ViewFinder: The Great Vacation Squeeze
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ViewFinder: The Great Vacation Squeeze

♪♪ The Great Vacation Squeeze
was made possible in part by financial support from Sierra Club Productions Additional support was provided by Diamond Resorts International – The family vacation;
from camping to cruising, it’s an American ideal,
as American as apple pie. Or at least it used to be. These days it would be more
accurate to say that vacations are as European
as apple strudel. – Europeans are very aware
of the laughable amount of vacation time
Americans get or take. – Our vacations are the
shortest in any rich country, and fewer of us get them. For many Americans, the summer
holiday is only a dream. Vacation time matters
for happiness, family, productivity,
and health. – I have patients come
in and they tell me that they can’t get
control of their stress. What I tell them
is, “Take two weeks and call me in the morning.” – But in America, that’s
easier said than done. Welcome to No Vacation Nation. Nearly every other
country on Earth guarantees vacation time by law. But the United States does not. – We need to stop, take a
breath and ask ourselves, is this the direction
we should be headed? [MUSIC – “I Need a Break From it
All”] – It’s sunrise in California’s
Yosemite National Park. Backpackers are
already on the trails. The famous naturalist
John Muir marveled at Yosemite’s high country. – “Climb the mountains and
get their good tidings. Walk away quietly
in any direction and taste the freedom
of the mountaineer. Nature’s peace will flow
into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow
their freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while your cares drop off like autumn leaves.” – Linda Tran and Will Taylor
share Muir’s sentiments. – I felt everything last
night like draining away, like all the
thoughts of the city and of work and everything. – This is phenomenal, just
like this whole panoramic vista that you have. And our campsite
is just awesome. You wake up to this. It’s fantastic. You come back so
much more refreshed. – They say they are lucky
to be able to come here. Many of their friends
don’t get enough time off to make the trip. – It’s tough, you know. We come from a
culture in America where everything is
“Go, go, go,” you know? “Keep up with the Joneses
and make your life better.” I’ve just got to find my shell. – So even in August,
backpackers like Will and Linda find it easy to
escape the crowds. – Overall we’ve
seen the patterns of visitation changing. We’ve seen back
country use decreasing. People are coming for a
shorter amount of time. They’re not taking the
two-week backpacking trips that they’ve done. – You should eat
breakfast first. – You have to eat
breakfast first, so we can have all
the energy to go. – You gonna need
some more coffee? – Yup. – In world famous
Yosemite Valley, the solitude of backpacking
isn’t part of the picture. But for the
Blanco-Johnson family, nature’s magic is just as real. – This is her first
trip to Yosemite. – They come here every
summer from Los Angeles. – I’ve been coming up
here before I could walk. It’s a family tradition. I’m now bringing my kids up. You come up here, you can
really relax, slow down. You know, a cup of coffee
in the morning isn’t rushed. I get recharged out here. – Yeah! – Are you in school
right now or on vacation? – On vacation! Whee! – Coming together, breaking
bread with family, cooking, hiking, swimming… I mean, these are life
experiences the kids won’t ever forget, because I know I didn’t. I mean, one of the things they
said when we were driving up yesterday, “We get to
see the stars tonight.” And for city kids to say
that, that’s special. – Family vacations
create long-lasting, strong bonding memories. 75% of Americans say such
memories are priceless. – There was a family
that I spoke to. It seemed like, for
them, that Yosemite was the opportunity for
everyone to reconnect on a completely
different level. – Family travel also
improves school performance. But a third fewer families
vacation together today than a generation ago, while
children spend only half as much unstructured
time outdoors. Time is so tight,
that even in Yosemite, many visitors barely
leave their buses. – Over the last 20 years, the
trend has been for more day use than overnight use. About 20 years ago, 80% of
the visitors here at Yosemite National Park would stay
overnight, and about 20% percent would come for the day. And that has completely
reversed itself. In fact, the average visit
to Yosemite National Park right now is less
than five hours. It affects people’s behavior. People aren’t stopping to
look around or just to relax. They’re rush, rush, rush. And I see that every day. – At Yosemite’s most
popular viewpoints, tourists snap quick photos then
hurry on to the next must-see location. – People are here physically,
but they’re not actually quite here yet. They’re harried. They’re rushed. They’re looking
at their watches. All those things to keep them
from actually being here. Shouldn’t the
entrance station say, “Excuse me, sir, ma’am, do
you have a clock with you?” Well, yes, I do. “You need to turn that in here. We need to collect all
timepieces while you’re here.” – Ranger Shelton Johnson
is certainly no slacker. He’s also a gifted musician,
poet, actor, and novelist. – All those people are
going to the same place. – But Johnson worries
that Americans are becoming obsessed with work. – If your nose is
to the grindstone, are you really noticing
how blue the sky is? If your nose is
to the grindstone, are you really
noticing that there are different birds
around you that are singing a different song? I think for most of
us, we work so much and we work so hard that we
never even realize where we are and who we are. We’re just so focused
on what we’re doing. Which makes us like worker ants. We’re just [drumming fingers]
running around doing this, doing that. We never stop and just
go, “Hey, everyone, stop. Isn’t it a beautiful day?” So you go across the bridge,
kind of look to the right, and you’ll see a little slope. – OK. – And so the trail
that you’re looking for is this one right here. – OK. – And then it’s just a mile
walk out to Mirror Meadow. If you have the time. – OK. – Because you know, if you have
more time, you can see more and you can do more and
have more of an experience. – OK. Thank you very much. – At Happy Isles, a
popular valley destination, Ranger Johnson talks
with visitors, something he’s been doing for 20 years. – Where are you from? – From Austria. – You’re from Austria. So how much time are
you going to spend here? – Three weeks. – That’s a lot of time. So I’ve got a question for you. How does it feel to you knowing
that much of our visitation are people from other countries? And a lot of those visitors
will have two months off. – That would be nice. – I remember when I was
kid, we used to take two, three-week driving vacations. And I look back,
and I wonder how my dad was able to get
that much time off work. And you know, I could never take
two or three weeks off work. I mean, if I take
two weeks off work, I’d feel like it’s job security. If they could get away
without me for two weeks, then they could get away
without me permanently. I think we’re way too
involved in our jobs. – Yeah, in some sense you’d like
to trade salary for more time if you can. – Is a weekend
really long enough? I mean, I think if you
talk to most Americans, they’ll feel that
they’re just starting to get relaxed on Sunday night. – Not getting emails
or phone calls anymore. So it’s like, hey, I don’t
get service in the park. Turn that off. – Isn’t that interesting? – Sometimes visitors
cite the difficulty of escaping
electronic technology. – I had the phantom ring
for the first couple days. I’d kind of go to my pocket. I’m like, I don’t
even have my phone, but I still think it’s ringing. You know, it’s kind of said. – Do you folks think that
Americans get enough vacation time. – No. – Not really. – Now, why is it that you
didn’t even hesitate with that? – Well, I’m out here on
vacation because I preach that to my patients. They have to go away,
get some time away. – Back home in New
Jersey, Arnold Pallay is a family physician. – Patients will
come in and see you. And they’re like
bouncing off the wall. And you’ll say,
“What’s going on? When’s your last vacation?” Sometimes it could
be six years or more. And you’ll say, “Maybe if
vacations were the first thing you need to do before you talk
about therapy, medications, and things like that.” And sometimes
they’ll look at you, and they’ll have a
reason they can’t. – Not only aren’t they
taking the time off, but they can barely
make ends meet, and they’re working
three different jobs. They don’t even
have a weekend off. – But those who can get
away appreciate the advice. – And they’ll come
back from vacation. And two months later,
they’ll say, “Doc, thanks for telling me
to take that vacation. Because if I hadn’t
listened to you, I might not feel
as good as I do.” – In idleness there is the
opportunity for contemplation. There is the opportunity
for soul searching, for seeing, for
really, truly, clearly seeing what’s around us. That’s the beginning of art. It’s the beginning of romance. It’s the beginning
of becoming human. We can’t lose that. – It might be said that
the idea of paid vacations began in Yosemite. In 1876, John Muir
called for a law of rest that would give everyone
time off each year to reconnect with nature. – “Cannot leave your business? But you will leave it. Killed by overwork,
you will end up in the hearse of the
jolly undertaker. We work too much
and rest too little. Compulsory education
may be good. Compulsory recreation
may be better.” – More than 100 years ago,
President William Howard Taft, a conservative Republican,
suggested a three-month holiday for all workers. At the time, hourly
productivity was a tenth of what it is today. Generally, in those days,
only wealthy Americans enjoyed holiday travel. But by the 1920s, greater
access to automobiles allowed the middle class to
join the exodus from the cities. During the Great Depression,
the Labor Department proposed a two-week
paid vacation law. But the idea failed because
of business opposition. – Vacation. That wonderful American
institution of going new places and doing new things. – Still, after the
Second World War, two-week summer trips were
typical for middle class families. – Where are the boys? We’ve come hundreds of
miles to see all of this. Why aren’t they out
here to enjoy it? – Oh, they’re back
in the car planning next summer’s vacation. They’re reading a book. – Reading a book? – Mmm hmm. – Holiday travel even became
a reason for buying a car. – (SINGING) So make a
date today to see the USA. And see it in your Chevrolet. – By the 1970s,
American vacations were still at the
whim of employers. But people in many
other countries began to enjoy leisure by law. – I’m from Sweden. And it’s typical to take
four weeks’ vacation. You get five weeks. It’s in the law. Everybody gets five weeks. – Europeans live longer
than Americans do. They are also far less likely
to suffer from chronic illness after age 50, even though they
spend much less on health care. – Bye-bye. – Long vacations may be one
reason for their better health. The United States is now one
of only a handful of countries without a paid vacation law. The others are all
very small and poor. These vacationers
in Seattle still enjoy its tourist attractions. 73% of us say vacations
help recharge our batteries. But fewer of us are
getting out like this. The average American
earns about two weeks off. That comes as a
shock to Europeans. – I cannot imagine to
have only two weeks. In Germany or France or
Spain, there are six weeks. And I think it’s good
that it’s six weeks. – But many employers don’t
even offer two weeks. A 2008 poll found that a
quarter of American workers receive no paid
vacation time at all, while half got less
than one week off. That same poll found that most
Americans would support a law guaranteeing paid vacations,
with a plurality favoring a three-week holiday. Only one in seven
Americans takes a full fortnight’s
vacation each year. Even when they get
them, Americans leave several vacation
days on the table. Many worry about being seen
as slackers if they take them. Others fear the work that will
pile up while they’re gone. – What I run into are
people telling me, “If I take vacation, if I take
time off, I may lose my job. I won’t be able
to meet my bills. I won’t be able to send
my kids to college.” There’s much more concern about
that and the ability of people to apply relaxation to
themselves than there was, let’s say, five years ago. – Nearly 2/3 of
us stay connected to the office even on holidays. – The Europeans look at us,
and they just shake their heads and think, “What
motivates you people to work so hard,
to work so long?” And ironically, I mean… and
not notice that, ironically, the harder you work,
the behinder you get. You got Europe
Through the Back Door. That’s a good book to start. – Rick Steves is a very
popular travel writer. – I’ve spent 100 days
a year every year for the last 30 years
traveling in Europe, taking careful notes, and coming
home and sharing those lessons with my traveling students. – One of those lessons,
confirmed by research, is that holiday travel
generally brings more long-term satisfaction than
consumer goods. – You want experience,
or do you want stuff? Experience gives you
lifelong memories. It gives you different
perspectives, enriches — it carbonates your life. Stuff just has to be
maintained and taken care of and worried about. Hi. I’m Rick Steves, back with
more of the best of Europe. This time we’re in Italy. Not yesterday’s Italy,
but today’s Italy. We’re… where are we this time? – Milano, Rick. – Host of a long-running
public television program, Steves offers advice to those
who seek immersion in other cultures. – We make TV shows,
radio shows, guidebooks. We take 12,000 Americans
on our tours every year. And I’ve been doing
that for 30 years. And when I started out,
all my tours were 22 days. And then my staff had
a meeting with me. And they just had to
break the sad news to me. “Rick, if we’re going
to really take our tour business seriously, we’ve
got to offer shorter tours, because Americans just
don’t have 22 days.” – When Steves started selling
Eurail passes 30 years ago, the most popular
offered a month or more of travel in as many
as 20 countries. – But now you get much,
much shorter passes with much more focus. – We’d like to express
our heartfelt gratitude to the American workforce. – Your unparalleled
work ethic demonstrates you have what it takes to drive
yourselves into the ground. – As American vacations
vanish, other companies are also taking notice. – Yet still you persevere. – And if you keep working
yourselves to death, just know we’ll be here for you. – Europeans have the right
not to work themselves into an early grave,
and they defend that. They take that whole thing
about pursuit of happiness quite seriously. – But that’s Europe,
not the United States. – On behalf of
Corporate America, we’d like to thank you for
siphoning valuable time away from loved ones, for trading
weekends for workends, and taking one for the team even
as your overall quality of life takes a nosedive. Thanks to your hard work and
dedication, 26% of Americans don’t take any vacation at all. – So what happened? – Good work, America. – Why are American vacations
disappearing at a time when we are much
richer than before? – To me it seems like we’ve
lost track of what life is all about, because we’re pressured
to constantly be growing, always more. To me the crisis,
the economic crisis, is having to constantly grow. It’s like the hamster was
going as fast as he could five years ago, and every
year he’s got to go faster. We need to get smart
about what really matters. What really matters? The well-being of our seniors,
the health of our environment, the shaping of our
children, the freedom to enjoy our lives
without always having to play for our
financial well-being and constantly growing. – Offering more vacation
time might actually be smart business. Many studies find
that workers are more productive when
they take breaks. And 84% percent of
Americans agree. – I think about what I
can do for my job, how I can improve upon it. And it’s like a conference. You get re-energized when
you go to conferences. Same thing for me when
I go on a vacation. – Hi, Ellen. – Nine in 10 Americans
believe vacations improve both
happiness and health. That matters when medical
care is so expensive and Americans report
unparalleled levels of stress. – Stress is everywhere. It’s ubiquitous in our society. It can do great harm to us. The way we work is all out. We basically work too much. We have too many
demands on our time. Is that just time constraint? We don’t spend enough
attention and time on our health portfolio. We spend too much time on
our financial portfolio. Have a stressful day,
or anything different? – Dr. Sarah Speck calls
stress the new tobacco. – Stress causes us to
constrict our blood vessels, just like nicotine
in tobacco does. Stress is as important in
developing heart disease as having uncontrolled
high blood pressure or being medically obese. That’s the biochemical
power of being overworked and overburdened and
feeling stressed. – It was one of those mornings. Lots on my mind. – Men who don’t take
vacations are 30% more likely to have a heart attack
than men who do take vacations. – For women who
don’t take vacations, the number is higher, at 50%. They are also much more likely
to suffer from depression. – The pharmaceutical
industry applauds this nation’s obsession
with career advancement. Thanks to your inability
to balance life with work, sales are through the roof. Indeed, 45% of
Americans don’t use all of their vacation
time, a proven cause of stress-induced
illness and depression. So stay the course. – We’ve got to have
our replenishing time. So what I’m seeing as a health
care professional is that, rather than people having heart
attacks in their 60s and 70s when I first became
a cardiologist, I’m now seeing it in
their 40s and 50s. – Troy Glennon thinks a
change is long overdue. Until recently, he ran
a small travel business from a Seattle garage. – I started Go South
Adventures in order that I could guarantee, as
the boss, time off to travel. I feel that one month
should be the minimum. And that’s our minimum. – Glennon offered
small group tours to Patagonia, the Galapagos
Islands, and Machu Picchu. But for his American clients,
the trips always seemed short. – I mean, it’s funny to
see people who are already exhibiting stress before
their vacation has ended, and sort of lamenting. Especially when they look around
to their European counterparts or Australians, it
makes us all jealous. It makes us all jealous, and
a little resentful, I think. How is it in the
United States that we can’t have parity
with Europeans? – A bill introduced
in Congress in 2009 would have mandated a week
or two of paid vacation time. It went nowhere. – How important are vacations
to your overall well-being? Very important, important… – For vacations to
become law in America, the process may have to
begin at the state level. – So how satisfied are
you with the frequency that you are able
to take vacations? So most of you it
seems like somewhat satisfied or unsatisfied. – At a Western Washington
University interactive forum, students debate the issue. – Feeling like your job,
your position at work is being jeopardized
because you’re on vacation is a
really huge fear for a lot of American workers. And if there was a
mandatory paid vacation that was countrywide, it would
help eliminate that fear. – Recently I took a
week-long vacation. And what I realized
when I returned was that vacation
was very rejuvenating and offered me a
lot of opportunity to reflect on my life and
leave my normal routines. And it wasn’t until I
returned from that vacation I realized how powerful
that was for me. – But the sentiment
is not unanimous. – It’s a great idea, but it
seems a little unrealistic. – I think it should be left up
to the owner of the business whether they want to give paid
vacation to their employees or not. – I think it’s also probably
true that not a lot of people can afford to have vacations. – Still, a majority seems
eager to show support. – Would you be willing to
support a mandatory paid vacation law in Washington? So we’ve got 4% of
people saying they’re not interested in
supporting this law. We have 25% saying that
they would sign a petition. – No state currently
has such a law. But Puerto Ricans, who
are American citizens, get three weeks of
mandated annual leave. – 27% saying they would lobby. – You really wind
down that first week. And then that second week is
just, you’re really relaxed. You’re not thinking about work. So having two weeks off or
three weeks off, it’s nice. It really is. – The case for paid vacations
is well supported by research. Still, many small business
owners believe they can’t offer time off when their
competitors don’t. They need help to cope with
the scheduling issues that come with more vacation
time, and a little time to make the transition. Yet can’t the world’s
richest nation provide what virtually every
other country already does? – The only thing
exceptional about Americans is our ability to think
we are exceptional. I just feel so
strongly about that. – And of course
we are exceptional when it comes to vacation time. So as obesity rates
rise, health costs soar, and children lose touch
with nature and play, don’t we all need
a little break? – Let’s try to get on a ballot. Let’s try to bring this
to the national forum so we can all move forward
and lead healthier, happier, and productive lives ultimately. For more information or to purchase a copy of
this video visit
Great Vacation Squeeze .org The Great Vacation Squeeze was
made possible in part by financial support from Sierra Club Productions Additional support was provided by Diamond Resorts International ♪♪

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