Vacation is Not a Status Symbol

A woman with status vacationing on a beach
Vacation should be a time to refresh the emotions, not flaunt material success.

The purpose of vacation is emotional rejuvenation. The idea is for an individual to take time away from their normal routine dedicated solely to enjoyment. After vacationing an individual resumes normal activities with better energy and motivation. People who don’t vacation are at risk of burning out. Burn out happens when an individual gets emotionally exhausted from performing the same activity time and again. Vacation in developed countries like the US is built into the work culture. Almost every good job allows employees to take vacation time every year, and most of them pay for it. Vacation gives people staying power and improves productivity. People who don’t vacation may be unable to continue fulfilling work or family responsibilities—at least with the same level of effectiveness.

Few things in life are as important as emotional health. Emotionally healthy human beings feel good and function well. Emotional health is ultimately a function of the mind. It has to do with the thoughts that we think and the beliefs we hold that create and empower them. It follows that vacation is a state of mind. It’s not the physical act of leaving home that has any emotional benefit in itself, even if it work wonders for most people. There are people who can vacation in the comfort of their own home—all they really need is time off from work. And there are those whose daily life is a vacation. Their ordinary activities replenish them with energy such that they do not need regular time off to stay emotionally healthy.

The tendency to view vacation as a status symbol defeats its very purpose.

Petra, Jordan.
A photo I took in Petra, Jordan.

I experienced the temptation to view vacation as a status symbol on my recent trip to Jordan. Petra, located in Southern Jordan, is one of the 7 wonders of the world. It is a city carved into stone, a truly masterful piece of architecture. There was one day left on my trip before I traveled with some friends to Lebanon and I was exhausted. It didn’t help that Petra was a three-hour drive one-way from the capital Amman. I wanted to go to Petra for two reasons: 1) To experience it myself while I still had the chance and 2) To be able to tell others, who would definitely ask, that I had been there. The second motivation was problematic because it could have led me to make a decision that was not in my best interest. I ultimately went to Petra, had a good time, and felt more zapped that evening than any other day my entire life. I probably would have went to Petra based solely on the first motivation due to my desire to see what all the rage was about. But my experience illustrate how viewing vacation as a status symbol can undermine the point of it in the first place.


The ideal vacation will necessarily look different for everyone given everyone’s unique emotional build. But when vacation is treated as a status symbol, it can go from being a brilliant cultural construct to promote emotional health to an emotionally taxing experience. And that’s in no one’s best interest.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Does your social network tend to treat vacation as a status symbol?


  1. Hey Ben! Interesting question! With the rise of social media, Facebook, Personal Blogs Etc. And the self-absorption of selfies among our young — I doubt all that self-including photo taking is anything but status related. Be it vacation related or not! One just has to look at the constant one-upmanship on YouTube and Facebook today?

    And yes, I believe this often includes our vacation photos. Yet, perhaps what we do with them in the end tells the true story. Share them as memories with family and friends? Or post them on social media for all the world to see?

    Maybe its human nature that feeds our desire for status display, but today’s digital social media provides an easy access that we’ve hadn’t had in the past. And now provides an opportunity to peacock this — our seemingly increasing desire to one-up our status — but now on a world-wide grander scale.

    Humility today, seems to be a way of the past! Yet … “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” ― Michel de Montaigne Be well Ben!

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