Archive for December, 2015
It is time to have a serious talk about the American fear of taking paid vacation days. Its starts by making a firm resolve not to let another year go by without making travel plans. Every other country in the world knows how to put work on hold long enough to rejuvenate soul and return to work with a happier and healthier attitude. Where did we go so wrong as a nation?
In 1992, Juliet Schor wrote a book called The Overworked American. This problem has been around and documented for at least 23 years. It has gotten far worse now that we have smart phones and social media to keep us connected to our jobs 24/7. That’s a lot of extra unpaid time for most of us by the way….kudos for volunteering your time to big corporations with no regard for your personal wellbeing. You are not alone.
- According to the US State Department, 1/3 of the population has a passport, but few are using them.
- A study by the US Travel Association states Americans Accumulated 429 million unused paid days off in 2014.
- The same study determined that the average 20 days of paid vacation per year dropped to 16 days after 2001 wasting $52.4 billion in paid benefits.
- The Center for Economic Policy and Research found that theUS is the only rich nation without legally mandated vacations for employees.
These statistics have no rationale. Other countries go to work, take a leisurely stroll home, pick up a few items needed for dinner on the way, and proceed to enjoy their evening. They are not interested in working harder to obtain more material stuff and they are not afraid to take the entire month of July off to spend with family, experience new cultures, learn new things and meet new people. Taking time off does not mean you’re a terrible worker, it means you’re a smart one. Be as crazy and driven about your work as you want, but take the time for paid vacation and a much needed break to reconnect with reality.
As a content writer, I am hearing about reaching out to solve consumer needs and problems, altruistic behavior being put before the company bottom line, using trust and honesty to engage people, and improving quality of life. Whether a hard-working, low level employee or corporate executive, you too qualify as consumers and are, in fact, people. Take your given vacation days and return to us a better version of the person your boss and staff rely on.
Do I need to remind anyone that our economy recently collapsed over materialistic greed and a lack of empathy for the hard work done by the majority of middle class Americans? The same people who worked themselves to death in order to retire one day and finally have the time to see the world and all its promise. Go now while you still can. Our Western peers are:
- France mandates 30 days of paid vacation annually
- Austria commands 22 days off plus 13 paid holidays
- Sweden has CEOs considering asix-hour work day, get 25 days off each year
- Skift report shows that 51 percent of Americans didn’t takea single vacation day in 2014.
Sadly, fear is a motivator: the fear of getting behind in work or being replaceable. But a survey by The Creative Group shows 40 percent of executives thought their employees would be more productive if they took their vacations and only 9 percent said they believed productivity would decrease. Also, if employees took one more day of earned leave a year, the US economy would benefit in sales to the tune of $73 billion. Guilt assuaged.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain.
The American ‘all or nothing’ attitude describes how we eat, drink, spend, and work. Taking time off would increase our mental health, our understanding of ourselves, families, and other cultures. Vacations have been known to actually reduce the risk of heart disease and even recharge the brain. We have over 195 countries on the planet to explore.
To learn more about how to travel more often no matter your budget, go to VacationSooner.com and then contact me for more information.
Dannen-Redman, L., 2015. Conde Nast Traveler, At Home in the World, Why Are Americans So Afraid of Vacation? http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2015-12-21/why-are-americans-so-afraid-of-vacation?mbid=nl_122715_Daily&CNDID=25398595&spMailingID=8382749&spUserID=MTAyNjE4ODE2MjUyS0&spJobID=822901407&spReportId=ODIyOTAxNDA3S0
This year Christmas comes at the end of a very enterprising year. Many crucial decisions were made, and looking back, I am right where I need to be. The Christmas spirit has shown itself to me in a series of brief, but glowing moments. I’d like to share these flash miracles.
An act of kindness
My daughter came to visit me recently when I was working on a big writing project. She is a technical writer and talking to her about the article I was writing was refreshing and helpful. It is not her general practice to hang out late, but time went by, and she stayed for dinner. She told me a story about her boyfriend taking her to breakfast at a diner uptown. They overheard the couple in a booth behind them attempting to pay for breakfast with an Amex card that the establishment did not accept. It was an ordeal as the other couple discussed who would go to the ATM for cash while the other stayed behind to wait.
My daughter’s boyfriend turned around and told the couple he would like to buy them breakfast. The couple was happily surprised and so was the worried waitress who way politely trying to resolve the issue. When my daughter and her boyfriend got ready to pay their tab and leave, a nearby couple said they wanted to pay for their breakfast because of their previous act of kindness.
I went to the post office to mail a Christmas card to my sister along with a bill. I needed 2 stamps and brought $2 with me thinking it would be a quick trip in and out the door. I got to the post office and the parking lot was backed up out the entrance and onto the road. The holiday season was in full swing. No problem, I parked across the street and walked over. The line of people was out the door so I thought I’d go to the machine for stamps, but realized it only took a card, not cash. I walked back over to the double doors going into the service side of the post office to wait in line.
I helped the woman behind me find a place to set her packages down as I heard the post office personnel announced starting another line just for people who needed stamps…but again, only if they had a card. I laughed at the irony and made a joke about needing 2 stamps. A woman ahead in the line said, “I have 2 stamps if you need them”. I looked and smiled, making a remark about Christmas and handed her a dollar. She said, “You don’t need to pay me for them”. I insisted and wished her a heartfelt Merry Christmas.
A Fortunate Turn of Events
A couple days ago I took on a new client I had been working on getting a contract with for over a month. They are very busy and need lots of writing done in the coming months. The topics for the articles are especially enjoyable for me and have allowed me to complete some extra Christmas shopping. I’ve also met some really great people lately while attending some networking functions as well. I can’t remember the last time I felt community support, friendship, and satisfaction at work all at once and to this extent. I am thoroughly grateful for the gift because it is not often that something like this comes together at the same time.
This past weekend I had several articles due, but had planned to be an extra in a movie and then go hiking in the mountains. I had researched the articles already and packed my laptop. Off I went on a three hour drive to the mountains with coffee in hand. My first background scene opened as hunters arrived in a camouflage decaled truck. I began to video my acting family as they celebrated a hunting trophy; a 6 point buck hanging outside of the hunting lodge. Josh Brolin and Danny McBride were on the set and the movie extras endured several takes in a typical winter climate, searching for patches of sun in between filming to find temporary warmth. I had a decent catered lunch before pretending to have a buffet dinner in the lodge with 110 other extras for 4 hours while the stars of the movie did take after take. When all was done, it was a unique experience for sure. Having left Charlotte at 6:15am, we wrapped up around 10:45pm, and I made my way to a hotel. I was tired, but felt accomplished.
I slept like a rock after Friday’s filming, but woke up at 7:30am and wrote 2 short articles before heading for a hike to Glen Falls in Highlands, NC. It was about 3pm when after the hike and I happened on one of the best lunches I’ve ever had: a truly amazing bowl of tomato basil soup and a chicken, avocado, and bacon sandwich with chipotle mayonnaise. I ordered a glass of wine to celebrate the successful hike. There was plenty of amazing photographic proof of the experience including photos of icicles hanging from moss covered rocks, rushing waters descending rapidly from staggering heights and recent rainfall, translucent rainbows forming in the spray, a crystal clear blue sky peeking between dark spikes of naked tree branches; nature thriving in the cold, crisp fresh air.
A Perfect End to 2015
Christmas day will be spent with both of my incredible daughters with their dates, my mother and her significant other, and my boyfriend who joined me on my weekend excursion and took all the remarkable photos. We will be dining on a traditional Christmas brunch of ham and quiche with mimosas, after opening stocking gifts over coffee and cookies. Dysfunctional or not, family is the best company when reflecting on life and another passing year’s trials and triumphs. Cheers!
Photo source: Getty Images
Part 1: Commercial/Public use
Drone delivery has been on the horizon for a few years now, and while some have thought of it as an interesting idea, others have felt that it wasn’t likely to work for one reason or another. I recently finished reading an article that enlightened me on a start-up company that has been using the technology since 2011, but unfortunately, not able to in the US. It’s a California based Aerospace company that delivers medical supplies and specimens in other countries. Matternet seems to be the current leader of the drone delivery industry.
Matternet believes that there are some very important uses for drones based on their current delivery experience. Sending blood samples by drones has proved to be more cost efficient, and saves both time and energy. Drones don’t rely on a person to drive them and won’t get stuck in traffic. They eliminate the risk of delivering items in hazardous areas or for disaster relief.
Delivery is on hold in the US for companies like Amazon or Google X who intend to deliver merchandise. Walmart is also making plans to use drones, but currently not sure of the best application for them yet. FAA Regulation has not ironed out all the rules and legalities for a pre-approved exemption called Section 333 . It was supposed to be ready by 2012, but is now delayed until June 2016. It has been a slow process, but there are currently 6 regions in the country being used for test sites to see how drones work in different climates, terrain, and uses.
Since 2013, NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management program has been building a database telling drone operators where trees, mountains, buildings and other objects are located, to help them avoid collisions. Verizon even became part of the project to help drones avoid phone towers. There have been some doubts about the FAA creating low-altitude traffic control; alone, that might be true. With the creation of their Pathfinder Program working on operations beyond a user’s line of sight, and a partnership with CNN, BNSF Railway and Precision Hawk, they are getting there. CNN is interested in safely gathering news in populated areas, BNSF wants to use drones for railway inspection, and Precision Hawk is focused on uses in agriculture.
Businesses in line to use this technology are getting anxious. You might be wondering why they see it as a much needed innovation. The following are arguments against drone delivery:
Drones can only carry small, light-weight packages
Matternet’s drones only need to hold up to 2.2 pounds. This is not a big problem considering a company like Amazon has never intended to deliver heavy appliances or furniture. In fact, 86% of their items for delivery are 5 pounds or less. It will be used more as an express delivery for items needed right away. An Australian drone company, Flirtey’s, currently has a model that can fly 20 miles on one battery and carry 5.5 pounds.
Items being delivered by drone could be stolen
Thieves steal items from the store, packages delivered by truck, and right off your front porch. Retailers have been factoring the cost of theft into their purchase prices for a long time. This is not a new problem. They will likely target drones too. Matternet can shut drones down remotely in case of theft of the actual device.
Drones can’t fly very far or for very long
Amazon’s drones can fly 15 miles and they are working to go farther, however, they expect most residential and retail deliveries to be within 20 miles of their fulfillment centers for same day delivery. They also believe that retail stores may be operating their own drones for local delivery. Walmart says it’s testing a drone that flies for 25 minutes and the majority of their customers live within 5 miles of their stores. Matternet’s drones can travel 10 miles, up to 40 mph, and a 10-mile journey should be about 18 minutes.
There are safety issues with drones flying in urban areas
Drone operators can’t always see all the places their drone goes and rely on cameras and GPS coordinates. The FAA has not made it legal to fly one out of the operators’ line of sight, but that is coming soon. Matterhorn’s models can account for hills, trees and buildings, won’t fly in restricted airspace like airports and government secured areas, and avoid schools and public squares. They generally try to fly in as straight a line as possible, but will take other routes to avoid higher populated areas.
Matternet gets around many of these concerns in other countries using a smart phone app to choose a destination and generate a route. The drone takes off without a remote controller and can only fly to another pre-approved, sensor-equipped landing pad. They are designed to land instead of dropping the package, shut off their propellers so the item can be safely retrieved, and a new package or battery can be exchanged so it can fly again. In the event of bad weather, the drones won’t take off. If the drone fails, a parachute deploys.
There are great reasons to explore the use of drone delivery and there are also reasons to question it. They aren’t currently proven to be reliable in certain weather conditions like rain, they are limited currently to 25 minutes of battery life, and maybe the public is not ready for it.
According to a recent National survey conducted in 2014, support for drone usage comes from different public sectors.
- Search and Rescue Operations in remote areas such as finding missing and injured persons, tops the list with 93% approval.
- Climatic and Geological Mapping like testing snow, water, or vegetation levels comes in at 87%.
- Military Operations including detection and tracking of military targets comes in at 73%.
- Traffic Monitoring on major highway routes to report things like back-ups and delays, is 71%.
- International Border Patrol to monitor immigration activities is at 68%.
- Journalists’ reporting and covering news events like natural disasters, crime scenes, and even sporting events are 56% in favor.
- Detecting Criminal activities in Open public places like street-level drug dealing are at 48%.
- Crowd monitoring at major public events comes in at 43%.
- Only 42% of Americans say they support delivery drones being used for bringing small items to private residences
Society is beginning to get used to seeing technology triumph over doubt and indifference. Rest assured that all pilots, professional and enthusiast, will be required to be licensed to fly drones and be issued a registration number to put on their drone. But right now, non-commercial use is completely legal with no license.
Contact me at ScribeSyndicate.com for a free recommended list of the makes and models that work best whether you are an amateur, enthusiast, or professional photographer. Pictures included.
Other photo sources: Drone Life, Drone Law
Miethe, T.D., Lieberman, J.D., Skiyama, M., Troshynski, E.I. 2014. Public Attitudes about Aerial Drone Activities: Results of a National Survey, https://www.unlv.edu/sites/default/files/page_files/27/PublicAttitudesAboutAerialDroneActivities.pdf
French, S. 2015. Drone Delivery is Already Here and it Works,
French, S. 2015. 6 Myths about Amazon Prime Air and Drone Delivery Debunked,
1. They learn to connect with others and have them naturally gravitate toward them
The personality of a traveler welcomes adventure and other people with open arms. A natural curiosity establishes a desire to get to know others and learn how to connect comfortably with anyone.
2. They learn to remove perceived barriers between themselves and other nationalities, races, religions, cultures and languages
Travelers become genuinely open-minded and accepting of what makes everyone different. Conversations focus on sharing and listening, not debating opinions on right and wrong.
3. They see things that inspire gratitude and contentment
Experiencing the local cultures outside of hotels and resorts opens a traveler’s eyes to harsh realities like extreme poverty, generating true appreciation for life.
4. Their experiences ensure that conversation is never dull
Travelers are able to relate what they see and do with enthusiasm, sparking new trains of thought. The inspiration to learn and teach fresh ideas is derived from the people and places they have been.
5. They dare to be different
Curiosity makes people unique when the focus is removed from what collective society deems mainstream. Being authentic becomes more important and necessary in the people with whom they relate.
6. They live in the present
The most important day in a traveler’s life becomes today. We’ve all heard that keys to happiness include letting go of the past and not thinking too far ahead. Travelers can go one day to the next and, when discovering something new, take spontaneous action.
7. They love life
Many people want to let go of the regular working world in order to see something incredible or have new experiences, but they are unable to get past barriers in their finances, lifestyle, and mindset. Others don’t like to travel at all. Adventure seekers need to pursue places, people, cultures, and landscapes to apply the knowledge to their own life. Every day has the potential for epiphany.
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Finch, H., 2015. Why People Who Travel Make Amazing Friends. http://storyv.com/why-people-who-travel-are-amazing-friends/