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The Great Vacation Squeeze

Americans have the shortest vacations of any rich country. And they are actually getting even shorter. The US is one of only five countries in the world -- the others are Burma, Nepal, Suriname and Guyana -- which have no law guaranteeing any paid vacation time for workers. The average US vacation is a bit over two weeks, while the median is only about a week and a half, and American workers give back about three vacation days every year. Europeans enjoy five or six weeks of vacation each year and are healthier than Americans.

Vacations matter -- for productivity, happiness, family bonding and especially, health. Men who don't regularly take vacations are a third more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who do; women are fifty percent more likely, and far more likely to suffer from depression.

Making the case for more vacation time are: Shelton Johnson, a ranger naturalist in Yosemite; Rick Steves, the world's best-selling travel writer; and Sara Speck, cardiologist and director of a cardio-vascular wellness program, who tells patients to 'take two weeks and call me in the morning.'

'Finally there is a film that addresses over-work in the United States and offers a real world solution for making change. The Great Vacation Squeeze is well researched, fun, and accessible. It would be a valuable addition to a wide variety of courses including Medical Sociology, Social Problems, Social Movements, Intro, Sociology of Work and Leisure, and more.' Melinda Messineo, Professor of Sociology and Director of Freshman Connections, Ball State University

'The Great Vacation Squeeze reminds me why I became a parks, recreation and tourism professor by focusing on the power that vacations have on people's lives. While economics are the traditional starting point in studying and teaching tourism, the documentary goes beyond in examining the social, cultural, personal, educational and health benefits of vacations. The film challenges park and recreation educators and their students to better understand and better communicate the potential leisure travel plays in American's quality of life. However, the documentary doesn't stop there; it takes vacations into the role of politics and public policy in addressing the shrinking number of Americans taking vacations and the number of days they sneak away. Watching The Great Vacation Squeeze provokes and informs. I look forward to using the film in my classroom and the discussion and debates that emerge from my students.' Dr. William C. Norman, Professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University

'With his typical wit, wisdom, and artistry, film-maker John de Graaf has once again revealed a universal truth that has spanned the ages since early civilizations, but has yet to fully reach modern America--that time is our most precious resource and it is best invested in life, not just work...I recommend [the film] for courses related to health, recreation, and education. Indeed, I recommend The Great Vacation Squeeze for any setting where people are concerned for the health and well-being of themselves and their communities.' Charles Sylvester, Chair and Professor, Department of Physical Education, Health, and Recreation, Western Washington University

'The film makes a strong case that many Americans today are missing out on a key element of the pursuit of happiness: time off to recharge, reflect, and reconnect. It's sure to generate lively discussion about the exceptionalism of the United States in not guaranteeing the right to take an annual break from work.' Anders Hayden, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dalhousie University, Author, Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet: Work Time, Consumption and Ecology

'The Great Vacation Squeeze brings to light the vast differences between the United States and other developed nations with regard to paid vacation time...This well-made documentary sheds light on a serious issue that requires attention in the U.S. and can be an excellent educational tool for students in various areas, including public health, public administration, tourism studies, anthropology, labor, and economics and will hopefully initiate a serious dialogue on the matter.' Dr. Sevil Sonmez, Professor of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, and Tourism, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

'A perfect fit for the university classroom. Students thrive on facts and well thought out testimonials from the experts and they are all here in a compact, thought-provoking format. It is a perfect opportunity to open discussion of what a quality life really entails. And, after all, it is this generation which has the most to lose if vacations keep dwindling. Someone or something needs to light their fires! This topic easily fits into subject areas of recreation and leisure studies, all the social sciences, travel and tourism, education, and of course, business.' Dr. Barbara Brock, Professor Emeritus of Recreation Management, Eastern Washington University

'Time researchers have convincing evidence that vacation time is not only related to the psychological, social and physical well-being of the individual but results in more effective and productive workers over the long term. The lack of vacation time in the United States compared to that in other countries is inexcusable. This film makes the strongest case yet for vacation legislation. I am recommending it to everyone concerned with the quality of their lives. I also believe it should be essential watching for university classes studying any aspect of the psychological, social and physical well-being of Americans and our society.' Robert Levine, Professor of Psychology, California State University - Fresno, Author of Geography of Time

'Pope Francis recently suggested that 'busyness is the enemy of human purpose.' He's right! We all need to regularly disconnect and re-create ourselves. We all need meaningful work; and, just as important, we all need meaningful play and vacations!' Al Gini, Professor, Business Ethics, Chair, Dept. of Management, Loyola University-Chicago, Author, The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacation

'In the 1860s when a mass movement of Americans sought 'hours for what we will,' the U.S. led the world in valuing leisure as the key to self-education, emotional rejuvenation, and physical health. That the U.S. now so dramatically trails others nations in access to vacations as legal right and as a reality thus requires the sort of lively narration and tough questioning that The Great Vacation Squeeze excitingly provides. Profoundly attuned to history, this beautiful film uniquely balances the indictment of a society unable to play and recover with making an inspirational case for change.' Dave Roediger, Professor of History, University of Illinois, Co-author, Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day

'This film is wonderful. It accurately portrays the change in American's time use on the job and off the job; how fears about job security or (as important) work piling up when we are off the job prevent millions of Americans from taking time off; and how some employers worry that giving their employees free time will put them at a competitive disadvantage if their business rivals don't do likewise -an argument that has compelled us to create a mandatory minimum wage floor to protect both businesses and employees from exploitation.' Dr. Jennifer Glass, Professor, Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, University of Texas - Austin

'Recommended...Statistical evidence plus interviews with national park rangers, a cardiologist, and travel writer Rick Steves, along with comments by vacationers themselves, make the argument that paid annual leave is critical for individual, family and societal health and well-being. As a nation struggling with increasing levels of obesity, depression, and stress, taking two weeks off to relax and rejuvenate seems to be a simple solution to a complex problem. Although the tone of program is light-hearted--since vacations should be fun--the message is an important one that deserves further consideration.' Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Educational Media Reviews Online

'A thought-provoking and powerful movie that places America's vacation deprivation front and center. Driving home the message that vacations are worth fighting for, this film is well worth watching for anyone who values life/work balance and quality of life.' Camille Hoheb, Founder, Wellness Tourism Worldwide, Editor, Wellness Travel Journal

'An important commentary on the role our modern lifestyle plays in decreasing our connection with the natural world. This film is a great addition to our film festival because we need to live in a way that increases our interaction with the natural world if we are to value the environment and ultimately work to protect it.' Sara Beresford, Director, The EcoFocus Film Festival, University of Georgia

'We've got to get this wonderful film out to the public. If you want to make a difference (and have a good time) show The Great Vacation Squeeze to your clubs and organizations, your church, your classes, your friends, your workplace. Start having movie parties, anywhere and everywhere! It will involve you in one of the most important movements of our time - for more time to live.' Cecile Andrews, Author, Living Room Revolution: A Handbook for Conversation, Community and the Common Good


Main credits

De Graaf, John (film producer)
De Graaf, John (screenwriter)
De Graaf, John (film director)
O'Ryan, Jackie (narrator)

Other credits

Photographers, David Fox, Diana Wilmar, Greg Davis, Restituto Bagcal; editors, Greg Davis, Cleven Ticeson; animation, Rodney Fehsenfeld; music, Michael Bade, Firstcom, Jane Fuller.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Business Practices
Environmental Ethics
Family/Consumer Sciences
Labor and Work Issues
Mental Health
Outdoor Education
Political Science


Affluenza,; vacations, importance of vacations, productivity, happiness, family bonding, health, Americans' short vacations, Europeans' vacation time, no vacation law, stress, overworked, heart attacks, depression, Shelton Johnson, Rick Steves, Sara Speck, Yosemite, John Muir; "The Great Vacation Squeeze"; Bullfrog Films,doc,env; shod

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