On board an Iceland Airlines plane

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit one of the Nordic nations, or at least one day hope of hopping a flight across the pond for a short or extended trip to the region, you likely already know how challenging it can be these days to find the time to make such a journey.

As has been reported all over, American workers are being expected to put in more hours than ever before. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, half of all employees, age 18 and older, are working more than the standard 40 hours per week, with the majority of those folks who responded logging between 50 and 59 hours. And even when you’re not on the clock, many of us are still keeping up with developments at the office during our off-hours. We check our emails throughout the night, and some of us are expected to update our social networking feeds or at least be at the ready to jump in to the fray at any second. We can’t relax when we’re supposed to be relaxing!

If that weren’t problematic enough, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid time off. Yes, it’s true that almost every company does offer a week or more of non-holiday related vacation time after you’ve been working with them for a stretch, but the law says they don’t have to. (Not that you’d work for a place like that, right?) Compare our available leisure time to what the Nordic countries offer their citizens and you’ll see what I mean: Iceland offers up the least amount of time, but it still adds up to 24 days each year. In Norway and Sweden, they go one extra with a guaranteed 25 days off. Denmark gives you 30 days. Finland, four weeks, which bumps up to five after you’ve been working at the same place for a year.

The good news is that when you are able to squeeze out some time away from your work responsibilities, it’s not going to require you to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for the trip. If you book far enough in advance, you can score a round-trip ticket for well under $1,000. Also, with the rise of Airbnb you can easily find a place to crash for one or multiple nights that will give you a far more personal experience of the region than any hotel or hostel can provide. Still not convinced you should spend your money on traveling abroad? Then consider the fact that science has already proven that spending your money on experiences (and not things) is actually the secret to happiness. Going to a music festival in Denmark is one of the few things that don’t apply to the “money can’t buy you happiness” adage.

Our advice: Plan ahead, sock away some cash, and fight for your right to have some time off. As I’m sure your HR rep would also remind you: if you don’t use those vacation days, you’re gonna lose them. And you might lose your mind in the process. Wouldn’t you rather travel to a Nordic country to attend a music festival with fellow fans instead?

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