DON’T WASTE YOUR WEEKENDS

What would you think if your boss unexpectedly announced that you’d be getting 100 additional paid vacation days a year?

Surprise! Your boss already has done that. It’s called “the weekend.”

For most of us, those two days are Saturday and Sunday. But even for those who find themselves having to do some work on their weekends it’s important not to take for granted those days’ tremendous value. It’s equal to having another 104 days, or nearly 15 weeks of paid vacation each year.

Like most people, you probably think of those as “your” rightful days off. But properly understood in their historical context, those weekend days were never “our” days to do with as we wished until the mid-20th Century.

To be sure, some people have been taking one day off a week since at least around 3400 years ago. That’s when the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments, one of which was the charge to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. But the practice did not reach semi-universal status until sometime in the mid-1000s A.D., when Christians began taking Sundays off.

The very first instance of a two-day weekend did not occur until 1908. Owners of a New England mill began closing on Saturdays and Sundays so that all employees could have their day of religious observance off. For the first time everyone got both days off, giving people an unprecedented amount of something new called “leisure time.”

Henry Ford, whose trail-blazing ideas about labor greatly impacted Western business and culture did not begin shutting down his car factories on both Saturdays and Sundays until 1926.

Three years later the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union became the first labor organization to include a five-day work week in its contract demands. The standard 40-hour workweek, which makes the two-day weekend possible, did not become law in the United States until 1940, giving formal birth to the modern concept of “the weekend.”

So the question remains, what will you do with your 104 weekend days off a year?

Here are 8 ideas:

1. Drive to a nearby state and explore its charms and delights.

2. Go to the lake. A couple of water mattresses, an old inner tube, and a few Styrofoam “noodles,” plus a tent and a camp stove can turn a cheap get-a-way into a life-long memory.

3. Take an immersion course in something you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it’s a foreign language, or cooking, or a musical instrument, or photography. Just dive in up to your neck.

4. Become a tourist in your own city. Visit the museums. See the sights. Get a tourist brochure and do all the things it suggests out-of-towners do.

5. Get a list of the best day trips from your town (check online travel sites like tripadvisor.com) and explore all the great scenery and marvels within a day’s drive.

6. Visit the mountains nearest you. Take a hike. Pack a lunch. Swim in a cool mountain stream. Marvel at nature.

7. Drive to another town to attend a pro, college, high school or even little league game – or a concert or art exhibition. The “what” matters less than the “go.”
8. Take a 3 day/2 night cruise

Not all weekend “vacations” have to be elaborate, lengthy, or costly affairs. And you don’t have to travel half way around the world to see some amazing things. Nearly all of us live within a short drive of world-class destinations.

And, realistically, you probably can’t take a trip, even a short one, every weekend. Sometimes you have to use a weekend to run errands, work around the house, or pay bills. But my point is that if you begin to look at your weekends as something more than just “days off” you will get to enjoy many, many more great experiences each year- experiences that will create life-long memories and come back to your Monday feeling recharged and ready to go.

…Josh Leibowitz

NOROVIRUS: Not A “Cruise Ship” Disease

This might come as a bit of surprise, given the history of reporting on this rather stomach-turning subject, but of all the public places where people tend to gather in large numbers one of the places where you are least likely to contract the much talked-about “norovirus” is aboard a cruise ship.

Big headlines and breathless TV reporting in recent years might cause you to think that cruise ship passengers are in elevated danger of contracting a nasty “bug” like norovirus, but the reality is quite different. Indeed, if you want to lead your life in such a way as to never come down with a case of norovirus, you could do worse than to take up permanent residence onboard a cruise ship. And you almost certainly would never go into restaurant or a banquet facility, or attend a catered event. You’d also want to avoid hospitals and other healthcare facilities, schools and even your kids’ daycare.

Oh, and you wouldn’t go to work either… or home.

That’s because you’re more likely to pick up norovirus in all of those places than you are aboard a modern cruise ship. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s data is irrefutable. Each year there are 19 million to 21 million reported cases of norovirus-caused illnesses in the United States. Between 56,000 and 71,000 Americans are hospitalized each year because of norovirus. Between 570 and 800 people die in the U.S. as a result of norovirus. Yet the CDC recently concluded that well less than 1 % of all U.S. cases of norovirus are contracted on cruise ships sailing to or from U.S. ports.

Startlingly 64% of all U.S. reported cases of norovirus are contracted at/via restaurants, and another 17% stem from banquet facilities and catered events. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities including nursing homes and rehab centers are responsible for about 1% of cases. Schools and daycares are responsible for another 1%. That leaves just 13% for the CDC’s “Other” category, within which offices and other types of workplaces (excluding on-site cafeterias) are, by far, the primary contact point for norovirus transmission.

That’s not to say that you will never get sick – from anything, including norovirus – while on a cruise. It does happen. Any place where large numbers of people gather can be a point of disease transmission. But based on the news coverage of the issue in the last few years, you’ll be shocked to learn how infrequently that really happens to cruise passengers.

Of the 11 million or so passengers who embarked on cruise ships from U.S. ports in 2013 only 817 came down with a case of norovirus. Expressed mathematically that 817 out of 21 million norovirus victims looks like this .00389%. Put another way, you have a 1-in 15,000 chance of getting norovirus on a cruise, vs. a 1-in-15 chance of getting it anywhere on land.

Okay, nobody’s perfect, but 10,999,183 of our industry’s U.S.-embarked passengers DID NOT come down with norovirus last year. That’s not to minimize the ill effects felt by the 817 of our industry’s passenger who did, but the facts don’t justify those big headlines and breathless TV reports (or heightened consumer concern).

So why do stories about cruise ship-related cases of norovirus get reported that way?

It’s because our industry, like no other I know of, voluntarily reports all illnesses contracted by our customers. The Cruise Line Industry Association’s voluntary health standards oblige us to have fully-trained and well-equipped health facilities onboard our ships, and to adhere to strict cleanliness and health protection protocols and procedures for our cabins and public areas, for our food preparation and service areas, and for out potable and waste water and other life support systems. And we report every illness or injury – something no other hospitality and travel industry segment does. We do that because we know that our passengers pay sizeable amounts of money to enjoy the fantastic culinary, cabin and entertainment delights aboard our ships. Neither they nor we want their much-needed and well-deserved vacation spoiled by illness.

You see, we don’t just sell cruises. We sell experiences; the kind that turn into life-long memories; that make hard work rewarding; and the kind that bring strangers together, friends closer, and lovers and families closer than ever before. So we go to great lengths to prevent illnesses from robbing our guests of the experiences they seek whenever they come aboard.

Experiences create memories.

…Josh Leibowitz

Even Charles Foster Kane Regretted Working So Hard

 

Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnival Corporation.

Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnival Corporation.

The second most common regret expressed by those on their death beds is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” That’s according to Bronnie Ware, an Australian hospice nurse who kept track of the regrets expressed by her patients over the years and compiled them into her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Are her observations – particularly this one – statistically accurate? Who knows? But it’s safe to say, that people nearing life’s end do regret having focused too much of their life on work, and, as a result, having missed many great experiences with family, friends, nature, and the world around them. That subject has been a staple of literature as long as – well, as long there’s been literature. It’s even the theme of what many film experts call the greatest movie ever made, Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane.

Kane 2

The movie begins with a dying Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, whispering longingly the word “Rosebud.” The rest of the movie is built around a journalist’s examination of Kane’s spectacular – and scandalous – rags-to-riches life to discover what Kane’s last utterance meant. (Spoiler alert if somehow you’ve never seen this 75-year-old classic) “Rosebud” turns out to have been the name painted on his sled as a poor child. And it represented the only time in Kane’s life when he was truly happy.

camping

Ultimately, isn’t that what we all really cherish the most? Not a sled, or any other material possession, but the experience of doing something fun, something interesting, something that has long-lasting personal meaning, something that sends our spirits soaring? Think about it. What are those two or three things you remember most fondly? They probably aren’t “things,” or possessions but rather experiences.

Sure, we all have highly valued possessions: homes, jewelry, furnishings, vehicles, pieces of art, etc. Some we need, like clothing, shelter and food. Yet a lot (most?) of our possessions are “luxuries” in that they are excess to our basic needs, and in that they are designed to make our lives easier, better or happier.

But if we are wise, we also spend a good bit of time and money on creating the kind of experiences that we talk about and remember fondly for the rest of our lives. We arrange family get-togethers. We travel to exotic, new, interesting or just different places, typically with our families or people whose company we really enjoy. We linger over good meals with our loved-ones, swapping stories and jokes and philosophical thoughts and deep feelings; letting our silly inner-child run free or engaging our intellects in the most serious thought challenges.

romantic3

There’s a ton of evidence from the field of psychology showing just how important having memorable experiences – big and small – is to our overall well-being. A research report published in 2010 by psychologist Art Markham showed definitively that spending money on experiences increases happiness more than spending money on “things.” Interestingly, the same study noted that it’s actually more important to spend your money on multiple, smaller and usually less expensive “experiences” than to spend a larger amount on one big experience. Why? Because we all need multiple and frequent experiences. We’re wired to need them. Thus it’s good to take vacations – plural – each year, to have hobbies, to get together regularly with friends and family, and to plan frequent enjoyable activities.

zoo1

Admittedly, as chief strategy officer of the world’s largest cruise ship company, my argument is self-serving. We are in the business of delivering incredible “experiences” aboard one of our 100-plus ships. But you’ll benefit even more. A romantic cruise in the Mediterranean or an adventurous cruise in Alaska or the Panama Canal can create the kind of memories you’ll remember forever.

But I’d be foolish not to recognize that smaller experiences, like an overnight camping trip, or a trip to the zoo are important and that they can create big memories, too. So I encourage you to look for and make the most of such opportunities.

Experiences last forever….possessions don’t

— Josh Leibowitz

Time Off Is More Important Than You Probably Realize

 

Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnival Corporation.

Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnival Corporation.

You can’t take it with you.

I’m not talking about dying with gobs of money and tons of stuff still in your estate. Nope. I’m talking about taking your unused vacation days with you… when you die, when you change jobs, and, increasingly, when you begin a new year in your current job.

That’s right. I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure there are no vacations in heaven (or that other place). And while I’ve heard of companies occasionally allowing a new employee to delay their arrival a few days so they can enjoy a vacation before they start the new job, I’ve never heard of any company that assumes financial responsibility for unused vacation days earned by an employee at his or her previous job.

Finally, more and more companies these days are eliminating their vacation carryover policy and replacing it with a use-it-or-lose-it policy. In such cases if you use only 10 of your allotted 20 days of vacation, you no longer will be able to add those unused 10 days to your allotted 20 vacation days next year. More and more companies are coming to view their old, liberal vacation carryover policy as bad both for the company’s bottom line and for their workers.

Businesses benefit when employees maintain a good work-life balance. It makes employees sharper and more productive.

Businesses benefit when employees maintain a good work-life balance. It makes employees sharper and more productive.

We’ve all heard – or personally know of – stories in which long-tenured workers who’ve frugally “saved” huge numbers of vacation days and personal time off (PTO) over many years, and then cashed in all that saved-up leave time in at the end of their careers in exchange for either a big fat check or months and months – or even a year or more – of full-time pay and benefits before they begin drawing their pensions and Social Security.

Companies are coming to understand that it’s not good for individual employees to forego, or save up big chunks of their vacation or PTO time. Maybe long ago workers steeped in the old so-called Puritan or Protestant work ethic felt better about themselves because they worked as many days as possible, or maybe logged lots of overtime (paid or unpaid) to help the company out. But if that ever really was true, there’s a boatload of research that tells us that it is not the case today.

Glassdoor.com, an employment website that tracks all sorts of statistical data about job seekers, hiring trends, corporate environments and salaries paid at thousands of companies, recently asked Harris Polls to look into the question of unused vacation time and PTO. What it discovered is that only one in four employed Americans – just 25% – used all of their PTO and/or vacation days in 2013. A whopping 15% said they took none of their PTO or vacation days last year. And even when they did take some of their earned time off, another survey suggests that 55% of American workers last year continued to do some work on vacation: checking email, responding to questions from customers; visiting by phone with supervisors or underlings; or working on projects and reports.

Sadly, these findings were very much in line with previous research showing that modern workers – and Americans in particular – are likely to leave some of their earned time off on the table each year. And that’s not healthy – not for the workers, and not for their companies.

That’s because working long stretches without taking significant time off tends to suck both the creativity and the good humor out of people. That doesn’t mean they can’t continue to perform competently without taking some time off to enjoy themselves. But they’ll perform even better at work if they do take time to, as the cliché goes, re-charge their batteries. Failure to do that leads to diminished motivation, increased complaining, and a growing, relentless sense of feeling under pressure. Sometimes that pressure is imposed by an uncaring or downright mean boss who makes employees feel that they are cheating the company by taking time off. But in many cases it is employees who impose such pressure on themselves, believing that the company needs them more than is actually the case, that no one can really replace them, or that their taking time off unfairly shifts the burden onto co-workers.

Whatever the source of such feelings, the result is the same: tired, harried, pressured workers who feel like they’re carrying the weight of the entire company on their back. Such workers rarely perform their jobs as well as those who have a better sense of life balance. And they almost certainly would perform better if they would use all their earned time off to relax, unwind, learn new things, improve their personal relationships, and generally enjoy life a bit. Thus, both the employee and the employer suffer from workers’ decisions not to use their full allotment of paid time off.

Taking time off to revive to enjoy a special experience can make you a better more energetic, more creative employee

Taking time off to revive to enjoy a special experience can make you a better more energetic, more creative employee

And since using your time off can make you a better worker, it follows that using your time off well can make you an even better worker. So, if you haven’t done so already, begin thinking about how you can get the most out of your vacation time. Don’t settle for staying home to paint the house, or fixing the car. Dream of ways you can use your paid leave to get those experiences, or to expose yourself to interesting new – or ancient – cultures that make you a happier, more productive, and more valued worker. Of course, we at Carnival Corporation would be more than happy to help you enjoy a great vacation on one of our 100-plus fun and luxurious cruise ships operated by our 10 different cruise line brands.

Experiences become memories

 … Josh Leibowitz

I NEED A VACATION!

“I need a vacation!”
Who among us hasn’t uttered those words occasionally, at least in our heads? The very concept of taking off from work for a few days (or a few weeks) – and actually going somewhere fun, interesting, exciting and/or exotic during that time – has become deeply engrained in western minds. And, increasingly, the idea of taking a vacation – or as most of the English-speaking world puts it, “going on holiday” – is taking root in Asian, African and South American cultures as well.
My name is Josh Leibowitz, and from my perspective as the Chief Strategy Officer for the world’s largest cruise company, Carnival Corp., that’s a good thing. We’re thrilled any time you decide to take your vacation with us. But beyond my own –and my company’s – economic interests, I believe the very concept of “vacation” to be an increasingly important one for modern civilization. In our urbanized, high pressure, and productivity-focused world, people not only want, but need – often desperately – pleasure- and relaxation-focused breaks in order to maintain their perspective, their health, their most important relationships, their good humor, and even their sanity.
Oddly enough, going on vacation has been a “thing” for only about two hundred years. And for more than half of that time, it has been an “only for the wealthy” thing. For the vast majority of human history, people had very little opportunity, and even less economic ability to leave work for more than a few hours at a time, and even then only on rare occasions. In primitive economic systems that featured mostly subsistence farming, a trade-and-barter support network, and the low-technology industrial production of only rudimentary tools and implements of war, most people worked from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. And they did it all year, every year. Even young children worked in the fields, in the kitchen, around the house and in their parents’ shops. Boys who stood no chance of inheriting property because they were not first-borns often left home by age 12 or 13 to serve in armies, become sailors or apprentice themselves to tradesmen. Girls often were married off around the same age to reduce the economic drain on their parents and, if the parents were lucky, to fetch a nice dowry payment.
Survival was a no-nonsense matter, and our modern concept of vacation, had it existed at all, would have been seen as nonsense. That’s not to say that the ancients didn’t have their leisure pursuits; they did. Music, athletics and games have existed throughout recorded history. But in their 24/7-365 work world, anything close to what we would understand to be a “vacation” simply was not on the menu.
True, there were occasional feast days or holidays in most ancient cultures. In fact, Roman leaders sometimes sought to gain favor and help settle the masses by declaring public holidays or “games” that would last for months on end. Still, slaves and lower classes continued to work. And in any case, these holidays did not much resemble what we would call a vacation.
The first record of anything approaching the modern concept of “vacation” comes from the 11th Century A.D., when under the rule of Norman invader William the Conqueror, law courts in Britain would take long summer breaks so that clerks and others working in the courts could tend their own fields, gardens and other enterprises. The courts, in those cases, were said to “vacate” their offices for the summer. The idea spread to the Universities of the day. Still, only a very slim number of elites participated in “vacation,” which in any case did not include going on pleasure trips.
The vacation concept as we know it didn’t really begin to take hold until the early and mid-19th Century, when very wealthy Americans – think the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the like – began de-camping from their mansions and moving en masse to the mountains of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and North Carolina to escape the summer heat of the big East Coast cities where they lived the rest of the year. Later in the 19th Century and early 20th Century, other elites began “summering” at the beach. Summer beach resort towns became popular destinations, as did islands like Martha’s Vineyard and secluded locations like the Hamptons on Long Island.
Still, large numbers of ordinary people didn’t start thinking of “taking a vacation” as a real possibility for them until industrialization and the rapidly developing U.S. and European economies in the first half of the 20th Century triggered a brand new social phenomenon: upward economic and class mobility. As people began to have a little bit of discretionary spending money in their bank accounts, many began choosing to mimic the elites by using their discretionary dollars to go on scaled-down versions of the “vacations” that the elites had popularized.
The Great Depression and World War II interrupted the growth pattern of vacationing, but did not stop it. By shortly after World War II ordinary middle, and even lower class people in the Western world began to think of going on an annual pleasure trip as a normal, to-be-expected practice. Businesses began offering, then extending periods of paid vacation time off to attract and retain good employees. Vast new highway networks and the growing – and increasingly safe – airline industry helped make vacationing easier, and made distant exotic and fun destinations both reachable and affordable. New vacationing formats created lots of travel choices. The old, antiquated ocean-going ship transportation system was reconstituted as today’s vacation-at-sea cruise industry. And now, 14 years into the 21st Century, the concept of “vacation” is deeply engrained in western culture, and is well on its way to becoming engrained in most other cultures.
In the weeks and months ahead I plan to address why, in detail, and how you can get the most satisfaction, the most relaxation, the most excitement, the most value, and the most personal growth out your future vacations. And I hope to do that in a fun and engaging way. So I invite you to become a regular reader and follower of my blog. I also encourage you to take the time to add your comments to mine, and to share both my blog and your comments with your friends, family and associates through your favorite social media channels.
Experiences become memories.

… Josh