How to Feel Both Rested and Energized: Go Unplugged on Your Next Vacation

Family Travel on 08.09.12
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Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

I'm not writing this post you are reading. I am in the countryside of Ohio with my parents and my kids, without a laptop, without email access, without even a peek on the internet.  It's not that my parents, who now live on our family's farm, don't have internet access, cellphone reception, or TV.  It's just that I'm choosing to ignore it all for seven days, in honor of fresh air, giggling kids, afternoon naps, paperback books, and deep thoughts.

Even though I wrote this post a week before my vacation, I know exactly how it feels to go unplugged. I did it when my family and I went to the beach for a week.

I could have easily taken my laptop and, while the kids were sleeping, I could have answered emails, updated Facebook and Twitter, and even gotten a little writing done. I still would have been away from home and its sticky floors, broken appliances, and beeping answering machines.

But I wouldn't have jumped into the vacation like I launched into the pool with my kids. Maybe I wouldn't have taken long walks along the beach, or stayed up late talking and laughing, or read those books that I never seemed to have time for. 

Most Americans don't take all of their vacation days, and I get why.  Even though I have a pretty nontraditional job with no paid vacation -- I'm a blogger and freelance writer -- deadlines are always looming and my to-do list is never complete. I love my job and the incredible flexibility, but the problem is, as fellow writer Nancy West so perfectly puts it, "I feel like I'm always partially on vacation, but I also feel like I'm never fully on vacation."

We all keep hearing how important it is to slow down and log off, how not worrying about the details helps us see the big picture.  But the portability of personal electronics makes it insanely easy to bring the details with us.  

What happens if we never shut down for more than a day? Our brains become like a chalkboard that never gets washed.  Covered with scribble over scribble, our minds become so cloudy with chalk dust that it's hard to see the lessons that are being written.

Even social media moguls, like Facebook and Twitter execs, acknowledge the addictiveness of digital devices, and that it's good for the brain and the soul to do a complete detox.  In Silicon Valley Says Step Away from the Device, Richard Fernandez, an executive coach and mindfulness leader at Google, says we must create space or else we risk being "swept away by our own technologies."

And so, before the summer is over, I urge you to laser-focus and get all your work done, set up those vacation auto-responders, and then just coast.  Put the top down, loosen your hair, and don't fret about anything but the lemonade you're going to have when you stop at the next roadside stand.

And don't worry -- you're not lazy. Just as sleep is restorative and helps us be smarter and more productive, so do vacations.

Take a real one.

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