We’re on the road right now, heading home to Ohio after two weeks of camping by the ocean in Maine. Two weeks filled with sun and sand and surf; the faces and voices of loved ones and close friends. We’ve filled our bellies with lobster, walked the island from end to end, partied on the beaches and almost tripped over skunks in the night. Caught up on each others’ stories, celebrated triumphs and milestones, and pulled together to offer support. The weather was excellent and the fishing not so much. We’re returning home with sand in our hair and ears, sun-baked skin and rediscovered energy; ready to resume our regular lives.
It has been an unplugged vacation—almost. Our beloved Hermit Island offers seven beaches on 255 acres but little access to cell phone or Internet. After about a day you lose track of time and the tight bands encircling your head and heart start to loosen. My access to the world outside existed only in stolen moments during trips into town for groceries or to do laundry. While there I feverishly logged on to check my team’s work on client accounts, read email, update my social networks and try to glean some small understanding of what had changed in the time I’d been on the island. But, once back on the island, the sense of urgency quickly faded and I dove happily back into the waves or onto the hot summer sand.
I hate for it to end. Yet I’m conflicted because I love the challenge of my work and the vibrant online communities I participate in. Being away and unplugged means being out of touch and that’s a little uncomfortable. What new social media tools will have launched in my absence? Will my clients have forgotten me or found they can do without me?
“We live in a world in which we’re expected to be available all the time for almost any reason. Worse, we expect it from ourselves,” says Peter Bregman in a post about his own mostly unplugged vacation. “Getting away — truly not being needed for a week or two — brings up all sorts of insecurities,” he points out. We understand the benefits of unplugging and being present with those we love but for some of us the conflict between our worlds is very real and confusing. Many people don’t allow themselves (or are unable) to be away for long blocks of uninterrupted time.
There’s been a bit of discussion this year about the need to unplug. Some of us are so accustomed to multi-tasking that we are almost unaware of how often we glance at our smartphones to check email or send off a quick tweet. Robert Scoble planned an off-the-grid vacation this summer citing a post by Fred Wilson who discussed the importance of being present with loved ones. Scoble wondered how long he would last without checking Twitter, email or Facebook (as did the people who took the time to comment on his post).
So, as we travel across the remaining miles to our home in Ohio, I find myself thinking fondly of this vacation and our antics, the new friends we’ve added, and the ones I hadn’t seen for so long. I already miss our older son who lives in Boston but joins us for these two weeks every year.
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I always live with the dream of Hermit Island and the smell of the salt air…having been unplugged was wonderful but I’m eager to get home now and get back to work.