Tag Archives: holidays

10 reasons to quit the U.S. for Europe

A very interesting discourse on the differences between the US and Europe.

Madrid Journal

The European economy may be limping along, but Americans living there say there are other reasons why they call Europe home — or maison, casa or zuhause. More Americans are moving overseas. The Social Security Administration currently sends 613,650 retirement-benefit payments outside the U.S.

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Shocking truth about Americans on vacation

Of all my posts, the one about the 7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe generated the most comments. And the most commented of those 7 things was my question “Why are they in such a rush?”. The commenters offer the explanation that Americans have very little days of paid leave, so need to rush to be able to see as much as possible in the limited time they have. And I sort of accepted this explanation, even though I still think having little paid leave is a lifestyle choice.

But as I accidentally found out, the shocking truth is that Americans don’t even use the little leave they have! According to Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation study, Americans are only using 10 of the 14 days they are given. So they actually choose not to go on vacation, they choose to have rushed, unsatisfying short trips, even as, according to the same study, three out of four Americans feel their bosses are supportive of vacation – higher than the world average!

So why don’t they go on vacation? One reason is indeed the short leave – a quarter of Americans are stockpiling days of paid leave to be able to go on a longer vacation. But that’s just part of the story. Short-term greed is a reason for almost a fifth of the Americans not to go on vacation – they prefer to be paid for unused vacation days. I don’t need to explain why this kills you quite literally in the long run. A lot of the Americans said they can’t afford a vacation. But having a vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend. No excuses. Save your life – take a vacation. Even if it means sitting on a bench in a park in your home town with a book for a week. And leave your smartphone at home while you’re at it.

I took a vacation to volunteer at a film festival in my own town. Look how happy I am!

I took a vacation to go to a film festival in my own town. Look how happy I am!

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Museum run

Many European cities offer some kind of a visitors pass – a one-day or multi-day ticket that gives you access to major attractions, public transport and some discounts. I like these visitors passes as they allow my to do what I call “museum runs”. You see, I’ve been in so many museums that I sort of lost the patience for the slow strolling around that for some reason is the normal pace of museum-goers. It hurts my feet to shuffle around from one prolonged gaze at a painting to another. That’s why I sometimes revert to the museum run.

European cities usually have their (numerous) museums packed into the compact city centre or a convenient museum quarter. The high density of museums and the public transport access given by the pass allow me to squeeze as many museums as I can handle into a single day. On such a day, I do “cherry-picking” – in no way do I feel obliged to see the whole collection of a particular museum, but I rather head straight to the section or exhibition that I find interesting, skipping the rest. This way, and by walking in a normal pace (considered sacrilegious by the other visitors, judging by the dirty looks they always give me), I spent an average of half an hour per venue, and I can go to up to 10 museums in a day.

The fun part of a museum run is that I get to skip all those badly painted Madonna’s with baby Jesus (who is always painted as a 4-year old rather than a newborn), and focus on the stuff that I like. And get a varied museum experience, skipping from Indian painting of the 19th century to a tram museum to modern installations exhibition. I mean, I enjoy seeing Indian paintings of the 19th century, but after half an hour they become more of the same. So switching themes helps me to stay sharp in my consumerism of culture. And if a museum is boring, or not what I have expected – I just skip to the next one, without hard feelings.

On my museum runs I often shut myself from the world outside by playing some high-bpm audio content in my headphones. The music helps me ignore the other visitors (especially handy on Sundays) and I can also concentrate more on the visual perceptions – museums are mostly about seeing, not hearing.

The museum of crazyness in Haarlem – also free with the museum card

Since I live in a country with the highest museum density in the world,  the opportunities for museum runs are endless here. With an annual museum card, I have  free access to most of the museums and I’m doing my best to put it to good use.  I’m not a multimillionaire, so I can’t buy a Rembrandt or a Vermeer. But I pay the taxes that sponsor the museums, and I have the museum card so its just as if I own them – I can go see them every day. Which reminds me – I should check on some of my favourite paintings. And since I live in a small European country, they’re not too far away.

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Leaving Europe

“See Petra and move on” was the motto of the Jordan leg of our round-the-world tour. However short the visit was, the three days spent in Jordan were long enough to comprehend the fact that we have left Europe – for real. The Petra entrance fees made the situation clear enough – 50 JD (55 Euro) for foreigners, 1 JD for Jordanians. From now on we were a walking ATM, and The White Man’s Burden was upon us.

This far out, even the English language becomes exotic

In Jordan, even being a statue is difficult for women

Despite the tourists crowds, Petra is an excellent place to experience what I call “The National Geographic feeling”

The message to those leaving Europe is loud and clear

Venturing beyond this point without a guide was dangerous. Needless to say we ventured beyond and returned safely. Actually, we’ve only seen this sign after we came in from the trail that starts beyond that point. Not that seeing it beforehand would have stopped us.

We were now in Asia and next stop was India, where the guidebook’s advice “try not to look like a tourist” was exactly as ridiculous as it sounds and where every legend and every tale ever told about India proved to be true. For good and for not-so-good, we were not in Europe anymore.

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Wanted – budget travel destination tips

A recently graduated friend of mine has just started a new job. She’s getting lots of money, but she has a minor problem. Since she has some 5 weeks of paid leave per year, which is quite poor by European standards, there’s just not enough time for her to spend that fat pay check (she’s doing her best though). Me – I don’t have such problems. As a university employee I have more than 8 weeks of paide leave per year. Adding the days leave I haven’t spent last year, I have more than 10 weeks of vacation to take in 2012!

So far I’m planning to spend two weeks volunteering at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and I’m going to Israel to visit my family and friends (and have a vakation) for two weeks. Then there’s the so-called Collective holidays, which are days everyone’s supposed to take leave together so that the university can be closed. This is being done in order to make a “bridge” between an official holiday happening on say Thursday or Tuesday and the weekend. The collective holiday is then on Friday or Monday. Christmas and New Year’s day are both on a Tuesday this year, and I will probably take the rest of the days between Christmas and New Year off as well, and have a winter break.

This all still leaves me with some 5 weeks of vacation to spend. And a tough problem – what to do with it? Since the PhD salary is OK but not great, I need a budget destination. Luckily I am not chained to the summer holiday, so I can go off season. Travel tips anyone?

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Holidays – almost over…

The holiday season is a tough one. There’s the University, Faculty, Department and Section. And they all have Christmas drinks, new years lunch, receptions and God knows what. So far I’ve managed to avoid almost all of these events. Fun as they may be, if you keep showing up at every one of them, there will be no time left for any actual work. Plus all the free drinks and food are bad for your line. Luckilly, its almost over. On the down side, all the colleagues and students that were away on Christmas holidays are going to be back. Not that I don’t like them, but its just so peacefull and quiet at the university when they’re all gone. Its… its… Its the most wonderful time of the year… And its almost over.

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