Larry Mantle |

The essential vacation




My family and I are back from a week-long vacation to visit the national parks of southern Utah. Our trip was largely inspired by Ken Burns' superb documentary series on the founding of the parks system.

We had a wonderful time enjoying the spectacular scenary of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capital Reef national parks. However, as beautiful as any of those places is Dead Horse Point State Park, just north of Canyonlands. It offers a spectacular view of Canyonlands and the Colorado River below the mesa on which the state part sits. It was a real unexpected gem.

There's so much attention to how we Americans work longer, harder, and with less vacation than the majority of industrialized countries. Our productivity may speak well for us, but I question whether our unwillingness to offer, or inability to take, vacations is in our best interests.

I know that I couldn't possibly have the on-the job energy I do if I didn't intersperse it with time to completely remove myself and visit open space. I need it for my mental health, as well as productivity.

I'm one of those small minority of Americans who has a generous four weeks of available vacation-time a year. I know how fortunate I am, but I'm also very aware of how my performance would suffer without it.

Do you think we need to find a way to provide more vacation time to American workers? Do we pay a longer-term productivity price in exchange for the shorter term gains from working more weeks a year? If you were to change our national approach to vacation, how would you go about it?