Saturday, October 11, 2014


One of the apparent perks of living in Sweden (and other Scandinavian and some European countries) is that on paper we have 5-6 weeks of paid vacation per year. I often hear non-academics, international people telling me how lucky I am and how nice this must be. I have to agree not to seem ungrateful (which I am not). But fact is that I used to go on actual vacation or holiday, (that kind of trip where you fly somewhere, stay at a hotel or similar, and relax for x number of days, expanding your cultural horizon) way more when I lived in California than when I moved to Sweden. In fact I have not had a single holiday since I moved three years ago. Instead I take days off going to Copenhagen for a prolonged weekend, I have a summerhouse with my family in Denmark where I go during the summer for a week or two, and I take the occasional extra day or two in extension to a conference, most often with Zoe. Zoe has never been on such holiday either, not that I think she is missing out on anything, she has plenty of variety in her life, flying places with me and seeing the world, but traditional holiday, she has no idea what is.

As a researcher focused on my career, trying to publish as much as possible, six weeks of vacation is not really an option, unless you want to not move up in the system. I would never have time to do the research needed to maintain an academic career if I didn't spend teaching-free periods on this, and this is a fact generally acknowledged among researchers. What I often end up doing, is taking 'fake' vacation, entering it into the HR system and working anyway. Since the university requires you to take all the vacation that you have, because otherwise they have to pay you cash for it, and that is not within their budget I usually just take the last bit in the end of the year (I understand it from their perspective, as a large organization, they did not have much influence on the broader academic system and the negotiation of vacation time among workers in a country, so it should not become an extra expense to them).

But I do miss real holiday. I miss planning a trip through Europe, taking the train, flying to Japan and exploring different cultures. But with no partner to do this with and a single income to live from, it is no longer really an option. I look forward to when Zoe is just a bit older and her and I can go exploring in far-off countries. Right now I'm planning extended weekend trips with her to other European capitals. Perhaps Berlin, perhaps Amsterdam. Perhaps next year.

I know most researchers are in a similar situation and that vacation is something rarely taken in the traditional way and I'm not being ungrateful for what I have, because I know that many people in this world don't even have options for days off. But I do find it to be one of the things I miss the most from my previously married life and it becomes apparent around this time of year where I enter my fake vacation into the system.

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