I’ve always been surprised by the reluctance many people have to take their annual vacations. Even in the United States, where two to three weeks is a normal allocation for many employees, many avoid taking their allotted days. In most of Europe, oddly enough, the opposite is true: workers often have five or six weeks annual leave, and generally take every day or it. It seems, somehow or other that our European cousins have a better appreciation of the value that vacations offer not just to the employee, but to the employer as well.
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Unless you’ve been living in a submarine these last few months, you won’t have missed the fact that the UK is having a big year. Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee went off with a big — though sometimes rainy — bang, and it’s now only a few weeks to the 2012 London Olympics, which run from July 27 through August 12.
Our world is a topsy-turvy place, with no end of unforeseen events sent to try us. War, internal strife, natural and man-made disasters arrive unbidden and deliver untold disruption and suffering. Headlines are typically so dramatic we often overlook some of the less obvious outcomes. Among these, the death of tourism is generally instantaneous, often wildly out of synch with reality, and historically hard to reverse.
Bad things can happen to good people, including you. Sadly, they sometimes happen on vacation. That can make things seem doubly bad, seeing as you’ve paid good money to enjoy yourself, not to hassle with goodness knows what problem fate has decided to drop on your head.
So it’s a good idea to have a strategy, or at the very least least a mindset, that will help you cope with problems on the road.
To be truly happy on vacation, psychologists have found you need to feel in control of the itinerary and activities. This is a subtle but important point for vacationers: for a great vacation, you need to do what you want to do, not what your traveling companions want, and not necessarily what the guidebook suggests.
If you spend 17 years in the travel industry you end up talking to a lot of travelers, and over time you learn some interesting things about them. One of the most intriguing things I’ve found is that when it comes to thinking about upcoming vacations, it’s just human nature to spend some time worrying about the stuff that can go wrong. After all, many people only take one or two vacations per year, so they put a lot of pressure on the trip for it to be perfect.
Many of us set off on our vacations with a single goal in mind: to escape the troubles, worries and stresses of our workaday lives. There’s no shame in that; our western civilization seems to value escapism pretty highly, and if you are going to truly escape, well, you need to put some thought into it!
“We’d like to upgrade you to a suite.” “This flight will be arriving early.” “Admission is free today.” Some sentences are music to any traveler’s ears. But for every phrase we long to hear, there’s one we dread just as much. Here are five things you never want to hear as a traveler, and what you can do if you’re unlucky enough to hear them.
It would have been unfair, prior to the rumblings over the last couple of years, to describe Christchurch, New Zealand as “sleepy”. But it was definitely free of the drama and devastation that the series of earthquakes, which began in September 2010 with a major repeat in February 2011, have brought to this beautiful South Island city. I visited a few weeks ago, and was struck by the placid resourcefulness of the city and its inhabitants, who seem to have accepted temblors as part of their lifestyle and are just getting on with things regardless.
There is a certain type of traveler—we don’t have a name for them—who have a benevolent streak that co-exists quite happily with a hunger for travel and love for a bargain. This strange mix finds its expression when the opportunity arises to visit a place where some sort of calamity has struck, and they see the chance to do some good, while at the same time enjoying low prices, sparse crowds and grateful locals.
There is no better current example of a place matching this description than Athens.