A Reminder: Take Your Vacation Days

A ridiculous 462 million days of PTO apparently went unused in the U.S. last year

An overhead shot of Lake Pepin.
Lake Pepin & bluffs

photo by Ackerman + Gruber

I know how odd this looks: It’s my first column as the editor of Minnesota Monthly, and I’m already thinking about time away from the office. Let me explain. Ever since I got my first job at age 11 delivering the Star Tribune on the weekends, I calculated fairly quickly that taking time off from work was essential. Maya Angelou put it best: “Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.”

Our great state of Minnesota was the site of my first vacations. I remember family camping trips near Stillwater, sojourns up north, and the cabins, canoes, and bonfires of a week-long camp I attended each summer on Lake Ida by Alexandria. Even just looking forward to eventually hitting the “Esc” key for a few days helped immeasurably.

Unsurprisingly, 96 percent of respondents said they felt happier after a good vacation, according to Expedia’s yearly Vacation Deprivation report. And yet the report also found that about 462 million vacation days were left on the table in the U.S. last year. This happens for some reasons that we can control, and some we can’t. Either way: ouch.

Aside from eluding responsibilities—and when we’re really lucky, push notifications—even a short trip is an ideal chance to convene with our humanity, be it self-examination in the woods or people-watching at a lakeside bar. An endless line of storytellers, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Joan Didion and Guy Fieri, have used travel to answer questions about the world. Whether you’re hoping to find residency in the world of ideas, or just in search of Flavortown, USA, a willingness to let go of the comforts of home and grip a suitcase comes with serious upside potential.

One more irksome figure: Expedia’s survey says that 8 percent of the U.S. workforce felt guilty for taking time off last year. Felt guilty. I don’t know about you, but 8 percent feels excessively high. Listen to my 11-year-old self, and get that happiness whenever you can, especially before summer’s in full swing. You’ve earned it.