By Phil Cooke, author of Jolt!: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing
For earlier generations, the word “vacation” meant getting away, changing surroundings, and breaking the routine. But today, our mobile devices may be obliterating those definitions. You see it at the hotel pool – with a teenager talking endlessly on the cell phone while she tans. You see it at Disneyland while the family enjoys a ride – dad’s standing in the shade checking his email. And you see it at the beachside bar in Hawaii – over there – the young executive with the tropical drink with the tiny umbrella sitting next to his open laptop.
The actual idea of completely getting away, losing contact, and being unplugged is becoming extinct for a generation that’s grown up digital. The question is – how does being in constant contact impact the benefit of a vacation? Sure we can wear a bathing suit or sit on the beach, but are we able to relax when we’re worried about an important email, feel the need to respond to an online report, or answer questions from the boss?
Indications are, we’re actually adapting to this 24/7 connection, although it may not be in the way we’d like. Remember multi-tasking? Back in the 90’s, we thought it was the answer to life itself. After all, why be content to do one thing when we can finish three at the same time? But recently we discovered the only thing multi-tasking does is to help us do a lot of things badly.
I think we’ll learn the same thing when it comes to staying connected on vacation.
Back in the P.D. (Pre-Digital) era, I cherished weekends. Being a writer and media producer, I avoided anything to do with writing or producing over the weekend. I spent time with the family, sleeping late, hiking, antique hunting, church, and more. I loved the break. And by Monday morning, I was eager to jump back into writing and producing, and I did it with a vengeance.
But since I crossed the digital divide, I’ve discovered it’s different. Over the weekend, I never quite leave my email or blog, and my mobile phone keeps me in touch with the office 24/7. Carrying a mobile device in my pocket means that I answer it anytime it rings or vibrates – much like an ankle bracelet the police use with someone on house arrest.
But I can’t help but believe that a “connected” vacation isn’t really a vacation at all. The concept of taking a holiday means that we clean out the cobwebs of worry, stress, and concern about work issues, so that we return to the office refreshed and ready to rock. But being constantly connected to the mothership slowly drains our ability to recharge. As a result, we eventually find that the value of the time off wasn’t really beneficial at all.
So this summer, take a real vacation. The kind of break that disconnects you from the routine, the demands, and the stress of work. Go with the intention of flushing your mind of the residue of obstacles, frustrations, and failures you’ve encountered over the last year.
As a creative professional, I need break. A complete break with my normal working life. Like the reset button on a computer, a real break changes everything and gives me a new perspective on life.
Think about it. Really get away. Put down the phone. Turn off the email. Discover the joy of being with friends and family. In the process, you might just re-discover your real purpose for living – and chances are, that purpose will have very little to do with a mobile device.
Phil Cooke is a media consultant and author of the new book “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing” (April 2011, Thomas Nelson). Find out more at philcooke.com .