La Dolce Vita!

Extras, Ideas, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Travel Philosophy, Working Abroad — By on January 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm

No wonder Italians coined the phrase, “the sweet life:” They have plenty of time to pursue it with a whopping 28 paid vacation days plus 18 paid holidays (that’s more than nine weeks off a year!). Compare that to the measly 14 days American companies tend to offer. The law of the European Union says all workers must get at least four weeks off (while many European countries take six to seven weeks), but America has no law guaranteeing a minimum paid vacation. And while Italians actually take all of the days offered to them, it’s estimated that Americans will give back about 438.9 million vacation days in 2007, according to’s latest Vacation Deprivation survey.

The Mediterranean diet isn’t the only reason Italians have lower rates of heart disease than their American counterparts: Time off not only busts stress, boosts social ties and lets you explore new hobbies, it also safeguards your ticker: Taking your two weeks may slash the risk of heart attack by 30 percent for men and 50 percent for women, according to the Framingham Heart study.

“Europeans work to live and Americans live to work,” says John de Graaf, founder of Take Back Your Time, a national movement fighting overwork and time poverty in America. “Even a two-week law validates as a society that vacation matters.” Amen to that!

So what can you do? First, back away from that computer, plan your vacation in advance so you’re more likely to actually go and use all the days you’re allotted. Then log onto to to join the fight for mandatory vacation time in the U.S. Hey, all work and no play makes for less productive employees, so you can always tell your boss you’re doing it for the good of the company.



  • Melina says:

    Hi, I just came across your blog yesterday from a NY Times article. It’s really great to read about Americans who share my same views towards work. Too many people here are concerned about getting more and more money therefore putting in more and more hours just so they can buy more and more stuff. I already find the 40 hour work week pretty exhausting and I could care less about buying tons of crap to clutter my home. I only get 12 days of paid vacation and 7 paid holidays. Isn’t that ridiculous??? Personally, I could use a month off every summer like the Europeans.

  • Magnifique says:

    Hate to go DC politico on you, but this issue is way more complicated than simply working more hours to buy more stuff. Over the past ten years, the cost of basics- food, housing, health care, education- has been growing faster than (most) people’s incomes. Not to mention the fact that the US is quite dependent on foreign oil (and goods), so when the dollar depreciates like it has been, we need ever more dollars to fill the gas tank, buy clothes, etc. Although I too could care less about buying a bunch of crap from big box stores, I would like to retire one day, contribute toward my (yet to be born) childrens’ college education, etc.

  • Melina says:

    Yeah, I agree with you in that the cost of living has gone up and maybe I’m basing my perceptions on too much on people I see like investment bankers… but on the other hand I feel like regardless of those factors the capitalist culture that defines America does push people to the limits with trying to maximize their earnings beyond what they need to live a comfortable life. Either that or they just put it on their credit cards. Either way, more time off from work is so much more valuable to me than getting a raise…

  • RennyBA says:

    Here from Blogger’s Choice Awards. Congrats with the result for 2007 (I voted for you again this year:-).

    Good to see you’ve got a sweet taste of Europe too. I’m from Norway and we have 5 weeks vacation. Married to an American wife, she was shocked when she came over 8 years ago. Now she’s well adjusted though.

    If you travel girls ever wanna come to Norway, I’ll gladly show you around in Oslo city!

  • Buffy says:

    I still get people from home staring at me gobsmacked when I say “No, honestly. You get at least four weeks paid vacation (In the UK). It’s the LAW.”

  • Theresa says:

    I too would love to have a European-style vacation, but I have to say that right now their vacations are killing me. As soon as my husband completes his PhD, we’re taking off on our own RTW trip ( Only problem? He’s getting his degree from a Swedish university, and though he’ll be ready to graduate in June, he won’t be able to do it until September, because his entire lab shuts down for the summer. Which means that I’ll have to keep working my typical American job that comes with hardly any vacation for an additional 3 months. Argh!

  • Chris says:

    Don’t ask me how but I started with the TSA’s new blog on airline security and found my way here. Long story short, I’m leaving NY in a month to start my MBA in Rome.

    Reading through your blog real quick, I love it, love the idea, and think it’s great you girls took the leap. Blogs def. are the best way to document a trip like this. I started mine in June to just give a look into what the process is like leading up to my move and then for my friends & family to just keep tabs on what I’m up to. I don’t feel like having to respond to 50 emails a week asking the same questions.

    Mind if I link you to my blogroll?

  • nyc/caribbean ragazza says:

    I agree with this post 100%. I just quit my job and I’m moving to Rome in four weeks.

    My dad used to work for a Dutch company before he moved to America. He had five weeks paid vacation.

    I don’t think you can do that here. Our culture is just different.