Europeans have the right attitude taking full advantage of their 20-30 days of paid vacation a year. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. it seems the only paid time off people respect anymore is when you are at a funeral or on your honeymoon.  What is up with that?

I do admit the last time I took a month off of work (other than maternity leave) was 20 years ago after I graduated college.  Ever since then, it’s been go, go, go and sadly the American culture over the last 10 years has really taken a turn for the worse when it comes to respecting the need for people to unplug and take a break.  This observation was fully validated yesterday in the Express article that pointed out that every year there are approximately 577 million days of unused vacation days by U.S. workers that just get lost.  Now, how sad is that?

While many of us do know how to enjoy our weekends and do short getaways, it is becoming rarer and rarer for people to truly unplug– and by that I mean no emails, calls or social media.  Can you do that for a full week?  I urge you to try.

Last week when I took my son on his first trip abroad, I got to fully unplug, and let me just tell you that it was awesome.  To truly decompress, you have to totally disconnect from work.  You may think you are a critical person, but let me clue you in on a harsh reality: everyone is replaceable, and life will go on without you.

It makes no sense to work like a dog all the time if you cannot take a few days off to enjoy life with your loved ones.  Corporate America can only offer you financial rewards, but at what cost to your overall well being?  And what is the price you are paying with your personal relationships?  If you don’t make time for others, don’t be surprised when they don’t make time for you.

Now if money is an issue, you just need to get creative.  There are so many package deals available at all price points, including through services like Priceline, Groupon or Living Social.  Use points on your credit card if you can or airline miles, and you can always reach out to friends to see if they have a place you can use to crash at night while you do day excursions near their homes.

If you have not yet taken a true vacation this year, stop making excuses and go plan something fun for yourself!  Break away from the daily grind, change up the monotony and go explore a new place.  You build memories doing special things, something out of the ordinary.  Doing something extra-ordinary will do wonders– and not just for you, but those around you, well at least for those that really matter.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.