The Joy of Disconnection: Three Lessons From a Laptop-Free Vacation

I can't believe the kids are back in school. It seems like they just started summer break, but this morning I hugged the four of them goodbye and watched them walk or ride the bus to school. The time goes so fast. It might sound cliché but it's 1000% true (otherwise, it wouldn't be a cliché, right?) that you blink and your kids have grown up. It made me stop to catch my breath. isaac sandWe took a family vacation last week which was awesome. We didn't do anything crazy or super fancy, but we were together, which of course is what matters most. And it marked the first time that all seven of us (me, the fiancé, and all five kids) went on a family vacation. So, yes, it was a big deal. We had a lot of beach time, family dinners at the table, go karts and bowling... we just spent time together and the future Mr. and I just soaked it all in.

My usual routine when traveling or going on vacation is to pack the electronics, a notebook or two and of course the laptop so I can be reached if anyone needs me. I generally peek into email a couple times to make sure there are no fires happening and no one is dying to get a hold of me. Historically, I tend to work while on vacation which can be great for productivity, but not so great for that whole "recharging" thing.

But this past week was different. I was still connected in that I had my phone with me everywhere (hey, I had to get pictures, ok?) and I checked in on Facebook and Twitter every once in a while. But, do you want to hear something C-R-A-Z-Y?

I didn't even crack my laptop. Not once. The entire week.

I would assume that this would have caused some twitching and convulsing and other withdrawal symptoms to appear. But it didn't. In fact, I didn't even realize that I hadn't opened my laptop until the day before we were set to leave and head home. That's incredible and if you know me even a little, you know just how incredible that is.

So looking back, I can see that were a couple of things that I learned during this no laptop vacation:

  1. I enjoyed the silence. This is big for me. It is not easy for me to just sit and be. This is easily the thing I have been working the most on in my own personal development for the past couple of years. But I loved the lack of sounds, alerts and electronic white noise that is such a constant in my every day life. I just soaked in the silence. And I've been craving it big time ever since we got back.
  2. I am getting better at being present. Meditation and mindfulness have been such a godsend for me. With both of these tools at my disposal, I'm building a better life through self-awareness, brick by ever loving brick. And the more I practice them, the stronger they get. I am nowhere near being a zen master (and honestly, I have no aspirations of becoming one; I just want a better handle on my own personal sanity) but I can feel the progress in my every day life.
  3. I'm noticing the distractions more. I'm not saying that I'm getting distracted more often, just that I'm noticing more when it happens. How often do you pop onto your phone to do something like check the time, but then you start to clear out those annoying red alerts (disclosure: I'm a bit OCD in the way I try and tackle them all and get rid of them), then end up spending about 30 minutes on your phone and you don't even realize it? It's just such a part of life now that it's a major habit for a lot of people. This past week, I could tell when my phone was getting in the way. In fact there was one point where I actually began to laugh because I realized that I was surfing through Instagram rather than enjoying the beach right in front of me. Needless to say, I put the phone away and let the kids bury me in the sand (a total first, by the way).

I'm sure I can glean several more lessons from last week's unintentional experiment, but these three are really sticking with me. And while I'm not advocating a full digital detox (although I would love to hear from you all that have done it and what your experience was like), taking those brief sabbaticals to refocus on life happening in front of you can be very eye opening. I love the line from John Mayer's song "3x5" that says

"Didn't have a camera by my side this time / Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes."

Every week I try to have one offline day where I don't hit the laptop and the only time I go on the iPad is to read on the Kindle. What about you? Will you take some time this week to disconnect for a while and learn something about yourself? What will you do? Share it with us below.