12 January 2014

Ups and Downs of Vacation Time in the USA and Russia


The peaceful waters of our summer lake


Trying to sort out your life?  If you want to know your own values, why not consider what vacation time has meant to you.  The years click by and you can easily get in a no vacation rut.

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A surfeit of vacation time in Russia...

This year we haven’t had the cold snowy weather of other years.  Temperatures are often below freezing, but we’ve had more rain than snow... a discouraging situation for the average Russian who loves bracing weather closer to –10 degrees centigrade.  This crummy weather provides little to do this year, but want it or not the government mandates an extra 8 days off from January 1 through January 8 for salaried workers.

Back in the USSR, and now...

Larissa in Soviet times had month  long vacations every summer along with holidays during the year.  Month vacations continue now, with

added paid time off from New Years to the day after Russian Christmas, January 8th, and a complex system of two and three day weekends, adding up to another 20 days off.  Sometimes working days are switched to a Saturday or Sunday.

Workers who have their own little grocery store, or fruit stand, or work day to day, miss out on a lot of this paid time off, just as in the US.

USA The No Vacation Nation

The American worker has lost a lot of vacation ground compared to Europeans the last 30 years.  Americans have no legislation guaranteeing any time off, and now have much shorter vacation time than most other developed countries, in the statistical basement with Canada and Mexico.  What’s all the more sad is that Americans are likely to not use all the days coming to them. 

You can’t recover lost vacation time

1965 to 1976... Lots of vacation

I taught in public schools before and after the Navy from 1965 to 1983.   The Navy gave us 30 days vacation a year, and lots of other days off by request.  New Jersey public schools were closed for 10 weeks during the summer, and for 3 one week vacations during the school year... Christmas, February, and Easter, along with a day or two for Thanksgiving, and personal days. 

1976 to 1999... 23 Years straight of No vacation...

Carefree summers ended when I married, taking on a family of wife and soon five children. A teacher’s summer off is without pay, and replacing this lost income was a yearly anxiety as summer jobs usually were not even comparable to a teacher’s pay.  Eventually I saw that living poor as a burned out teacher was worse than trying to get by doing something that might have more future.

I quit teaching and got a position as a life and health insurance salesman with a local agency.  The results were a lot more freedom and a real opportunity to make more money.  For the next several years I had no paid vacation time and little money to enjoy any time off. 

This situation continued after I started my own small agency in 1993.  I could find no one who was willing or able to run the agency in my absence.  In 1999 I had money to spend, and a new wife to enjoy it with, so we took a few weeks honeymoon at a New Jersey mountain lake and at the Jersey shore.

2000 to 2014... Proclaimed myself Retired !

We left American in June 2000.  For a few years we had both time and money to enjoy extensive travel in Europe and two trips when we covered a lot of the USA.  But with advancing age, illness, and less vigor we spend the warm months at our village house and occasionally go to a sanatorium for a week.

One of several of my life’s missteps which maybe you can learn from...

I left the Navy in 1970, and with the aid of the GI bill I started my graduate classes to become a history college professor but within a few months that life became unattractive to me.  I should have switched plans to some practical way to make a living, such as school administrator, but instead I took courses to get a Masters in Education, guaranteeing poverty if I ever had a family.  If you want good vacations throughout your life, you have to be practical and realistic in your career plans.


Click these hot links for further information...

Americans Receive Half the Vacation Time as Russians... Hotels.com

The average American worker got 14 vacation days last year but only used 10 of them, according to a survey by Expedia.

The U.S. is the only developed country without a federal mandate for a minimum number of vacation days.  International Business Times


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