Rhone glacier offline summer holidayI was invited to go on a summer holiday in Switzerland with a group of friends. Because the weather was good, we decided to go to a high altitude camping place with minimal facilities. That meant cold temperatures, no electricity, and the ‘2-minute showers’ were a 400 meter (uphill) walk from the tent. Did I say “summer holiday”?

While I can’t say I was looking forward to it exactly, I figured “never waste a good (first-world) crisis“, and at the last minute, I decided to turn the experience into an experiment and go completely offline for 10 days: no phone, no iPad mini, no laptop, no camera.

The only device I allowed myself was my Fitbit (I wanted the points for all the steps I was going to collect on all the adventures we had planned).

Now, I love my work. So going offline is not something I want or feel that I need to do. When you have a good work-life fusion, a vacation or getting away from it all just doesn’t seem appealing. But, I believe that in order to find balance, it’s good to swing between extremes.

I worked extra hard the week before the vacation, trying to pack in all the meetings and communications that I could. By the end of the week, I felt more frenzied than usual. On the first day my phone was off, I kept reaching for it in my pocket to find it wasn’t there. I also felt phantom vibrations, which was extra weird.

By day 3, I wasn’t missing my phone or the other devices at all. In fact, I found that going offline was less stressful than going on a work holiday. I didn’t have to worry about finding power outlets or having enough bandwidth or logistics of being in a place where I can get work done. I was simply enjoying preparing for adventures, walking, climbing, eating, and sleeping.

There are lots of useful things about having a connected device. It means being able to look up weather conditions, directions, GPS coordinates, tracking group finances, sharing photos with friends and family. But going without made me realize that I had way too much noise to signal.

I manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and G+ accounts for five clients and I had notifications going off all day. When I came back from the holiday, I turned off all the notifications, and I must admit, the difference is undeniably noticeable. It’s much easier to concentrate for large chunks of time without being constantly reminded that someone has tweeted or liked something on Facebook. I didn’t realize how much energy the constant interruptions were costing me – even when I didn’t respond to them.

So even though I love my work, going offline made me realize and reinforce:

  • Exercise and rest are vital
  • It’s good to play… especially outside
  • It’s important to minimize the distractions and the noise
  • Maybe it is good to separate work and play sometimes?
  • It’s good to go out of one’s comfort zone so that we can appreciate the little things (like long, hot showers!)
  • My boyfriend might actually be a mountain goat in disguise!

Have you tried going offline completely? What did you learn?