I did something a little crazy two Tuesdays ago, which was board a plane without a laptop. That strange behavior–the last time it had happened might have been Christmas of 2010–was the result of something almost as out of character, my taking a vacation.
If you define that term as meaning a trip out of town that runs at least a week, which does not involve more than a tiny fraction of your usual workload and which is not listed on your taxes as a business expense, our last one had been a pre-parenthood jaunt in Montana in 2009.
The next summer saw entire weeks of time off, courtesy of our daughter’s birth–but that period lacked the essential vacation ingredient of sleeping in. In 2011 and 2012, we had some great long weekends, but nothing matching the traditional definition.
(Some of my work trips have had vacation-like qualities–SXSW absolutely comes to mind–but if you’re on e-mail and Twitter all the time, your laptop is in use every day and all of the expenses will wind up on your Schedule C, the obnoxious term “workcation” is unavoidable.)
This year, however, things finally lined up. Our tenth wedding anniversary was approaching; we could leave our kid with her parents then; we both had enough time freed up in our respective work schedules. I even committed to avoid booking any business meetings in the tech-friendly cities we visited–that’s Portland in the above shot–even though that could have easily converted my airfare into a Sched C line item and allowed me to sell a story or two from the road. But I still had to force myself to unplug from my usual online outlets.
I used to be a hard-liner about not checking any work-related communication on vacation. That got harder to do as the pace of tech journalism accelerated, but many of our vacation destinations still enforced some disconnection. (Have you ever tried checking your e-mail in the middle of Glacier National Park? Would you be excited about doing that from the shared computer in the lobby of a hotel in China?)
This time, however, I figured I couldn’t skip telling people about just-published posts I’d written in advance (the last ones filed at around 3 a.m. the morning of our flight out of D.C.) or answering tweets mentioning me. And not checking my work e-mail at all also seemed like a freelance foul. It didn’t help that major tech-news events happened while I was out: Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference and the revelation of massive phone and online surveillance by the National Security Agency. But even so, I found myself checking Twitter less and less after the first few days, to the point that I spent at least 48 hours without tweeting anything, and I felt zero guilt about letting unread e-mails and RSS items pile up.
There’s probably something to be learned from that experience. And yet: Here I am typing this on a Saturday evening.