The typical amount of paid vacation in the United States is 13 days. That is a disappointing statistic here in the land of plenty because it is less than half the amount of several other developed countries. The average in Japan, Canada and Korea is 25 days, Germany has 35 and France has 37. Italy tops the list with 42 paid vacation days on average (my ancestors have the right idea).

Numerous studies indicate that workers need time off to relax and recharge. Paid vacation can be expensive for a company but there is a huge return in improved worker productivity. We all need a break from the routine; it often helps us appreciate what we have (that job, for example).

I have had my job for a long time so I get much more than the American average and I take every day that is coming to me. I’ll never have it this good again so I take full advantage of this benefit. My job is often stressful and I need the time off. I’m not sure how I would do it without the breaks.

A few years ago I started taking road trips again, partly out of a temporary fear of flying and partly because when you drive five to eight hours at a time you really feel the distance. You learn to be a little more patient. If you travel alone, which I usually do, driving enables you to spend quality time with yourself, choosing your own music, thinking about whatever you want to think about, soaking in the scenery, focusing on your destinations.

The sum of those activities: a break from the norm.

I have also changed my goals for travel. I used to plan every minute. Now I plan some highlights and let the rest happen. Sometimes I visit friends or family and sometimes I just explore alone. That balance works for me. I like natural sites as well as cities. One of my favorite restaurant settings is at an outdoor table, drinking a glass of wine, having a conversation with a friend or family member and people-watching. I also love walks on the beach and hikes in the mountains. I plan to do all of that during my next vacation next week. I have one thing planned in one destination and two things planned in the other; the rest will just happen.

My only other goal is to relax and recharge. That is what vacay is for, isn’t it?