I just ended a week in Rome where I found myself unexpectedly unplugged thanks to unrelated problems with both my Blackberry and my laptop. I confess that the first couple of days of being unable to check email at will were very stressful, but the longer my digital drought lasted, the more relaxing I found my vacation. Though I never intended to be offline for a week, in the end it was one of the best elements of my trip.
In today's digital world, so many of us are reachable (whether online or on a cell) 24 hours a day. Returning to a simpler time with phone calls tied to a landline and no easy internet access served as a wakeup call for me and a reminder of a kinder, gentler era where vacation actually meant getting away from it all. Freed from the tyranny of posting vacation updates to Facebook or sharing photos online or responding to email (work or personal), I was able instead to focus on enjoying the wonders of Rome. Unable to check in with the office, I instead accepted that it would likely survive my brief absence and allowed myself to stop worrying about work on my vacation.
In the end I got online only once in seven days in order to send my hotel contact info to family and respond to some birthday greetings. My unexpectedly unplugged week was my most relaxing vacation in years, a lesson I hope to incorporate into my real life as much as possible in the coming months by setting some firm limits on the time I spend online and the time I spend tied to my work Blackberry on evenings and weekends.
I would love to hear about strategies for managing access in a digital age from others who have successfully dialed back. Have any of you been inspired by an unexpected absence from the online world? Is it possible to translate the digital freedom of my vacation to everyday life?
Image: Photo by Colleen Quinn.