Flags of the Nordic countries - from left: Fin...
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According to a recent newspaper article about a German Census Bureau survey, 9% of all EU citizens cannot afford to buy adequate food, heat their apartment or have a car. In the land of vacation, a whopping 37% of all EU member citizens couldn’t afford to take even a week’s vacation somewhere (Poland tops the list with a full 63% not being able to do so). In Germany, thinks look a little brighter. Only 2.6% say they don’t have enough to live on, 26% can’t afford to go on a week’s vacation and only 5% said they can’t afford a car. Not surprisingly, Greece has similar numbers.

It seems to pay off to live in Scandinavia. In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, only 1% couldn’t afford to heat their apartment with only 10%, 11% and 6%, respectively, not able to go on vacation for one week’s time.

According to the 2010 International Vacation Deprivation Survey by expedia.com, Germans have an average of 27.5 days off annually, two of which get left on the table. So what does roughly one-quarter of the employed German population do that cannot take off for some sun and fun? Staycations have become a reality for a lot of people.

We’re staying close to home for the majority of our summer vacation as well. Singular day trips here and there with some time in Italy at a low-cost resort are all we’re doing. I realize as well that’s a lot more than some people get to do. No matter where you go this summer, go slow. A season pass to the community pool can be just as enjoyable and a lot more affordable than a package tour for thousands of bucks. As Financial Times Slow Lane columnist, Harry Eyres recently wrote, “spartan or quasi-monastic accommodation has its advantages” and is sometimes more relaxing anyway!

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Benjamin Franklin
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Benjamin Franklin meant well. He advised his tradesmen audience in the aptly worded „Advice to a Young Tradesman”  that time is money. In his day a person of trade, well, traded his time for the money he earned. In many cases today people think they still do that as well. But what they are really doing is spending a lot more time thinking about work than they are paid to do. Thanks in large part to technological advances, work has seeped into many aspects of our lives. So while we’re swinging our child on the swings, we’re solving that problem at work in our heads or on our cell phones. Many times you will see people ceaselessly thumbing their BlackBerries at coffee shops during ‘leisure time’. In today’s world, time is not money, my friend. Time is time and money is money.

In the world of slow, time does not equal money. Instead, time equals your existence.

The truth of the matter is ‘the time is money’ adage has gotten us into a lot more trouble than we realize. Because we live our lives based on the misleading premise that time is money, we attempt to do more in less time. We begin to confuse activity with productivity, as if the ‘doing’ will grant us ‘being’. Inadvertantly, we hop on the hamster wheel, running as fast as we can with a competitive mentality about the clock and what it supposedly represents.We have a negative relationship with time that gives us a sense of time starvation instead of abundance. Even our precious vacation time is not immune from the time-money equation.

According to expedia.com’s latest International Vacation Deprivation Survey conducted by Harris Interactive in April 2010, nearly one-third of the respondents admitted to engaging in work-related while on vacation. The trend seems to be increasing. In 2010 30% reported that they check work email or voicemail while vacationing as opposed to just 24% in 2009.

If you love what you do and you are not stressed by it, that’s one thing. But if you feel you can never disengage from your work to regenerate, chances are you need to entertain the idea of a lifestyle change. As this slide show proves, you needn’t worry about when you will ‘get there’. You’ve already arrived. And yes, time abundance can be yours.

Your body will tell you if you’re on the right track. Have you ever wondered why you feel so much better while on vacation? Not only is your stress level reduced, but you also tend to engage in more leisurely dining and longer sleep. Your body is a wonderful barometer for whether or not your pace of life is working for you. Inject some slow into your summer routine and see where it leads you. It might just take you off the beaten track. Take it from me, a recovering speedaholic. The road less traveled is a great place to be!

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