The Perfect Amount Of Vacation Time

The wind died down and I headed out onto the veranda to sit under the stars.  The waves glistened under a full moon as they danced their way on shore.  “This is the life“, I thought to myself as I prepared a moist Cuban cigar accompanied with a fresh glass of coconut juice I cracked open earlier that evening.

The last night of a great vacation is always the hardest.  I think about how I felt the first day I arrived, and lament at how quickly time went.   It’s time to go back to work soon.  I recount all the cultural idiosyncrasies, such as the waiter putting me on the spot by asking how much I plan to tip before running the credit card, or the knife salesman telling me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of his demonstration even though he wanted me to buy his products!  I remember our tour guide Carlos, who makes his money off tips, tipping a street performer at a stop light with what little he had.  Yes, the little things are what make international travel wonderful.

Vacations are wonderful because they are like decadent slices of chocolate cake.  You don’t always have a slice, but when you do, the magical sweetness is quite a treat after a salty meal.  If all you did was eat chocolate cake, your taste buds would soon tire.  And so I reason that if all you did was go on vacation, you’d no longer appreciate your travels since you’re no longer vacationing from anything.

Work helps makes vacation a blast.  Meanwhile, fulfilling work makes vacation even more special because on your last night of relaxation, not only do you enjoy recounting the memories, you also look forward to going home.  After a couple weeks, I miss the buzz.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t really want to retire.  Retirement is just an excuse for not finding a job you truly enjoy doing.  6 weeks of vacation a year + the 8 national holidays are enough balance for me.


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It’s 2015. Time to live it up a little now that we’ve fully recovered from the financial meltdown.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. anonymous says

    no point in retiring early if the work is easy, fun, or particularly rewarding. I suspect these characteristics apply more to high paying, autonomous work, so those that can retire early are less inclined to do so than average.

    • says

      I really think early retirement is not the perfect about of vacation time. I would really feel unproductive and bad that I’m not making the most of my most energetic time of my life.

  2. Darwin's Money says

    Sounds like a great trip; congrats! Money well spent. I can’t wait to travel internationally again when the kids are a little older. Methinks Europe is easiest with the little ones. Well, thanks for the mention and welcome back!

  3. says

    Retiring is not leaving the workforce to travel and sit on the beach because that is just running away. Retiring is active engagement in something you love to do that has characteristics to keep you interested, stimulated and fulfilled. Doing something you love is not really work!

  4. says

    Sounds like wise advice :)

    We only get 4 1/2 weeks vacation where I work, but lately I’ve been making the most of it. Plus, lately we’ve been taking advantage of those great three day weekends! Mini-vacations are sometimes just as good as full week vacations.

  5. says

    1 month for every 3 months of work i put in. i suppose that makes it 3 months a year. i find that i need it to keep me extremely focused and working more effectively during the time i work. vacation doesn’t necessarily mean going somewhere or doing something either – often times i just stick around, relax, catch up with friends and family, etc.

    • says

      3 months a year would be great. I’m not sure if I would feel disconnected though, being away for a full month, 3X a year. Perhaps 2 weeks every quarter for 8 weeks totally is better for me.

      • says

        Where I work, every 5 years of continuous work, we get 1 month sabbatical. Trust me, 1 month goes very, very quickly…

        Kudo to Sunil for having a great balance of work and vacation! Sounds great!

        • says

          I get 3 months of sabbatical every 3 years, BUT senior management doesn’t taken them, so there is no sabbatical culture so people are afraid to take em. Just one thing we need to improve on.

  6. says

    I’m not much of an active traveler – if I go anywhere, I’d much prefer to lounge on the beach than keep up a full schedule of activities. It goes along with the idea of work making vacation fun; I think vacations are best when nothing (well, almost nothing) is done.

    I’ll definitely have to step up my vacation time soon. I really haven’t given it as much thought, time, or consideration as I should have, and I regret it.

  7. says

    I think anyone who looks back on their college years and wondered how they had so much free time that they accomplished so little in knows that it’s not going to be super fulfilling to be retired with nothing to do. If I didn’t need to work, I would still start some kind of business, just to keep myself occupied and to give myself some goals.

    I get 3 weeks combined vacation and sick days. I think after my first year this immediately jumps to 4 weeks, but I don’t have any extra money for long trips in my first couple of years anyway.

    I have to say that my first vacation after starting full-time work was not as relaxing as I’d expected – I sort of imagined that all my stress would immediately disappear as soon as I hit the beach, but it was like my brain and my body didn’t remember how to relax. I think I’ll get better at this vacation thing the more experience I have at it ;)

    • says

      Good point on having so much free time during college and accomplishing so little. Sounds like you’ve just started in the work force. After a while, you’ll be able to relax more b/c you know the backups and such are all in place. Enjoy!

  8. says

    I love looking forward to vacations and your descriptions are beautiful. I start getting homesick around the 2 week mark so my ideal vacation length is between 7-14 days. 3-4 day trips are great in between the longer ones and I try to take most of mine off-peak so that I can also enjoy the long weekends like this one without using any vacation days. Thanks for the Untemplater mention, your post rocks!

    • says

      I get home sick after 2 weeks too, unless I’m vacationing in one of my homes I grew up in. Then it’s just the best.

      Happy to help keep contributing and make Untemplater great!

  9. says

    Six weeks of vacation is a good number. I know that I won’t be able to retire. I may change what I do and may not do it for pay but I will be staying active for sure. I will also be traveling some as well.

  10. says

    This is very much a semantic point – what is “retirement”? If retirement means sitting on a beach, sitting in the local pub, sitting on a beach etc on a full time basis, that seems like a protracted form of mental suicide. If retirement means leaving your current job to persue something that gives you more meaning, that is something else alltogether – a much better form of retirement.

    As a side point, I look forward to having a vacation…any vacation… where I don’t have to take calls, monitor the blackberry or carry my laptop around with me. Sometimes it feels like a vacation is just working from a different location. There are times when I think that 52 weeks a year sounds about the right amount of vacation time.

  11. Mike Hunt says

    6 weeks a year sounds pretty good. I just get 3 weeks a year, it is not enough time. Don’t have time to get back to the USA this calendar year, doing a 9 day trip in Italy though in a few months…

  12. says

    Been to Brazil several times, but have yet to go see a soccer game, it remains one of by bucket list goals. The churrascarias here in the US are a pale imitation of what’s available in Brazil. I’ve gone (had to go) on 4 week holidays back when I used to work overseas, they were too long by half. After a while, I was itching to get back to doing something.
    A Cuban cigar sounds great. What kind?

  13. says

    You mean you get SIX weeks of vacation a year?!!! I get two and parcel them out every third Friday or so in the summer since it’s hard for me to actually take a full week. No, no wait, I lie. We get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s off too but that’s mandatory. Not that I’m complaining.

    • says

      Yeah, Ive built up to it though. When I first started 10 years ago, I got only 2.5 weeks I think. I didn’t take more than a week off the first two years bc I wanted to build my credibility and foundation. Now that the organization knows and trusts what I can do, 6 weeks it is. I do feel a little guilty though, but hey, life is short and it’s my right.

  14. says

    6 weeks of vacation a year sound really nice :) Does that include the 2 weeks off during the christmas holiday season?

    You know in European countries, they START at 6 weeks, so I personally believe 6 weeks should be the minimum :)

    You went to Rio? That sounds lovely! I went to Brazil a few years ago but we only went to Sao Paolo and some beach towns nearby.

    I don’t believe that picture you posted of the two girls near the water is a picture from Rio, because their swimming suits are too “North American” LOL! I remember when I was there, I was shocked at how much cheek everyone was showing in Brazil ;)

    • says

      Ah, but if you closer, u will see more cheek. I wanted to keep things PG13!

      I get 6 weeks + the normal holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving etc. It’s not bad, and took time to accumulate.

      Having lots of vacay gets expensive though!

  15. says

    I don’t know how much time I have off at work…I take off when I want and it seems to work itself off at the end of the year. Notwithstanding I hardly take off, and even rarer for a big vacation like that.

    No one else seemed to ask so, who did you go with? lol

  16. Money Beagle says

    We get five and a half weeks plus six company holidays. It’s a lot but I don’t mind. It’s funny because family and friends who are used to having just a couple of weeks off usually question whether I’m seen as taking too much time off but I can honestly say ‘no, because everybody takes that much time off’ or at least they do if they’re smart :)

  17. ITIN Andy says

    I think the perfect amount of vacation time is more an indicator of how good things are at home rather than at work.

  18. says

    I don’t see myself retiring. :) I could see myself working all I need to work, and then taking a 2 week jaunt somewhere to unwind. maybe do that a few times a year? you bet!

    If you love what you do … the money just keeps coming. And you don’t get bored … to death (literally).

    I do agree … 2 weeks is about the right time of vacation to unwind. Decompress. Meltdown the stress. No phone, bills in your mailbox (they can wait, out of sight, out of mind) … and something like one of those Corona Beer commercials where there is no structure and time slows down to the tinkling of wind chimes in the tropical breeze. (mental images coming in now)

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