‘I’ll believe it when you board the airplane without your laptop.’  These were the words that my husband said to me after I declared that I wasn’t going to take any work with me on vacation.  After all, he had good reason to be skeptical.  For most of my career, I would only go on 7-day vacations and then always have the laptop along – just in case.  But this was our anniversary trip and I was determined to do things differently.  It was going to be 2 ½ weeks in Alaska and I didn’t want to take my computer.  I wanted an actual real vacation.  I have to thank my husband because his challenge that I couldn’t do it spurred me to thinking about how to do things differently so that I could do it.  I was going to have to disconnect!

Without my laptop, the thing to consider was accessibility – to family, to clients, and to the ‘outside world’.  Accessibility was an issue on this trip as we were staying in a remote location for 3 days and then going to be traveling on ferries for 2 additional days – all without cell service and internet.  In this era of continuous, instant connectivity – it was an interesting situation to plan for.  My family was fairly easy to accommodate.  I assembled an itinerary of the trip and sent it to all of them, so they knew where we would be and when to expect to hear from us.  Additionally, we were diligent in touching base right before we would ‘go dark’ and when we would come back into the light.

Clients were a bit trickier – or so I thought.  I have always prided myself on providing superior customer service to clients.  Part of that definition has meant accessibility.  But accessibility doesn’t mean 24/7 on every day of the year.  So, I started telling my clients in advance that I would be out of the office and unavailable during the vacation time.  Not one of them said, ‘But what if we have problems?’  Nope – they supported me in setting the boundary and offered a hearty, ‘If something comes up we’ll cope, or it will have to wait.  Have a great time!’.  So much for that last small thought of being indispensable.

Lastly, I wanted to use this as a real vacation to celebrate an anniversary with my husband – with lots of conversations and without outside distractions.  This time was intended to be for us together.  I didn’t want to jump every time my phone dinged with an alert – so I turned all of the alerts off.  Then, I went back and turned on only the ones that were needed during the vacation, namely the travel apps and texting for family communication.  It was wonderful to check my phone when I wanted to check it – instead of being dinged all of the time.  This decision was reinforced during a beautiful train ride from Fairbanks to Denali National Park.  A family was seated behind us who used their phones constantly during the 4-hour trip.  Not a moment went by without hearing a phone conversation, a ding from an incoming text, or the movie being watched without headphones.  At that moment it didn’t feel like a vacation, just another business trip.  I haven’t yet turned any of the other alerts back on.  Which alerts are actually missed or needed and which ones were there just because I had accepted the default installation?

The result was a true vacation without a lot of the distractions that typically would have been present.  I decompressed faster (usually takes me 3 days) which meant that I was ‘in the vacation’ sooner.  I saw incredible landscape, loads of wildlife, read books, took long hikes, and had long conversations – and came back rested, rejuvenated and ready to go back to work.  It felt like I had been gone for a month on a true vacation.  I still monitored email from my phone but felt like it was there to serve me – not the other way around.

Albert Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’  For me, having a real break with a vacation is part of creating the new thinking.  This one helped me create new boundaries and behaviors that not only made the vacation better but are limiting outside distractions even now.  I am looking forward to the next vacation and how disconnected I can be.  One thing I know for sure, the laptop isn’t ever going again.

Let us know what you do to disconnect and have a real vacation!

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