As Memorial Day arrives, Americans plan 'chill' vacations
More people are untethering from their electronic devices and frenetic lifestyles to take vacations this summer that revel in the pursuit of doing ... nothing.
Michael Ray Smith and his wife, Barbara Jean, are exceedingly pleased about what they are not going to do on their coming vacation: travel or sightsee; visit museums; go to plays, movies, or amusement parks; window-shop; gamble. The list goes on: They will not visit family or friends, play cards, hike, water-ski, sky-dive, or go bungee jumping.Skip to next paragraph
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Instead, the college professor and his wife, an elementary school teacher, have chosen to fill their daily activity schedule for four weeks straight with just two agenda items:
(1) diddly, and (2) squat.
"We do read, but the main event is to do absolutely nothing," says Mr. Smith, a communication studies professor at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. "Our goal is to recharge, reboot, disconnect, mentally let go." He says they still have to water the plants and cut the grass, "but mostly we practice the fine art of porch- or gazebo-sitting."
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The North Carolina couple has a 20-by-30-foot wooden deck facing a stand of trees that blocks sight of the neighboring house. They have an electric fan to foil mosquitoes, and several sofas and deck chairs arranged for relaxation – and nothing else. This will be their third year in a row in which they have spent a month exploring the virtues of idleness over activity. "I think this is what everyone needs, especially educators," says Smith. "Time off is not just time off, but time to recharge."
The Smiths represent a growing trend in America. Evidence is mounting that as people eye the beckoning barn door signaling "summer" – Memorial Day weekend – most don't seem able to disconnect from the workplace like they did in the old days. The word "vacation" originates from the Latin "vacatio," meaning freedom from occupation. Yet, despite all the wistfulness that term might evoke – for Arcadian days of youth frolicking at beaches, lakes, or mountain cabins – more and more people can't free themselves from their laptops or daily lives that have become as frenetic as a food processor.
Here is some of the mounting evidence from a 2012 survey from Fierce, Inc., a Seattle-based leadership development and training firm, that queried more than 1,000 executives and employees in multiple fields about their vacations:
• 58 percent said they received no stress relief from their time off.
• 27.3 percent of employees, in fact, felt more stressed after vacations.
• 41.6 percent of workers checked in with the office at least every other day.
• Only 8.9 percent of respondents achieved what they considered a state of complete relaxation while on vacation.
If all this lack of letting go smacks of hired consultants defining a problem so they can sell you a solution (more on this later), consider the growing lexicon being born before our eyes. In just the past few years, several terms have popped up and become commonplace to describe an America that is too plugged-in and overactive, including "nomophobia" (fear of being out of mobile phone contact), "attention fragmentation disorder" (focus flitting incessantly from one medium to the next), and "FOMO" (fear of missing out on any social media missive, from an iguana video to a recipe for lutefisk).