3 Lessons Learned From 6 Days Off The Grid

No Internet | Flickr | marcelograciolliI just returned from 6 days off the grid. Kristina, Kristina’s mom, Eva and I joined a few other couples in Cozumel. For those that know me, I love being connected. I love email, Twitter, Facebook, IM, text, phone, etc. I love people. So, 6 days without a cell phone, computer or connection to the internet made me a bit anxious.

However, I was committed to not spending my vacation tied to my cell phone or MacBook. I took all of the “necessary” steps including setting up my out of office alert. I normally just set one for work, but considering I send/receive work email from my personal gmail account too, I decided to create an auto-reply for both accounts. I sent an email to my family that included a link to the resort we were staying at. I also informed them that I would not have my phone or access to email. I tweeted that I would be off the grid and posted a similar message on my Facebook profile. I did one last check of email as we were boarding the flight to Mexico.

For the next 6 days, I was technology-free. I had no idea what time it was (my “watch” is my iPhone), nor did I really care! Speaking of my iPhone, something strange happened a few times while in Mexico. I could have sworn that my phone was vibrating in my pocket. I actually reached into my pocket to check my phone (which was off & locked in the room safe). Weird.

One the plane back from Mexico, I began to reflect on what it was like to be disconnected for 6 days. Normally, I would have pulled out my iPhone or MacBook and start blogging. Instead, I used the old fashioned pen & paper. Below are 3 lessons I learned from 6 days off the grid.

Lesson 1: Email Can Wait

I’m borderline addicted to email – see #2. My iPhone makes it (too) easy to constantly check for new messages. I admit that it’s a problem. First step to recovery, right? So you can imagine what it was like sans email for 6 days. Amazingly enough, I didn’t think about my inbox one time while I was gone. Okay, maybe a few times, but I immediately blocked it out.

I came back to over 800 emails – personal and Blue Sky Factory. This does not include threaded emails (conversations) or messages that bypass the inbox due to a filter. I spent a few hours plowing through my emails and deleted nearly 70% without even opening. Yikes, right? Nearly 3/4 of emails I received over a 6 day period were not even worthy of an open. Of the remaining 30%, none of them were mission critical; none were emails that could not wait until I was back.

Lesson Learned: Email can wait. As much as I love email (heck, it’s my job!), we survived before email and can live without it for a few days.

Lesson 2: Family Is #1

I know that this is an obvious one (see #6). However, spending 6 days with Kristina and Eva really made me realize (again) that family really is the most important thing in the world. More important than email. More important than work. More important than anything. By not constantly checking email or my cell phone, I was actually able to uninterrupted time with Kristina and Eva. I loved it.

Lesson Learned: More than anything, it reinforced what I know to be true. Family. Family. Family. Then everything else.

Lesson 3: Technology Kicks Ass, But…

…life continues without it. Yes. It’s true. As much as I love technology, love to be connected all the time, it was great to be disconnected. It was wonderful to not be staring at a computer screen or my iPhone screen. It was wonderful to hear the sound of the ocean, to see other people, to not have my fingers glued to a keyboard or my thumbs tapping away on my phone.

Some days I think we’ve gone a bit overboard with our reliance on technology – myself included. Can you imagine a world where you had to pull over and ask for directions as opposed to using Google Maps on your phone or some other GPS device? What about having to make plans to meet someone ahead of time instead of saying you’ll call/text when you get there? (Note: For those of you reading this now who are under 20 years old, that’s how we used to do things in the “old days.”)

While in Mexico, we had to ask for directions & use a map (paper version). We were forced to make plans ahead of time to meet at a certain location at a certain time. Guess what? It worked! We were successful without the use of 21st century technology. Cool, huh?

Lesson Learned: Our parents & grandparents all survived without these “new” technologies. We can too!

What About You?

Have you 100% unplugged on a recent vacation? Did you experience some of the pre-trip anxieties like I did? Any lessons learned upon your retun to the online/connected world? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: Flickr – marcelograciolli

DJ Waldow