Why do we feel guilty when we go far away for a long vacation? Why do we typically fail to take all of our vacation days? Why would the head of a company discourage employees from getting away from it all?

All of the science out there points to the benefits of getting away... as far away as possible. All of the logic points there as well. Among the documented benefits are improved cardiovascular health, improved outlook, enhanced brain power and greater creativity.

One Dutch study even found that the simple act of planning a vacation will make you appreciably happier.

Despite this, there are many employees and employers who simply either refuse to take any vacation or take much less than they're entitled to. There are some offices where taking vacations is actively discouraged and some employees who see it as a badge of honor (and a smart career move). There are also offices where the CEO, seeing him/herself as a role model, refuses to get away for anything more than a long weekend.

Too many of us buy into this kind of thinking. According to a study conducted by Glassdoor, on average, Americans take only one half of the vacation time allotted to them.

The problem with this is that by physically being at the office, it doesn't mean you are being productive. When there isn't a pressure valve, a vacation that allows you to get away from the stress for a while, bad things happen

Dr. Susan K Whitbourne, writing in Psychology Today, summed up the effects of stress in this way:

"When you're stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you're more likely to have an accident. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you'll make poorer decisions. You'll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed."

Employers should also note that employees who take vacations come back not only refreshed, but with a better attitude. According to the International Vacation Deprivation Study, commissioned by travel service company Expedia, 34 percent of the respondents reported feeling better about their jobs and more productive after taking a vacation.

Less stressed. Better attitude. Smarter.

Remember those PSAs "This is Your Brain on Drugs?"

Researchers are now seeing the positive physiological effects of vacations on the brain. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, has found there are actual physiological changes to the brain.

"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts," he explained.

The reaction he speaks of is the brain sprouts dendrites, which grow the brain's capacity.

"Your brain literally begins to look like a jungle," Nussbaum said.

While the scientific evidence is clear, so is the anecdotal. Speaking from personal experience, travel has opened my eyes to other ways of thinking and acting, it has given me a greater sense of history, it has reminded me of some of the natural and man-made wonders of the world and has even helped me (in the cases of Tanzania and Turkey) to come up with new ways of looking at business.

Thanks to some amazing dining and sampling of local beverages, it has also probably given me an extra inch or two on my waistline.

So who benefits from traveling on vacation? The simple answer is everyone who can afford to go. Yes, even the President deserves a vacation.

Despite all of the flack President Obama's already getting for going on his upcoming 17-day holiday vacation to Hawaii, I personally wish him a bon voyage. With all the stress he's been facing of late, it will do him a world of good!