Vacation: 100% Off the Grid or Occasional Check In?

by DJ Waldow on February 20, 2013 · 0 comments

sunbathing

On Saturday, my family and I will be heading out of the country for a long-overdue vacation.

Ahhh. Vacation. Remember in the pre-laptop, pre-smart phone days when a vacation meant sipping on margaritas, swimming in the ocean, and reading a nice book? Technology (devices), email, and social media has changed all of that.

Now we have a choice. We can be that guy in the picture above or live in the pre-laptop/smart phone days. Or, our vacation experience can live somewhere in the middle.

Over the past few days I’ve been been thinking a lot about whether or not I’m going to be that guy in the picture above next week.

Recently, a friend of mine and I were emailing back and forth about vacation. I wrote, “I’m kindasorta going on vacation.” His response: “There is no sort of on vacation. You either are or you are not.”

It’s clear where he stands; however, I’m not sure I share his sentiment.

I’m certainly not the first person who has struggled with this dilema and will not be the last. I’ve read countless articles and blog posts about going “off the grid” vs. staying connected while on vacation. Heck, I even have done a few “email breaks” … most recently over Thanksgiving when I went 6 days without email. Guess what? I survived.

And, if I choose to go 100% off the grid next week, I will survive that as well. I’m certain of it. Life will go on. Tweets will pass by. Facebook updates will happen whether or not I’m there to see them or leave my comment. Instagram and Vine* and Pinterest will survive without me. I’m sure Google will still know where I am and what I’m doing. Scary, huh?

The key is this: It is a choice. In fact, I’d argue that you always have a choice.

But here’s the thing. I love being connected. I love people. I love interacting with other human beings – both on and offline. I love the banter, the joking, the sharing of content, the debates, the conversation. I love it all.

But I also love spending time with my family. I love disconnecting. I love swimming. I love deep sea fishing. I love reading a good book.

Can you have both? Does it have to be an either/or?

In a recent episode of The Work Talk Show, Mitch Joel talked about the concept of balance vs. blend. My friend Krista Parry also believes in blend. She recently returned from a vacation in Hawaii. How do I know? I saw here amazing beach pictures on Facebook. I’m not sure if she was checking email too, but I know she participated in a Twitter chat while she was in Hawaii. To be clear, I’m in no way judging Krista – just stating the facts. On a selfish level, I loved that Krista shared some of her vacation with her friends on Facebook and Twitter. I love that I was able to see some Instagrams of her experience. She chose to not be 100% off the gird.

That being said, everything I’ve been reading the past few months continues to point to the importance of disconnecting. Meditate. Go for a walk. Do nothing. In fact, my buddy Nick and I were recording an episode of The Work Talk Show the other day and our guest talked about how when you have something you are stuck on – a problem that you can’t seem to resolve, a creative block, etc. – if you “do nothing” often the issue resolves itself. In other words, your brain is working even when you are not consciously thinking about something. Does that make sense? I’m still wrapping my brain around what they said. Ha!

Just tonight I was talking to a friend of mine about this and she advised that I disconnect entirely … that I use the time to “recharge.” It made me pause and think: Do I take her advice or follow the path Krista chose?

As I was typing that last sentence, I asked my wife what she plans on doing while we’re on vacation. She told me that while she will have an out of office email auto-responder set up, she’ll definitely be checking email – once a day. When I pressed her on why this was the case (honestly, I was surprised by her answer), she told me that “the anxiety of having to go through all of the email when I get back and maybe missing something urgent seems too overwhelming.”

I don’t blame her. I think “email anxiety” is real. I’d argue that “social media anxiety” is also an issue. What if I miss something important?

Since starting my own company – Waldow Social – 19 months ago, I feel this need to stay connected. While my business will still be there when I get back, I feel the need to constantly feed the fire – create content, share industry-relevant information, etc.

While I don’t plan on using my phone to place or receive calls at all while on vacation (mostly because I’m too cheap), the place we are staying at does have wifi. The temptation to “check in” will be there. That being said, I do not want to be tethered to my laptop or iPhone for a week.

I’m not sure how I’ll handle email over this vacation. Like my wife, just thinking about it gets me a bit anxious. However, I don’t have any plans to check or update Facebook or Twitter, but I may pre-schedule a few blog posts. I’ll likely send my weekly newsletter. But what about Instagram? What about Vine*? I certainly will be taking pictures and recording videos. I want to capture the memories. But do I need to share every memory? Need? No. Want? Maybe.

How do you “do” vacations? 100% off the grid? Check email once per day? Do you tweet? Do you check Facebook? Do you write blog posts? Take Instagrams? Record Vines?

I’d love to hear your take on this. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

As I write this, I’m still not certain which option I’ll choose.

*I mentioned Vine a few times above. If you are saying, “What the heck is Vine,” my good friend Ann Handley breaks it down here.

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social
@djwaldow

36 comments
jeff_pugh
jeff_pugh

I'm way late to this post, but I find this topic intriguing. My wife and I take our family on a cruise so we have no choice but to completely disconnect. Unless we are willing to pay the exorbitant fees associated with cruise line wifi, Internet. I really started to look at vacation differently ... as time for me and my family only. Phones are only around for emergencies because I take the real camera with me, not an iPhone to snap a photo. And sure I have that bit of anxiety returning to hundreds of emails, but I tackle it an hour at a time here and there to whittle it down.

belllindsay
belllindsay

Wow. I don't think I could do it. Not 100%. I would likely maintain my early morning ritual of checking in and clearing email. I hope you're having fun. I'm so jealous. :) 

kristaparry
kristaparry

Well obviously you know how I feel about disconnecting 100 percent (thanks for the shout-out)  but let me tell you why I choose to still update my social channels, check email and stay "connected" while on vacation.

I am a connector (Connectsquared.com) and that means I connect because it's just who I am. I connect on Facebook, Twitter, etc all the time and this doesn't stop once I'm on "vacation". It's a part of what makes me me.

We all do what works best for us and we also tend to be a bit judgemental when people do things differently than what we might think is right. I think as long as you are being authentic to yourself than "to hell what everyone else thinks."

As for out of office, I like setting up my out of office so that the expectation is there that I might not get back to you while I am gone, however I still create my "window" of time (typically early in the morning while the rest of the family is still sleeping) and deal with whatever I have to. Who wants to return to a "hot mess day back". Love that quote!

Enjoy your vacation!

devanmarie
devanmarie

I completely unplug on vacation from work stuff -- though I still use my personal social media accounts, but only check in once and a while. I take a vacation to get away from work and decompress. 

But it really does make you think about before the "connected era" where there were no social networks or email how people took vacations. 

We did a survey last year on business owners to see how many business owners work through vacation. 80% of business owners work through their vacation. Compared to Adweek's poll where they found 46% of US workers did (not business owners). You can read the report here. It's a year or so old, but it's got some good data in it.


Lin_Dolin
Lin_Dolin

@djwaldow Off the grid during, check in when get home.

joshanisfeld
joshanisfeld

@djwaldow Go off the grid, and then write a blog post about it!

kathysacks
kathysacks

My answer for vacays: Recharge = no actual work, meaning no time set aside to dig into. Plenty of thinking, pondering on life and work, thinking on big projects can be good, super creative. I don't follow social, including mostly staying away from Facebook. Occasional cleaning of emails every few days, or re-routing of stuff like Nick talks about below is ok to avoid the "vacay hangover hot mess day back deluge of inbox overload".  By Day 3 or 4 though, you start to lose the urge to check in, don't resist it. Go with it. It'll all be ok. None of what we marketers do has people dying on the operating table.

JimKukral
JimKukral

@djwaldow When I go fishing in Quebec, I have no choice. No cell or internet for a few hundred miles. :)

NickWestergaard
NickWestergaard

I think I've mentioned where I stand on this particular issue on a couple different episodes of The Work Talk Show. Personally, I check-in about once a day with the email on my iPhone. I do this so I can triage, route anything to one of our other team members that is working, and ultimately - as noted by others here - truly relax. As a small business owner it is a big step going away. Plus, from a productivity stand-point I hate losing that stupid first day back going through the inbox. If I've taken a pass through occasionally and weeded out silly stuff then this takes about an hour instead of all eight.

Above all, as Krista and others have said, you have to do what works for you and to hell with everyone else. Or what they say. A lot of people are dogmatic about the 'either are or aren't on vacation' and I just don't think it's that simple much less something you can be judge-y about when it concerns me, my work, and my family.

As Mitch quoted Seth Godin on ... (paraphrasing) "work to create a life that is fun you don't need a week away from it." I love what I do and sometimes have some of the best ideas for clients, products, and content when I'm on vacation or "unplugged." I don't want to limit myself by not capturing the idea or writing a post.

Here's to "blend."

stephanhov
stephanhov

I went to the Bahamas a couple years ago, and was in the same situation you're going to be in (hotel wifi, run your own business, etc.). I opted to go to the lobby once a day and run through emails -- not respond, just check in for emergencies -- and it went really well. Didn't need social media for conversations (there were 13 of us...big family outing), and I'd argue that you don't either. Maybe, just to sift through the clutter when you get back, you can set up some advanced searches or filters to find when people were actually looking for you on social media while you were away, and then tend to those first.

And as for "those pre-laptop, pre-smart phone days when a vacation meant sipping on margaritas, swimming in the ocean, and reading a nice book? Technology (devices), email, and social media has changed all of that." You totally forgot kids...kids change all of that in a heartbeat!! :)

Have fun!

Aralai
Aralai

You can only gain the benefits of disconnecting if you are not stressing about what you are missing without technology. The problem today is that we are so addicted to being connected, we can't really relax and enjoy ourselves without it. It's not easy and unfortunately means the therapeutic value of a vacation is diminished.

amandamaks
amandamaks

@djwaldow I usually can't resist an occasional check in, only to reduce unread emails upon my return.

bpwright
bpwright

@djwaldow what's a vacation?

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@kristaparry This is why you are the best, Krista. As you know (http://connectsquared.com/), I'm ALSO a connector. It is who I am. It is what I do. You and I are very similar in that regard.

The decision is in! I'm taking your advice - "to hell what everyone else thinks" ... though I do appreciate the conversation and everyone's opinions. Ha!

Wasn't that @kathysacks quote the best? K and I were laughing about it. You know Kathy, right?

djwaldow
djwaldow

@joshanisfeld I may ... but maybe not. Hmmm

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

Thanks for that perspective, @kathysacks. Much appreciated. I'm leaning towards the "Occasional cleaning of emails every few days, or re-routing of stuff" as you said. 

And still laughing about your quote: "vacay hangover hot mess day back deluge of inbox overload". <--awesome.

Totally agree that nobody in marketing dies based on what we do or don't do. The struggle I have is that i LOVE being connected. Know what I mean?

djwaldow
djwaldow

@JimKukral Yeah. See I think I need something like that. ZERO temptations!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

Yes @NickWestergaard . Yes you have. See @stephanhov's comments below. Certainly leaning that way. I am probably going to bring my laptop so both K and I can "check-in" once a day. Triage as you say.

Also really appreciate the Krista reminder: "You have to do what works for you and to hell with everyone else. Or what they say." Very very true. And I will - I just truly and struggling with this and appreciate others' perspectives.

#blend

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@stephanhov This is the exact reply I needed, Stephan. THANK YOU. I'm leaning towards doing exactly what you said. However, I may "do" some social media just to document the trip.

And yeah, children DO change all of this. They are coming with us ... but so is our nanny!

Thanks for your comments. SUPER helpful.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@Aralai Good point about the addiction. I should have highlighted that more in the post. Tough dilema, huh? Bottom line - I THINK - is to do whatever will result in less stress. Agree?

djwaldow
djwaldow

@amandamaks that's what my wife mentioned in the post!

djwaldow
djwaldow

@bpwright Ha! So ... Where do you stand?

Lin_Dolin
Lin_Dolin

My boss is on vacation right now- haven't heard from him, sent him a couple of emails. This is his 2nd venture. Get off the grid. @djwaldow

Aralai
Aralai

@djwaldow @Aralai Actually I think we need to start taking breaks from being 'connected'. It's easy to say it's less stress checking email etc - sometimes the right thing to do - especially for our overall mental health is not easy. I'm seriously thinking of actually leaving my phone home this summer when I go away. 

amandamaks
amandamaks

@djwaldow She's a smart lady. :)

bpwright
bpwright

@djwaldow I'd check in with work to avoid coming back to a lot. I agree with @mitchjoel. I'm more blend than balance.

djwaldow
djwaldow

@Lin_Dolin Cool. Appreciate that advice. Now leaning 80/20 ... that way!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@stephanhov Ha! Good point! I remember a few years ago when I went to Mexico and left my phone in Utah. I had "phantom rings" for 2 days!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@Aralai Excellent point. As mentioned above, I keep reading more and more about how important it is for mental (and physical) health to be 100% disconnected. Not sure I'm "ready" for it yet, but certainly contemplating it. Maybe this vacation will be my test run...

Thanks for your comments. Really appreciate your thoughts.

stephanhov
stephanhov

@Aralai @djwaldow it's so liberating to travel sans-phone. The hardest part is actually getting used to the shift in your weight. Not that phones are heavy, but you're always conscious of having something in a particular pocket that's no longer there. Like leaving a piece of jewelry (watch, ring) that you usually wear home.

djwaldow
djwaldow

@amandamaks I married up!

djwaldow
djwaldow

@bpwright Yeah. I'm leaning towards the "blend" approach that @mitchjoel practices. Just not sure I'm *ready* yet. Ha!

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