The beginning of the concept of a vacation is unknown, but it can be traced back at least as far as Greek culture.  They created festivals, spas, and religious sites to lure people from their homes.  Romans built resort towns for the wealthy to get away.  Early Europeans took pilgrimages to religious sites.

It wasn’t until the 17th century that the concept of vacations became better known.  In America, the vastness of the country and the lack of adequate highways made vacations a challenge for all but the rich.

In 1910, President William Howard Taft proposed that every American have a vacation of 2-3 months per year.  His proposal was billed in economic terms, believing that having time off would boost energy levels and productivity.  Congress didn’t agree.

Progressive employers started giving their upper-level employees time off during the 1930s and 1940s.  They wanted to recognize the challenge of working in an office all day.  The U.S. Labor Department studied the issue of vacations for all employees.  A committee was challenged to develop a national vacation policy but never made a report.  At the time, 30 countries had a national vacation policy.

Unions ultimately became the driving force behind vacation mandates.  Paid time off became a contract issue.  World War II helped accelerate vacation benefits because of labor shortages and wage controls.  Vacations became a vehicle for luring employees to join a company and a way to provide a wage bonus.

The interstate highway system had a great impact on vacations as well since people could take trips more conveniently.  But attempts to make vacations a national law failed in 2009 and 2015.  Where Congress has failed to act, employers have.  Almost every employer of any size has vacation benefits of some type.

The irony is that once vacation benefits have become established, more and more employers do not take their full vacation allotment.  Over half of U.S. employees do not take their full vacation days.  With advances in technology, even those who “go away” are still spending parts of their vacations working.

Vacations have been around for centuries, but the concept of a vacation is changing.  Societies are moving more toward a purpose-based economy where lines are blurred between what people are paid to do and what they do because of personal fulfillment.  In a purpose-based economy, vacations may no longer have the same rejuvenating quality they once had.  Maybe it’s time for vacations to begin to change.

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“Take a vacation from your stressful thoughts by changing your thoughts.”  Debasish Mridha (Physician)

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