Why Samantha Brown Wants You to Please Just Go Away

Jan 29, 2019

Good things come to those who skip town. Just by going OOO, studies say, you’re more likely to get a promotion, boost your health, or find a husband in your mid-40s. Okay, that last one’s a bit anecdotal—but a stellar vacation bonus nonetheless. Point is, a proper escape rewards you with far more than daiquiris, sunsets, and Insta-likes.

Even so, Americans left something in the neighborhood of 705 million vacation days unclaimed last year. And though that’s actually an improvement (we’ve been slowly trending in the right direction since 2014, a low point in our national vacation-taking history), we’ve clearly got a long way to go.

To help get us there—and to commemorate National Plan for Vacation Day (today)—Project Time Off has mobilized travel evangelist Samantha Brown, whose most recent show, Places to Love, just kicked off season 2 on PBS. Travelzoo caught up with Sam to talk vacation time, her favorite TV moments—and what to do when your kid answers only to “Moana” for a year.

Travelzoo: Research shows that time off is actually good for your career—people who take vacation report more promotions, bonuses and raises than people who don’t. But there’s still this fear of looking like you’re slacking if you take all your days. Any words of wisdom to counter that?

Samantha Brown: I used to co-host this show called 50/50 for the Travel Channel. We’d ambush people on the street and make them decide on the spot if they wanted to go on some really far-off trip that started immediately. The first call they’d make was always to their boss, and one of the things I loved most about the show was the boss’s reaction—which was inevitably “Oh my gosh, go!” In fact, coworkers would gather around and cheer, too. We’d hear stuff like, “he totally deserves this” and “he’s worked so hard.” But good will aside, your vacation is beneficial to the whole office. When you go away, you’re going to be clear-headed, you’re going to see things differently—and you’re only going to bring that positivity back to work. Bosses know that.

TZ:  One tip we hear on National Plan for Vacation Day is that just getting something on your calendar makes you more likely to follow through. Do you use that trick on yourself?

SB: Absolutely. But not just because it ups the odds of my taking a vacation. Researchers have found that just planning a trip puts you in the mindset of being there—and the anticipation itself makes you happy.

TZ: So are there vacations you’re already happily anticipating for 2019?

SB: We’re doing our very first trip to Disney World because the time has clearly come: One of our six-year-olds loves Moana so much, she made us call her Moana for almost a year. And they both love animals, so we’ll be spending a lot of time at the Animal Kingdom.

We’ve also got a big vacation coming up for summer: a Danube river cruise. And especially as someone who plans a travel show for a living, I love going places where I can just totally relax, and where everything is spoon-fed to me.

TZ: Will that be a first for the kids?

SB: We took them on a Rhine cruise last summer, and at one point, my son was like, “No more tours.” And he was five. I totally get it. He doesn’t care about world wars or the Romans yet, but both kids did love the castles—and there’s one around every corner in that neck of the woods. So castles became our thing, and we loved seeing them through the kids’ eyes.

Something else I learned is to look for big blue rectangles on Google Maps. Those are pools, and a parent’s best friend. In Germany and Switzerland, you pay maybe a couple of Euros—and you’re in this fantastic pool with slides and food and beautiful park grounds. Just head for the blue rectangles.

TZ: Let’s talk about your show. Any teasers you want to share for the upcoming season?

SB: In this series, I really tried to highlight the what I call B-side cities—sort of like the B-sides of records. These are places that tend to get overlooked as travel destinations, but shouldn’t because you’re going to find really interesting people, great food and live music—and amazing history. What I’m trying to do is show that there are these fabulous places beyond the “greatest hits” list. I actually really love when people start out thinking, “Why would you go there?” And then they watch the show and say, “Wow—I want to go there.”

TZ: Just from your promo shot of HONfest in Baltimore, we want to go there.

SB: I did get a great makeover. My hair rose like five feet. There’s so much Aqua Net in the air that if anyone lit a match, the whole city would go up. But it’s so much fun celebrating the legacy of these local working women—and who they really were.

TZ: Any other favorites?

SB: One was Christchurch, New Zealand, where an earthquake famously devastated the city in 2011. But you may have heard less about the artists who started filling the gaps with all kinds of installations. There’s actually a group called Gap Filler, and one of its most amazing creations is this open-air public dance floor called the Dance-o-Mat. You plug your phone—and drop a couple of coins—into an old laundromat washing machine, then four speakers play your music. And people come out and dance all day, bringing a kind of joy to these broken spaces.

TZ: You didn’t happen to get to Oman this season, did you? That’s been on your wish list for a while, right?

SB: I wish I could say I had, but it’s still basically number one on my bucket list. But then, isn’t that great? After all this time, I still have places that I’m dreaming of going.

TZ: Seems reason enough to start plotting National Plan for Vacation Day 2020.

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