Face it: Work is always going to be nuts. So how - and how often - should you break away? We take the matter to the front lines - and to a psychiatrist.


A deserted beach. Wind rustles through the palm fronds overhead. The sand squashes between your toes. Anywhere you look, there's nothing but sea, sand, and palms. Good thing you have a hammock in your knapsack, because the setting is perfect. You string it up and lie down. Ahhh.

Sound like a strangely peaceful episode of Survivor, or maybe like the Tom Hanks film Cast Away, in which the workaholic hero is marooned for 1,500 days? Could be either. Or it could be your secret fantasy.

In all the media's attempts to analyze the almost addictive appeal of Survivor, one explanation has been overlooked: Getting stranded 3,000 miles from the nearest cell phone or overnight mailbox is the closest many business people in today's Internet-charged world can come to a getting-away-from-it-all vacation.

One internationally publicized survey of top executives, from Roper Starch Worldwide, revealed that roughly a third of those questioned were too job-obsessed to enjoy their vacations. Many, in fact, worked while on vacation, and half did not even take all the vacation time owed them. Of Americans who did, ostensibly, vacation, 72 percent received e-mail or called the office.

Here's where a magazine might conclude, "What a sick, compulsive culture we live in." Or we might advise the work-obsessed to enter a 12-step program for e-mail addicts. But we will do neither. Instead, we'll offer the evidence in favor of vacations, both for employees and the companies that pay them. We'll give detractors a chance to explain why vacationing is déclassé. And finally, we'll hand out some advice.

Here's a hint: Our judgment is that modern America needs a new vacation strategy. And being the reader-friendly magazine that we are, we'll offer you one. Curious? You'll have to keep reading to find out.