I sure could use a vacation about now — but I have no plans to take one this summer.
That’s the breaks for self-employed people like me who do not enjoy paid-vacation benefits. When I do not work, I do not get paid.
However, nearly one in four American workers are not taking a summer vacation, either — in part because we’re the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t mandate employer-paid vacations for them.
This is the time each year when I envy my friends in vacation-rich countries around the world.
In Kuwait, according to Far and Wide, employees receive 30 days of paid vacation. When including days off for religious holidays, employees can enjoy up to 64 days of paid leave — 13 weeks off a year.
In France, the government mandates every employee get at least five weeks of paid vacation. French workers average 37 days of vacation a year — and 22 paid holidays on top of that.
Austria requires employers to give their workers 25 days off and 30 days off to those who have worked 25 years or more.
The Austrians also require one of the great job perks of all time: Employees can clock out at 3 p.m. on Fridays rather than suffer on until 5 or 5:30 as we Americans do.
Compare these generous time-off policies to America, where employees average about 15 vacation days a year.
We Americans really can’t complain. We’re world famous for being a nation of workaholics, even in good times.
In tough economic times such as now, when costs are soaring and the buying power of our paychecks is shrinking, we have to work even harder to keep revenues coming in.
We don’t like our government telling us or our employers how we ought to conduct our business or how many vacation days employers must provide.
Our style has been, for the most part, to favor freedom over mandates of any kind.
Goodness knows our government has been so busy handing out goodies to citizens, it’s just a matter of time before the freedom lovers are overrun by the benefit lovers.
It will be a sad day if that ever happens. We’ll have a perpetually anemic economy, and all of us will have to struggle more to find the job opportunities that’ll bring us happiness and wealth.
That said, we Americans could learn a thing or two from our vacationing friends around the world.
“Vacating” from the stresses, responsibilities and worries of our daily lives is great for our health.
We know we should take off work and go somewhere with our loved ones or friends and completely get lost for a week at a beach or lake.
We know we should find more time to sit at an outdoor restaurant as the sun goes down, enjoying good wine, conversation and the delicious foods we never have time to prepare.
We know we should step off the earth just for a little while, laugh heartily and sleep until we are fully rested.
Vacating, or vacation, is good for each of us — and America. It restores our equilibrium and helps us become more productive, civil and poised when we return to our daily lives.
Ah, heck, I’ve talked myself into it.
I’m going to plan a trip to the ocean this summer and let its powerful waves wash my daily worries away — for a day or two, anyway.
Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com