quality of life http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9271/all en-US America Is the No Vacation Nation http://www.wisebread.com/america-is-the-no-vacation-nation <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/america-is-the-no-vacation-nation" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/Koa%20Wood%20Hale_1.JPG" alt="no hammocks here!" title="no hammocks here!" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Here is a frightening (or enlightening, depending on how you look at it) passage from <a href="http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/the-american-travel-ethos/">Wanderlust and Lipstick</a> about the American approach to vacations:</p> <blockquote><p>A 2009 survey from <a href="http://www.expedia.com/">Expedia</a> found that 1/3 of employees don&rsquo;t take all of their vacation time. While this speaks (to a certain degree) to how individuals make personal choices, there might be something else underlying our reluctance to hit the road.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/no-vacation-nation/">Center for Economic and Policy Research</a> calls the U.S. the <strong>No Vacation Nation</strong>. In a 2007 study, they determined that the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn&rsquo;t guarantee paid vacation for employees. That means you can take a job, work your 40 (or more) hours a week, and it&rsquo;s considered a bonus to be given paid vacation time.</p> <p>But when we are blessed with vacation time, what keeps us from taking the time off we earn and deserve? According to the Expedia survey, people who don&rsquo;t take their vacation time do so for several reasons. They hope to receive compensation for unused time, they have a hard time planning ahead or their partner can&rsquo;t travel during the same time period. What&rsquo;s worse? <strong>One in five respondents admitted to canceling a vacation because of work.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>No wonder we have so much trouble <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/our-productivity-obsession">balancing work and life</a>. No wonder a buzz term such as &ldquo;work-life balance&rdquo; even exists; why is &ldquo;work&rdquo; considered a separate entity from &ldquo;life&rdquo; to begin with? From <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com">my travels</a>, I have not found that other western cultures maintain the same distinction.</p> <p>I am currently traveling and living in Australia, where my boyfriend landed an entry-level job with seven weeks of paid vacation per year. Seven. Weeks. This is not an isolated perk in this area of the world either; an Aussie friend recently enjoyed 14 months of paid long-service leave, then he cut his hours down to two days per week for a year, and now he is taking five more months off (at half-pay), then fully retiring&hellip;at the age of 50.</p> <p>How long do you have to work at a company in America before earning seven weeks of vacation time per year? And would you suppose that a paid leave of absence on top of it is too elaborate? In other places, it is not unheard of.</p> <p>When I vacationed to South Africa many years ago and was chatting with the European-influenced locals, the common question asked of me was &ldquo;<em>how many months are you here for</em>?&rdquo;</p> <p>I looked at them like they were crazy for asking such a question. <em>Who on earth can get months off from work at a time?</em></p> <p>They in turn, looked at me like I was crazy. <em>Who on earth travels all the way to South Africa from North America for only a few weeks</em> (according to them)?</p> <p>These are people who have business or work obligations; they are indeed rooted in reality. One fellow worked for a chiropractor in England, and traveled to South Africa for four months out of every year. He struck an arrangement with his employer to allow him the time off, with the proviso that he would do a few small side projects during his time in South Africa. No problemo.</p> <p>So where is the disconnect? Why is America fostering a population of people who are tethered to their desks for life, with no respite? Although you might think that America at least dominates the world in productivity given all these hours spent at the office, <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,643900,00.html">recent studies</a> indicate that it&rsquo;s not necessarily the case:</p> <blockquote><p>Americans may take less vacation, but are they really more efficient than their European colleagues? Figures from the World Economic Forum certainly show the US remains the world's most competitive country. Yet other data, including countries' GDP per hours worked, reveal Europe still gives America a run for its money. That means many parts of the Old World are at least as productive as the US, if not more, with the added bonus of up to eight weeks off a year.</p> </blockquote> <p>So why are Americans more committed to their jobs than to themselves? <em>You may know &mdash; or be &mdash; one of these people if you have heard them say they don&rsquo;t have time to work out or <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/soy-milk-tofu-and-veggie-burgers-for-pennies-anyone">eat well</a> because of their work schedule.</em></p> <p>Do we accept extra work being dumped on us because the company is laying people off and we consider ourselves lucky to have any work at all? <em>In this economic climate, this could be possible. It doesn&rsquo;t, however, speak for the same work ethos that existed when economic times were better.</em></p> <p>Are we working all those extra hours to pay off our <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/six-steps-to-eliminating-your-debt-painlessly">consumer debt</a>? (And what of the extra hours worked by salaried employees who don&rsquo;t receive overtime pay)? <em>I wonder if <strong>we are caught up in a lifestyle based on consumption, which in turn perpetuates people&rsquo;s need to work hard &mdash; to earn enough money to pay off their last (or their next) purchase. </strong></em></p> <p>Do we opt out of taking vacation time because we can&rsquo;t afford to go anywhere anyway? <em>Maybe a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-ultimate-frugal-vacation">&quot;staycation&quot;</a> or <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-have-a-frugal-vacation-and-still-treat-yourself">frugal vacation</a> is possible, or just relaxing and reading a good book for a few days. It doesn&rsquo;t have to be &ldquo;work or bust&rdquo;.</em></p> <p>Why do some people brag about having accumulated months of vacation time by not having used it over the years?</p> <p>Do we burn the candle at both ends because we truly love the work?</p> <p>Or have we simply lost sight of the forest through the trees?</p> <p><strong>It seems from the opening quote that there are three core issues which indicate a lack of balance in American society:</strong></p> <ol> <li>We are not using all the vacation time granted to us.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>We are not granted nearly the same amount of vacation time that most of the rest of the western world sees.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>We (or at least some of us) are prepared to cancel our vacation because of work.</li> </ol> <p>This does not appear to be a sustainable model, and I wonder if we are already seeing signs of its breakdown in the form of depleted health and happiness. It is my hope that by redefining what the workplace &mdash; and work &mdash; is, we can find out how it fits into our lives in a more balanced way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/america-is-the-no-vacation-nation" class="sharethis-link" title="America Is the No Vacation Nation" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Career and Income Lifestyle productivity quality of life vacation Tue, 06 Oct 2009 14:30:45 +0000 Nora Dunn 3684 at http://www.wisebread.com The Upside of an Economic Downturn? http://www.wisebread.com/the-upside-of-an-economic-downturn <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-upside-of-an-economic-downturn" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/HealthyOnions.jpg" alt="Healthy Lifestyle" title="Happy Onions" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="375" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Not that anyone would wish economic hardship on anybody, but can the case be made that there are in fact health benefits to an economic downturn? Well, the conclusion is not as simple as you might think, and the answers are surprisingly mixed. In a recent article in the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/07/health/07well.html?_r=1&amp;8dpc&amp;oref=slogin" target="_blank">New York Times</a> , researchers found that there are in fact instances where lean economic times might actually have a positive impact on our health.</p> <p>While it goes without saying that a flourishing economy goes a long way to improving our standard or living, it is interesting to note that there are instances where economic prosperity does not always translate into good health. </p> <p>Take, for instance, the economic expansion of the past two decades. While we have witnessed unprecedented growth in the stock market along with an incredible accumulation of wealth, the population as a whole has also experienced skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.</p> <p>The reason for this seems to boil down to time, or lack thereof. When the economy is good, people seem to dedicate more of their lives to working hard at their jobs. In fact, in a previous post, <a href="/your-work-or-your-life" target="_blank">Xin Lu</a> wrote about a Japanese worker who actually worked himself to death!</p> <p>While the desire to work hard and do a good job is completely understandable, it also means that less time is dedicated to the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, which includes healthy eating, exercise, and regular check ups with your doctor. When times are good, people also tend to embrace unhealthy habits like excessive consumption of alcohol (especially before getting behind the wheel), as well as stress and anxiety that can come from trying to maintain a certain lifestyle, which also, in the modern era of consuming, can entail accruing debt.</p> <p>Then, of course, there is the issue of spending quality time at home with friends and family, which I think is reasonable to say contributes positively to one’s health and brings up the need to distinguish between one’s standard of living and one’s quality of life. This is especially true in the case of raising children.</p> <p>In fact, some of the data seems to point to the fact that children may actually benefit from the economy slowing down. The reason for this may be hard to nail down, but some theorize that it has to do with more time spent with either mom or dad (who may be unemployed as a result of a slowdown), and the healthy aspects of life that go along with it, i.e., healthy, home cooked meals from scratch, the comfort and peace of mind that come from being around the nuclear family.</p> <p>It is important to note that for families that are hit harder by a downturn, the results might not be so bright and sunny. In other words, if a family cannot absorb the loss of income, then it doesn’t bode well for the children or the parents. It makes sense, since not only do they have less access to food and health care, but the stress might also compromise quality family time.</p> <p>On the other hand, if the loss of income can be absorbed, then having a parent spending more time with their children surely can’t be a horrible thing. Sure, you can’t buy as many houses, cars or big screen TVs, but it begs the question, how much is enough? If you can keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back, then maybe the only way to slow down and spend more quality time with your family is to be forced to do it.</p> <p>So during these difficult times, many of us may have to curb our spending habits. This could mean buying fewer extravagant and frivolous items, and even forsaking our daily latte. This, however, could go a long way in instilling us with a greater appreciation for the simpler things in life, like our famiy, friends, and health. </p> <p>And maybe even that watered down cup of Yuban, which should be enjoyed in the company of loved ones… slowly.</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-upside-of-an-economic-downturn" class="sharethis-link" title="The Upside of an Economic Downturn?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fred-lee">Fred Lee</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Family healthy lifestyle quality of life recession Tue, 14 Oct 2008 11:26:51 +0000 Fred Lee 2519 at http://www.wisebread.com Quality of Life http://www.wisebread.com/quality-of-life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/quality-of-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/quality%20of%20life.jpg" alt="free time" title="free time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoPlainText">Travel is amazing for helping you realize even more about your own country, culture, and home life. And despite cultural differences, language barriers, and economical disparities, we all seem to be fighting the same demons and striving for the same goals. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">I’d like to share a story about a man named Joe (a western nickname derived from his longer Thai name) who I met in Thailand. It doesn’t matter that Joe grew up in a place barely imaginable to westerners, and lives a very different life on the outside as us; when he shared his life story with me, I realized that the battle for quality of life exists absolutely everywhere. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Joe grew up in remote northern Thailand. In the sleepy town where he was raised, the small number of inhabitants live off the land. They work two months of the year; one month planting, and the second month harvesting. The entire rest of the year is spent living a “quality life”. Everything is hand-crafted, and beautifully at that. A simple soup ladle has an intricate and ornate wooden handle. Why? Because they have time, and having beautiful things improves their quality of life. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Although Joe says they only work two months of the year, there is still work to be done. They tend their personal gardens for an hour each day. Since everything is handcrafted, time is spent making and repairing their wares. And of course there must always be home repair and maintenance projects on an ongoing basis. But then again, we in the western world also are laden down with many of these tasks, in addition to a 40, 60, 80, or even 100 hour workweek. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">But as Joe grew up, like so many adolescents and young adults, he wanted what was on the other side of the fence. He longed to partake in the business of city life, smell the aroma of success, and interact with movers and shakers. And off to Bangkok we went. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Once in Bangkok, Joe led a successful career as a marketing manager. But as successful as he was, and as successful as others saw him to be, he worked long hard hours, and barely made enough money to pay for rent, much less live the life he thought a “successful” person should live. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Joe would wake up at 5am, and would return home from work at 10pm. Only to wake up and repeat the same process, six days a week. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">A pair of jeans would cost one quarter of his monthly income. Rent: more than half. Food: another quarter. And after many years of this life, Joe realized that not only was no money left at the end of the month, but also no energy. No life. No love. And no happiness. In short – no quality of life. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Joe’s mind began to wander back to the life of his family, still in his home town. How on earth could he have thought that this life of “success” in the big city was better? Now the years of wisdom in the lines on his parents’ and grandparents’ faces made sense, as did their expressions of astonishment when Joe originally said he wanted to move away. They knew. But they also knew that Joe had to learn this lesson on his own. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Ten years later, Joe returned to his home town. His family and old friends accepted him with the unconditional love and acceptance that comes with the territory. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Now, Joe teaches westerners looking for their own quality of life the value of what may be right in front of them. He is a pioneer in sustainable living techniques, and adobe hut construction. He is now adopting a seed-saving program and other inspirational initiatives so that more and more people can preserve the beautiful world we live in as well as our quality of life (in the food we eat, places we live, and company we keep). </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">But first and foremost – he doesn’t work 17 hours a day any more. He enjoys the little things that most of us don’t even understand, much less know how to enjoy. And he has defined for himself what “quality of life” really means. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Does his struggle in Bangkok sound familiar to our own daily struggles? Never having enough time or money? Never being able to just “be”? </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">I wonder if there is a way for us to achieve that life – or at least that state of mind – in our part of the world. If everybody, despite background, culture, language, or family, wants the same thing, then maybe it’s easier to achieve than we may think. </p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/quality-of-life" class="sharethis-link" title="Quality of Life" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle Art and Leisure free time quality of life schedules work Fri, 30 May 2008 07:41:53 +0000 Nora Dunn 2135 at http://www.wisebread.com