By Karen Espig

First, a confession. I am a travel addict and a proud one at that. I left Canada a year ago and have since visited 12 countries, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. In my opinion, one should travel as often as possible. In practical terms, though, exactly how often should you travel? 

But hold up, let’s make a distinction between travel and vacation. Travel involves a destination away from home (including work or not), while vacation implies a complete break from the routines of life. 

So let’s focus on the “taking a vacation that involves travel” type—whether to a new region in your own country or another country entirely.

How Many Days Is Enough?

Studies suggest that the sweet spot for vacation length is at least two weeks long, with peak happiness occurring around day eight. It typically takes a day or so to recover from any jet lag and settle into the reprieve from the day-to-day stress you left at home and work. 

By day eight, you are in the zone; by day 14, you may even want to go home. This is a great sign that you’ve recharged yourself–physically and mentally.

For people in high-stress jobs, vacations should last more than three weeks, according to a study by the University of Helsinki. This study spanned 40 years and examined 1200 males occupying high-stress executive positions, revealing that taking a vacation longer than three weeks decreased their chance of untimely death by 37%! 

The result was in spite of the fact that the men were following other health-related measures, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and even cholesterol or blood-pressure medications. Those that took shorter vacations in the group did not adequately reduce their stress levels to see the same benefits. Stress, folks. It’s a killer. 

And while many countries have a directive on the minimum number of paid vacation days, unfortunately, the USA does not. Japan and Canada also rank low on the list, with only two weeks set as the minimum, compared with four to six weeks for other wealthy nations.

But…according to the U.S. Travel Association, around 55 per cent of workers in America with access to paid leave do not actually take time off, leaving a whopping 768 million unused days of vacation time!

It may be that workers believe it will reflect positively on them with their employers, but according to Harvard Business Review, taking 10 or fewer paid days off per year actually decreases the odds you will receive a pay raise.

Essentially, employees are working for free by not taking the paid days off! 

Maximise Your Travel Days

If you only have two or three weeks (10-15 work days) available for vacation, try to book time off to include a national holiday extending each week by one day at least. For example, if Monday is a national holiday, leave for your trip early the Friday before (or Thursday night) and end your vacation on the second Sunday–giving you 8 days of free time, with 2 travel days! 

You could even consider taking a few days of unpaid leave if you wish to lengthen your trip.

Travelling As A Family

Travel provides a learning experience not entirely possible to gain in a classroom or a boardroom. Trying out new foods and new ways of doing things brings people together.

Sometimes if both parents work, it simply isn’t possible to line everything up. One solution is to perhaps ask whether one or both parents can work remotely at the vacation destination; taking turns with the leisure time (one week on, one week off) could mean an invaluable experience for the children. And the adults still get their time to recharge

Sustainable Travel

You can even help the planet and pay it forward while travelling by applying sustainable practices to your trips. Simple things such as eating and buying local food or travelling with your own snacks in reusable containers can help. Instead of relying on taxis, why not take a walking tour? They are a fantastic way of learning directly from those living in and loving the city you are visiting. You can even go on a conservation holiday where you can work to save the planet. 

The benefits of travel are multifold. You may discover things about the world that change your views, and you may learn a little more about yourself. You come home with stories about the adventures and misadventures you had along the way. Travel enriches you as a person, enhancing your relationships with others. 

So, how often should you travel? I stand by my assertion that you should travel as often as possible. Certainly utilise every paid day of vacation leave available to you. It might mean some creative planning and cost-cutting in other areas of life, but it is worth the investment. Bon Voyage!