The Road to Nowhere

A nation of workaholics sings the summertime blues.

Illustration: Neil Gower; Front page photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user <a href="" target="_blank">mchaconcr</a>

Editor’s note: Back in 2005, MoJo examined Americans’ vacation habits (or lack thereof). Below, some timeless findings on W.’s days off pre-9/11, “presenteeism” problems, and how much sex vacationers really have.

In 2004, Americans forfeited an average of 3 paid vacation days—415 million days total—a 50% increase over 2003.

The average American needs 3 vacation days before feeling relaxed.

43% return feeling overwhelmed by the work they have to do.

32% of paid vacation time is spent doing nonvacation activities.

30% of employees do office work during vacation.

25% of Americans cited “not enough time” as a major barrier to travel.

17% said it would interrupt their careers.

In March, when France ended the mandatory 35-hour workweek and allowed employers to offer overtime, 1 million people went on strike.

Only 79% of Americans get paid vacation time. Of those who get it, 12% take less than 3 days each year.

Maximum hours a week most Europeans are allowed to work, according to new EU regulations: 48

Middle-aged men who skip vacation for five years increase their risk of heart attack by 30%.

Percentage of their time in office that Presidents Johnson, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, and G. W. Bush spent on vacation, respectively: 26, 5, 12, 10, 5, 17

66% of U.S. workers “often” or “always” come to work when sick. Lost productivity from such “presenteeism” is thought to represent as much as 60% of company health care costs.

Percentage of time Bush spent on vacation before 9/11: 42

Ratio of time Bush took to return from vacationing on his ranch to “save” Terri Schiavo to the time he took to make a statement from Crawford after the Asian tsunami struck: 1 to 12

The RAND Corporation, a California think tank, gives employees a 5% bonus if they use all of their vacation days.

The Roman calendar set aside 109 holidays on which official business was banned.

In 1648, idleness was declared a crime in Massachusetts.

3% of people have such a hard time leaving work that they develop flulike “leisure sickness” symptoms during weekends and holidays.

Weeks of paid vacation legally mandated in Brazil, Sweden, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Canada, China, and the U.S., respectively: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 0, 0

In 1938, the Nazis began sending “work-shy elements” to Buchenwald. Idlers were marked with a black triangle.

Percentage of people who have passports among Americans, the British, and gay Americans, respectively: 20, 74, 84

41% of Americans have changed their summer vacation plans due to high gas prices.

Between 2000 and 2002, 20% fewer foreign tourists visited the U.S., but 14% more visited Saudi Arabia.

4 in 5 Americans say they’d like the freedom of traveling alone, but 1 in 2 say it is regarded as “odd.”

2 in 5 Americans “feel strongly” that one of the hardest aspects of solo travel would be dining alone.

Only 1/3 of Americans report having better and more frequent sex on vacation.

17% of Americans say they’d find a nude resort an extremely or very desirable experience.

28% of U.S. adults attend religious services when traveling.

Attendance at the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders summer camp has tripled to 15,000 since 1998.

On average, Mother Jones employees have visited Disney theme parks 3.4 times.

For 2,000 pounds, Chubb will insure Brits against the “physical and mental effects” of an air-rage incident.

According to Chubb, air-ragers fall into 2 main categories: drunk vacationers and stressed businessmen “who acquire an inflated sense of self-importance” from cabin service.

According to The Economist, the value of unredeemed frequent-flyer miles is $700 billion, exceeding the value of U.S. dollars in circulation.



The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.