America’s Vacation Deficit And The Right To A Summer Holiday

vacation deficitOnly in America will you find a condition like the “vacation deficit” – a statistic that measures the proportion of people who think that a summer vacation is important, but don’t think they’ll be able to squeeze one in this year.

The “vacation deficit” is measured annually as part of Allianz Travel Insurance’s Summer Vacation Confidence Index, released last month. According to the report, the deficit currently stands at 18 percent, down from 24 percent in 2011 and 28 percent in 2010. The report also states that 57 percent of Americans either have taken or plan to take a summer vacation this year, defined as traveling at least 100 miles from home for at least a week.

It’s hardly surprising that Americans feel such trepidation about their right to a summer holiday. Earlier this month, The Atlantic reported that the United States is the only advanced country without a National Vacation Policy – in other words, we’re the only first-world country that doesn’t require that companies provide paid vacation leave to their employees. In most developed countries, workers are guaranteed at least 20 days a year of paid holiday and vacation leave, with European nations like Austria and Portugal guaranteeing up to 35 days.

But even if we had mandatory vacation leave, would we take it? The article noted that Americans often don’t take advantage of the vacation days they do have, citing a Harris Interactive study, which found that 57 percent of those interviewed had an average of 11 unused vacation days at the end of 2011.

We don’t need to go into the mental, emotional and physical benefits of time off. Countless studies have revealed that getting away from your known environment, unplugging your computer and engaging in leisure activities can make you a happier, healthier, more productive individual. It’s not too late to reclaim your right to a summer vacation and help reduce the deficit.

[Flickr image via Dr Tr]

Earliest Map Naming America Discovered

map A copy of the earliest map that names America has been discovered.

The map was created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 based on explorers’ accounts. Only four copies are known to exist, but a fifth has just been discovered inside a 19th century book at the Ludwig Maximilian University library in Munich.

This map is slightly different than the others and appears to be a second edition.

Waldseemüller named the vaguely drawn land after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. His map is important because he shows America as being separate from Asia. Until this time the common assumption was that it was part of Asia.

The map is actually a globe gore, designed to be cut out and pasted onto a globe. It never was, and how it ended up in a book published three centuries later is a mystery.

To celebrate the Fourth of July, the library has put the map online.

Image courtesy Badische Landesbibliothek.

America’s baddest badlands

badlands, Death Valley
One of the greatest things about the United States is its environmental diversity. From towering forests of pine to sun-hammered deserts, from snowy peaks to steaming swamps, this nation has it all.

Some of the most compelling places are also the harshest. Take this view of the sand dunes of Death Valley, taken by talented photographer John Bruckman. This is the worst part of the Mojave Desert–lower, hotter, and drier than any other spot in the country, yet it has a subtle beauty this image captures so well. With the majority of us living in cities or suburbs, these open, empty spaces call out to us.

They certainly do to me. When I moved from the leafy upstate New York to southern Arizona for university, I discovered what people really mean when they talk about America’s wide open spaces. They set you free, and they can kill you if you’re not prepared, yet somehow their deadliness only adds to the feeling of freedom.

America’s badlands remind us that life can cling to even the bleakest of landscapes, that the empty places can sometimes be those most worth visiting.

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50 states in 50 weeks: A unique interpretation of modern America



What does it mean to be an American in modern times? That is the question propelling Josh Hailey forward on a mission to visit 50 states in 50 weeks and capture modern America in a visual way. The final project from the road trip will be a 100-page photography book.

The project will go further than photography, however, as Hailey plans to conduct interviews and shoot video footage, as well. He says, “I want to understand what people feel about America and what it means to be an American in modern times. Asking a series of open questions, people’s answers will be documented on camera and compiled as a film that will be both aesthetic and thought provoking and will hopefully capture a wider picture of America in 2012”.

To follow the journey, view photographic artwork, host Hailey with accommodation, leave feedback and comments, or donate money towards fuel, visit his website, Photamerica.

Video: An ultra high resolution look at the American Southwest

Time lapse photographer and filmmaker Tom Lowe has been working on his new and innovative creation for over two years now. The video is actually a clip of his soon-to-debut film, TimeScapes, which showcases the beauty of the American Southwest using Canon RAW and Epic Red still cameras. Because the movie was filmed and edited at 4K resolution, which is four times greater than regular high definition, the moments and places really come to life on the screen.

Watch sunsets at Salton Sea, coastlines, Redwoods, and waterfalls in Big Sur, and meteor showers at Bristlecone take on a life of their own as firefalls, eclipses, cultural dances, lakes, mountains, starry skys, concerts, and unique landscapes are shown like never before.

To see a stunning preview of what’s to come, as well as hear music by John Stanford, check out this video:


TimeScapes 4K from Tom Lowe on Vimeo.