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Time Off: The Europeans Do It Right

I applaud a whole continent shutting down for a month. The only way we can really shut down and enjoy time off is with our colleagues' help

Ten years ago, I was living on the road—way more than was healthy. We expect to see 25-year-old management consultants living out of suitcases, but when you're in your 30s and have small children at home, a heavy business travel schedule is a major encumbrance.

Two weeks every year, if I was lucky, I'd get to pack up the kids and the gear and take a family vacation. But there was a problem: The work didn't stop. Even when I was hiking in the mountains or sitting on the beach, counting heads bobbing in the waves, my phone would ring. My husband would glower. My heart would sink, because I feared it meant something was up at the office. And as sure as shootin', I'd pick up that phone and be dragged into an hour-long call. I'd be flashing the five-finger hand sign to my husband (as in, "five more minutes") but the call would drag on and on. And I'd think, "Something is wrong with the system."