’t find space and the flight attendants have to go around and turn the bags themselves.

Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to do it, and most times it’s all right, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. We’re on the tall side – six foot two – and we’ve had situations where one minute we’re working on our computer, and the next the laptop is under our chin and we couldn’t type a word comfortably even if we had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those extra few inches will provide you. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off and everything is fair game. That particular time, we felt no hesitation or guilt for having to push on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Don’t eat aromatic food. Notice how we didn’t say bad smelling food, as that leaves too much up for interpretation. You might love the smell of tuna, but the other hundred people on the plane most likely do not. We had a man next to us eat canned octopus in garlic sauce once, and we spent the next three hours keeping the woman on our right from shoving the can down his throat.

Introduce yourself to your seatmate. You have to walk a fine line with this one as we’ve all heard people complain about the person next to them who “wouldn’t shut up,” but at least say hi to the person next to you. We find most people are up for some conversation, and sometimes it turns into a pleasant back and forth. That said, feel it out and pick up on people’s signals. If they’re fiddling with their earphones, casually give them a chance to end the conversation. But, at the very least, make an effort during takeoff and landing. To us, it’s weirder to sit next to someone for three hours and not say a word than it is to introduce yourself.

Wait until the row in front of you deplanes before deplaning yourself. We’re not sure why there is so much confusion about this (cough, Europe!). It seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy, yet inevitably there always seems to be someone who thinks they shouldn’t have to wait and who tries to push past us as we’re trying to exit our row. We were once in the second to last row of the plane and had the man in the last row almost knock us over as we stood up from our aisle seat and stepped out. Needless to say, words were exchanged – it’s just plain rude. If you happen to have a tight connection, be nice and quietly ask permission to go ahead (there’s nothing worse than a panicking person screaming about their connection… it’s a rookie traveler mistake and no one takes you any more seriously whether you ask nicely or act like a knucklehead. In fact, it’s the people who are pushy that we want to help the least).

Don’t stand in the aisle when waiting for the bathroom. We know you have to go, but we really would rather you not stand over us while you wait. It’s already tight quarters, and hovering over someone sitting in an aisle seat doesn’t make it any better, not to mention that certain body parts tend to line up with our face when they’re standing next to us (this is also a common time when people tend to rest their hands on the back of seats). Stay in your seat until there’s no line, or wait in the food galley until the person in front of you comes out. Thankfully, airlines have started to police this themselves and it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Deep breath, rant over. Happy flying!