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by Christopher Browning

There’s a sobering trend facing American workers today. As a nation, we’re taking on average, less time off. In fact, the United States ranks last in required time off by country with a big fat goose egg. Zero. Zilch. Nadda. While France, on the other hand, ranks number one with 31 required paid vacation and holidays. Sacrebleu!

Leaving time on the table

And it’s not that we don’t have vacation time offered to us. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 90% of full-time workers are offered paid time off. But even when we do get PTO, many Americans don’t use it all. 

While some employers offer a payout for unused time off, many adopt a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that carries over about 40 hours per year. In 2018, 768 million unused PTO days vanished along with that dream of taking an epic National Parks road trip.

Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California
Why throw those hours away when you could be exploring a place like Yosemite?

What’s even sadder is that many folks who do take time off aren’t actually leaving work behind. Over half of American workers said they felt guilty taking a vacation. Now that we’re more connected than ever with high-powered smartphones and fast accessible internet, the temptation to check-in is hard to overcome. While we’re all about the digital nomad lifestyle, a vacation should be about disconnecting. 

But it’s not all doom, gloom, and no vacations. It’s worth noting that the average number of days taken off has gone up slightly since 2017. Woo hoo! That’s progress, but we can do better! There are more than enough studies out there that tell us taking a vacation is really good for our physical and mental health. Maybe next time you go on vacation you can get a doctor’s note so you won’t feel guilty! (P.S. tell us how that goes). 

Health benefits of taking a vacation

But since all that data is hard to sift through, we’ve narrowed it down to a shortlist of the key health benefits of taking a vacation:

  • Improved physical & mental health
  • Increased happiness
  • Improving relationships
  • Better mental capacity

Improved physical & mental health

We know stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, and mood swings. But did you know our brains are chemically altered when exposed to chronic amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol? This hormone, while natural and safe in small doses, factors heavily into anxiety and depression. Going on vacation gives your mind a chance to heal in ways it can’t while under constant pressure. Add that smell of morning dew or big breath of fresh forest air, and you’ll be feeling like a new person after a couple of days off the grid. Plus, check out our top tips on getting exercise while on the road. It’s always best to keep that heart pumping and that body moving!

Woman jumping in the air
Moving your body outdoors does wonders for your physical and mental health.

Increased happiness

A study by Gallup found that folks who make time for regular trips scored 68.4 on their well-being index, a full 17 points above infrequent travelers. Another study found that people’s physical ailments, sleep quality, and overall mood improved noticeably after their vacation. These effects lasted up to five weeks later, especially for folks who took more time off to recharge their batteries. You can even get a significant boost in happiness just from the trip planning process! And let’s not forget that our pets are also proven to reduce our stress and anxiety levels. Taking a trip with your furbaby is like compound interest for you and your pet’s health. 

Improving relationships

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) work spills over into your personal life. This leaves less time for family and friends. Taking a well-deserved road trip with your sibling, partner, kids, or besties strengthens those relationships and creates awesome memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. And who knows? Maybe a picturesque road trip is the perfect setting to pop the big question!

mom with kids at north cascades national park
Spending time with family on the road helps strengthen bonds and create new memories.

Better mental capacity

Aside from increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stress can also affect a part of the brain related to goal-focused activity and memory. Which is no wonder that people returning from vacation report being more focused and productive? Think of taking time off as a tune-up for your brain. Trying something new, like a campervan road trip, is also a great way to keep your focus off of work and on something you enjoy. Who knows what new insights and perspectives you’ll discover while on the road?

Escape the grind

How you choose to recharge is up to you. Our mission here at Escape is to inspire people to escape their everyday routines and embrace their adventurous spirit by exploring the world in a campervan. We believe there’s tremendous healing power in hitting the road, disconnecting, and exploring the many treasures Mother Nature has to offer. But don’t just take it from us! Check out what our renters have to say about their adventures. It’s no surprise we’re seeing more people adopting the van life to free themselves from the stress of overworking. This is why renting a campervan is a freeing and inexpensive way to experience the health benefits of taking a vacation. Also, don’t forget to check out our specials page for discounts to save money on your next camper van road trip.

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