As I write this I am in a small town in western Maine. This is a yearly tradition, a trip to the middle of nowhere to camp in a rustic cabin on the edge of a lake. The trip in question has several unique aspects, not the least of which being it is a week without electronics.
A week without electronics in the back country of Maine
That’s right, except for an hour or so every other day where I wrote this post on a laptop there our annual trip to Maine is a week without electronics. Nature largely enforces the rule since there is no cell phone reception and Wi-Fi is provided only by walking down the street to a small inn. For someone who spends his entire career and largely his life always connected this week marks a drastic case of slowing things down.
Final Major Trip of the Year
The origins of this trip for my little family originate long before my birth. My father in-law started coming to this lake almost 60 years ago, and when I married my wife I married into the tradition. This trip is, as outlined in my prior travel posts, our final trip of the year. A domestic trip to Maine, after all, is still a significant driving trip from Delaware with two young children.
A quick Travel Hacking Update
So, we left off last with us still needing to make up 268 dollars in credit card cost after the Amex Platinum. Since that time, I picked up a new credit card, the Marriott Rewards Preferred credit card. It provided 200 dollars in statement credit and 2 free nights in a Marriott of our choice up to Category 5. On top of that we had another 100 dollars or so in points from regular bonus’ on our traditional American Express Gold card. These brought our expenditure before our Maine trip to 0 dollars for vacations a year plus 2 free hotel nights to be used later. Not bad for a combination of Mexico and Martinique.
The cost of our Maine Trip
The cost of Maine however is largely nominal. Because it is a family trip of sorts we do not pay for lodging, this being provided instead by my in-laws. This leaves food and transportation to Maine. Our food bill was around our normal bill at home. So that essentially left gas and tolls to Maine as additive costs. This was about 100 dollars. These 100 dollars will be the only net cost of the trip. Entertainment was hiking, canoeing, kayaking, kids fishing, and swimming, all free activities. What this means is by the end of the year even without additional travel hacking we will have enough points to pay off this trip netting ourselves at 0 dollars cost for 3 weeks of vacations. Not bad.
So back to that Maine Trip: A week without Electronics
With the nitty gritty financial details out of the way, thus wrapping up my zero net cost vacation challenge, let’s talk about the topic of this post. I started out with highlighting that this trip means a week without electronics. I did that for a reason. On every other trip I do in a given year this is not the case. In fact, on almost every other day of the year I am connected 24 hours a day. On a normal day, I might do a bit of work in the evenings. I might read blogs, the news, or anything else online. But not in Maine.
Always on Electronics, there are costs.
Over the years I have more and more become tethered to communication and the internet. Even as someone who does not have a company phone (something I am still not sure how I’ve avoided) I still find myself tempted on vacation to turn on a laptop every few days and check into the home office. As someone who runs a blog and reads a lot of news I am also extremely tempted to surf the internet and read during vacation. But all that screen time is not always a good thing. The constant use of small electronics can cause strain from medical issues like Carpal Tunnel. It can also cause eye fatigue.
Electronics can skew your sense of time
What’s more it messes with your sense of time. If you are always connected, especially to high speed, you tend to expect instant communication and information. That instant on means you never take the time to slow down and just relax. For example, see that beautiful sunset over the lake. Now imagine if my phone blipped with the late breaking news about North Korea. Would I be tempted to read the news over enjoying the beautiful sunset while slowly sipping a beer. Enjoying the sunset is probably better for my health, it’s certainly less stressful and I have more control over it.
Less Connection Means a Slower Pace
This also means your day tends to move along at a slower speed. I do not get up from my sunset until the sun drops below the horizon rather than hurriedly clicking over to read something else on the subject. I have nowhere to be and no one who can reach me to have me be there. And sometimes you need that to keep your head on straight. You need that time away from your devices to be you rather then be your part of society.
I Must Force Myself to Disconnect
For me it takes being somewhere those devices largely will not work. Others may be able to extend more willpower. Whatever the case for you I recommend you take a few days a year where you completely unplug from the world around you and just enjoy what is in the here and now. Your health will thank you and it may just improve your productivity when you return to the blazing speed of the digital world after a brief respite.
Do you set aside a period of days without electronics? Do you notice improved disposition and less stress by occasionally doing so?