Thoughts on Disconnecting

You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here recently. If you didn’t know, two weeks ago I got married and as I type this, I’m sitting on a plane on the way back from two blissful weeks spent completely offline on honeymoon in Italy.

At the Colosseum in Rome

While many of our vacations focus on adventure and exploration, this time we made a conscious decision to set aside at least half of the vacation for relaxation as the last few months have been… well, manic, to say the least. So, I had plenty of time to think, and I got to thinking about the effect that being offline had on how I thought and acted while we were away.

A few words come to mind:

  1. Old-school!
  2. Refreshing
  3. Disconnected

Resourcefulness

Yu know how you don’t appreciate a good thing until it’s gone? As I rapidly discovered while staying in a villa with no Internet access on the Amalfi Coast (it’s a tough life, I know), I use the Internet for a lot. A lot. No Internet meant no Google Maps; no Trip Advisor; no online bus schedule; no Google searches; nothing.

Was this tough? Absolutely not – it’s not that long since we didn’t have any of these things. However, it did make me reflect on just how much we use the Internet for nowadays. We had to search out real maps (you know, the ones “old people” use) and ask around for recommendations from local people. We had to use a phrasebook instead of Google Translate.

Again, I’m not crying “boo freakin’ hoo” here, but every time I take an offline vacation I find that the Internet had filled more and more functions for me, and I find that fascinating.

Refreshing

The view from Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast

The last six months have been, in a word, exhausting. We bought a house, renovated it, got married, and I was working long hours in the office. With everything that was going on, I found the opportunity to go completely offline reinvigorating.

Going from 300+ emails a day to none; waking up in the morning and not checking Twitter and Facebook; and not feeling like I should be Twitpic-ing photos of the sunset on the coast was completely refreshing. I highly recommend everyone unplug occasionally and just unwind.

Disconnected

Setting aside the hugely positive aspects of being offline, I did feel disconnected. I wondered what was going on with my friends. I wondered what was going on with my family. I wondered what was going on at the office. Not being able to reach out and connect with people whenever I felt like it was strange. And, yes, I did often think “I should totally post this photo” before realizing I couldn’t. It was unsettling at first, but the feeling passed.

Still, social networks are all about connecting with other people. I did miss those connections.

Looking ahead

The last two weeks were absolutely blissful and we couldn’t have had a better honeymoon. With that said, I return from it reinvigorated and re-energized, and I look forward to diving back into the things and relationships that matter to me – friends, family and colleagues – with more energy than ever before!

  • Congratulations on your marriage!

    We recently went on vacation, and in one coffee shop, I was reminded of all of the summer road trips my parents took us on. I have a lot of family papers, and they include the confirmation letters that my mom got from campgrounds–back then, she would go through a huge print directory and call or write to see if a particular campground had space on the days we’d be in the area. Then the campground staff would send back a letter or postcard confirming the reservation. Today, of course, all of that can be done online, and it would never occur to me to even see if that print directory is still being published.

    And I spent a lot of our vacation online, checking and posting on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. I had my reasons, and they were sound, but in that coffee shop I was struck by how much I want to unplug on vacations.

    • Thanks Kathy! I know what you mean – growing up, all of our vacations were camping holidays – we’d drive up to the area we were visiting and just see which places had space. None of this Internet booking nonsense. We did the same thing when we did a trip back to the UK a couple of years ago, and it was really liberating.

      • it doesn’t need to be this From beautiful beaches and landscapes to historical sites to adventure
        parks… you choose! To look through what’s on offer around our Parks
        with our new Places to visit finder.

  • Jen Zingsheim

    Congrats again on the wedding, and on disconnecting. My husband and I have an informal policy of trying to go on at least one vacation per year sans Internet-connecting devices. I find I’m “twitchy” for the first two days or so, but after that I honestly just don’t miss the connectivity at all.

    I think it’s probably easier for me because I regularly have quiet/disconnected time. I’ve found that I require it–I’m overall more calm and focused if I take frequent, short, technology breaks. I very rarely use Twitter on the weekends. I have “quiet time” in the car during my commute sometimes–no radio, and no phone (actually, for me, it’s always no phone, I do not talk on the phone while driving). I’m trying to break the habit of checking my smart phone when out with friends.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s important to be present in the moment and decompress on occasion!

    • Thanks Jen!

      I’m with you – we go camping a lot in the summer (well, less so this year for obvious reasons, but usually…) and I try to stay offline most of the time. Doesn’t always work (I remember we a company launch leaking when I was away one time… that was fun to deal with on a BlackBerry!) but when it does it’s refreshing.

  • Great post and congratulations again on the wedding! May you enjoy a lifetime of happiness together.

    It does feel great to disconnect intentionally. For a while I was disconnecting every Saturday but lost the habit. Abandoning all technology on vacation sometimes helps you appreciate the experience more.
    (E.g. no tools on your smart phone so doing things the old way, putting the camera down to enjoy the moment rather than obsessing about how the image will look after you’ve uploaded it to Flickr.)

    Welcome home, Dave.

  • Absolutely great pics!  Welcome back and Congrats!

  • Congrats, my friend. Beautiful pictures. You deserved a break.

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  • Jscanlon

    Congratulations on two counts — getting married and discovering the benefits of taking a tech break! Why not try it again now and then, or pledge to set aside an hour or a few hours on Sunday, Oct. 2, unplugged from technology and do something special with your time?
    A group called Unplug & Reconnect (www.unplugreconnect.com) is challenging
    people to pledge time to unplug from technology and to reconnect with people
    and events that are meaningful to them on Day to Disconnect, Sunday, Oct. 2,
    2011. The goal is to raise 1 million unplugging hours. I hope you’ll join us –
    simply go to http://www.unplugreconnect.com to sign on.