“We need a break” is a phrase nobody wants to hear. But, as it turns out, a break is exactly what this country needs. We all need time to pause, reflect, and see what else is out there.

America is suffering from a travel deficit. The long-held American “work-hard, play-hard” mentality has evolved into a “work-hard, never stop” ethos, and this change comes at a high price.

Working hard

From 1978 to 2000, Americans took an average 20.3 days of vacation per year. Then, in 2000, our appetite for time off faltered, reflecting in a steady decline of vacation usage that bottomed out at an average16.0 days off in 2014.

Choosing not to travel is also choosing to miss out on the memories, moments, and experiences that define us.

While American desire for a break has slowly started to climb back with an average of 17.2 vacation days taken in 2017, research from Project: Time Off shows Americans still left more than 700 million vacation days unused last year. These days were amassed by the majority of Americans (52 percent) who fail to use the time off they earn.

What’s worse, of the 17.2 vacation days taken, less than half of those days were spent traveling. It follows that nine-in-ten Americans say they have not seen enough of their country, and that nearly a quarter have not taken a vacation in more than a year.

Travel benefits

Under-vacationed Americans need to understand the power of travel. Travel is how to get the most benefit out of vacation time. Americans who spend all or most of their vacation days on travel —  mega-travelers — report dramatically higher rates of happiness with their health, jobs, and relationships than those using little to none of their time for travel.

Travelers are also getting ahead at work. Mega-travelers are 18 percent more likely to have reported receiving a recent promotion compared to Americans who use little to none of their time to travel. Mega-travelers also report a higher likelihood of receiving a recent raise, bonus, or both than those who stay at home during their days off.

Choosing not to travel is also choosing to miss out on the memories, moments, and experiences that define us. That’s a choice I’m not willing to make anymore. It’s time to see what’s out there.