May 25, 2009
What you'll do on your summer vacation
I know I've been writing about vacations a lot lately, but between the three-day weekend, this glorious weather, and the smell of barbecue wafting through the air it's hard to resist. So I hope you'll indulge me in one more post about getting away from it all.
NPR ran a depressing story last week about the ever-shrinking American vacation:
"First there was the shorter vacation, then the workation and the staycation. Now comes the latest signpost that the recession is changing the way Americans live -- the nocation," reported NPR's Linton Weeks. He even went so far as to call the American vacation "an endangered species," citing poll after poll in which a third of Americans say they've shelved the idea of taking a vacation in 2009.
Understandable, given the economy. But the "to vacation or not to vacation" question doesn't always have such a pat, black-and-white answer.
Sure, for many, taking even one day off work is not an option right now -- especially among workers who don't get paid vacation days at all. In the past few weeks, however, I've talked with professionals in their mid-thirties and beyond who've found all kinds of creative ways to help finance some much-needed R&R.
One reader who recently had her salary cut by 20 percent is planning a three-day weekend at the house of a generous family friend who lives on San Juan Island and has a spare bedroom. Another who got laid off at the start of the year and was fortunate enough to be able to afford airfare went on a 10-day European vacation and stayed on strangers' couches the whole way through, thanks to the nonprofit service CouchSurfing.org. Yet another was hoping to spend her upcoming weeklong furlough in a house exchange with a California worker who will also be on furlough.
As a freelancer (i.e., someone who doesn't get paid days off), the workation never goes out of style for me: Travel to a professional event or destination where you can hold some business meetings, tack on a few days of pure recreation, and write off the business portion of the trip on your tax return. If airfares stay as low as they've been, I hope to take at least one of these jaunts this year.
I also hope to swap houses with a relative who lives in on the Olympic peninsula for a few days and take a couple of weekend trips to see friends in Portland, on the peninsula, or in beautiful Bellingham. Those excursions will only cost me the price of gas, ferry, and food, plus wine for my generous hosts. And because my dog can come along, I'll save a small fortune in boarding costs.
How about you? Any plans to take time off work and recharge this summer, even if it's just in your backyard or it's because you're employer's forcing you to take several unpaid days off? If you are lucky enough to be traveling, any plans to cut financial corners on your trip that you wouldn't normally make in better economic times -- say, by sharing a hotel room with another family, staying in a youth hostel in your forties, or couch-surfing in your sixties?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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