Vacation! All I ever wanted. Vacation! Had to get away. Vacation! Meant to be spent alone.
Ahhhhh......can I see it in a blue? Everybody knows a Family Truckster should always be blue.
I was seriously considering taking a vacation today. I don’t really have any reason to take a vacation. But who needs reasons, right? Vacations are meant to be taken. And like the song says, the best vacations are the ones where you get left alone.
Because that’s really the point of a vacation, isn’t it. To leave the routine of everyday life and just get away from whatever it is you want to get away from. That’s why you don’t need to go away to get away. Many people, including me, take the majority of their vacations at home. But don’t you dare call it a ‘stay-cation’. That’s just a stupid word.
But have you ever wondered when people first started taking vacations? I did. And then I regretted it. Because as it turns out, it’s not nearly the gripping, action packed, adventure story I imagined. But, it’s what I researched, so it’s what you get.
Vacations, or holidays, depending on your geographic location, are extended periods of not going to work. They can last from one day to several weeks. Or, if you piss off the mob, permanently.
Vacations, or at least the idea of loafing, isn’t a new idea. But for a long time, there was no such thing as a ‘vacation’. People either worked, or they didn’t. In the ancient past people worked so much that religion had to get into it and declare official days of rest. You know, the sabbath?
In the past, vacations weren’t as needed, though. Depending on how you choose to earn your way in life, people could end up working for just a couple of hours a day. This was mostly when humans were hunter-gatherers. All they really had to do every day was to gather food. If you were a good hunter, it didn’t take long.
But as civilization developed, so did the types and amounts of work people had to do. In early barter economies some people found themselves making pottery all day. And others grew crops. And others raised livestock. And even more people sold various items. And of course people had to run everything.
People soon discovered that the more you worked, the more you got. Unless you worked for someone else. Then the more you worked, the more they got. And the more they made you work. Because they wanted more. Before you knew it, you had classes of people where some worked all day every day, and others who never worked. And just as it is today, the richer you were, the less you seemed to work.
Early on it was realized that people need breaks. That’s one of the reasons for the sabbath, and other days like it. (just one of the reasons. I’m not trying to claim the whole religious movement was formed to give the worker a day off).
Ancient people didn’t take vacations though to unwind from the drudgery of work. They had harvest festivals, and fertility festivals, and special days to commemorate special people. And on these days, people partied hard. They had to unwind from the daily slog. Just like we do today.
But people didn’t take vacations. festivals, celebrations and religious observances were days when everyone got to rest. Vacations are when individuals leave the work place to unwind. When did those personal vacations start?
Well, I’m here to tell you. 1869.
After the Civil War people worked much longer hours than they do today. 10 to 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week were common. This was an exhausting schedule for the people who ran everything. Forcing people to work for you is hard work, but if you didn’t do it, then you didn’t earn the profits you wanted. And the Rockefeller’s, Carnegie’s, Vanderbilt’s, etc. needed their earn more and more money so they could compete for worlds richest person.
But it was hard work. And life in the North East was tough. Why, in the summer time it got hot! And humid! Do you have any idea how miserable it is to sit around and count your money when you’re sweating so much?
So after the Civil War a young preacher began working on a book. This book was intended to be a personal improvement book, much like today’s self help books. In 1869 he published ‘Adventures In The Wilderness’. It suggested that camping out in the forest, hiking, fishing, and generally communing with nature was beneficial to personal growth.
A lot of the very rich and very powerful got wind of the book and read it. And in the summer of ‘69, the wealthy left the city in droves. They headed for the Adirondacks with copies of the book tucked under their arms. They told their compatriots that they were ‘vacating’ the city to get away from the heat.
And that is the actual, boring, truth behind vacations. As time went on and there were reforms in the workplace, vacation time for the common man became the norm. It was realized that a week off here and there improved worker output so vacation time became normal.
Now, I have really simplified a rather complex subject, but you get the general gist of where actual vacations came from. They started out as a perk of the very wealthy to escape the stifling heat of the summer.