Does Too Much Consumerism Kills American Vacationism*?
I just got back from a quick jaunt in Yosemite. If you’ve never been, and especially if you live within driving distance, it is worth the excruciating drive and lottery-style camping reservation system (we booked our September trip back in April, with reservations opening at 7 am and selling out by 7:10 am). Even so, Yosemite is a fairly affordable trip for spectacular sights, hikes and wilderness camping. Depending on how many people you go with, and how rugged you like to camp, $100-$150 per person for a three-day camping trip is totally doable. Go on a holiday weekend and you don’t even have to take a day off!
As we camped, hiked, and hung out in Curry Village, I was amazed by the number of European vacationers we encountered. I’m not being xenophobic, it’s just an observation: there were more French, German and Eastern European vacationers than visitors who could drive or take a short flight to visit Yosemite. In my nerdy head, I was coming up with all kinds of witty lines like “Well, this is the European Union’s economic policy at work.” and “More proof that French people really do enjoy life more than Americans.”
It’s something we’ve all talked about before- I’m sure anyone who studied abroad in Europe or took an extended trip through Europe or South America has made the comment that almost anyone who is not American seems to “live more”. They eat better food, take more vacations, acquire less stuff. These are huge generalizations but they come up often when we discuss the differences between our cultures. A European friend I mentioned all this to said it is pretty simple to see why: Americans can’t afford to take the same kinds of vacations because of our deeply consumerist culture. The house and the car and acquisition of stuff becomes our life, and three-week vacations become less and less frequent. Meanwhile, many of our European counterparts live in smaller homes or rent their entire lives, but they also take the entire month of August off and have been all over the world.
Again, this is dangerous territory (generalizing and assuming based on nationality) and bloggers in this space are the exception- many of them have discarded the conventions of American living and instead are doing the things that allow them to travel, have fewer burdensome financial obligations and don’t have to fill a 40 hour work week (but if they want to, they do).
In my own life, I’ve been lucky to take months off to travel, and in my working life, have always taken all my vacation days. But these past couple years of transition meant that vacationing took a hit: our last trip out of the country was two weeks in Costa Rica in December 2011. My last vacation longer than 5 days was 10 days in New Jersey over a year ago. I am lucky and consider it a privilege to be an American citizen (I’m naturalized and wasn’t born here) but this is one American norm I don’t want to embrace: I don’t want to have my head buried in work for so long that suddenly it’s been 5 years since I left the country (Tijuana trips excluded).
So even though I’ve paid off my debt and we’re working towards buying real estate, there are bigger goals at play: it’s still my number one priority to have time with family and friends, to have the freedom to try new things and visit new place and meet new people, and keep exploring.
So now it’s your turn: tell me about your latest adventure and where you went! If you haven’t been anywhere lately, tell my why :).
*Vacationism is not a real word.