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

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