You spent weeks pouring over Pinterest boards of exotic vacation spots trying to decide where to spend your much deserved time off. Booked your tickets ahead of time to get the best deal and informed your boss about your plans. You arrive at your destination and it is even more awe inspiring than the pictures would have you believe and just as you are set to enjoy one of those cocktails with the little umbrellas in it, your phone buzzes with a notification for a newly arrived email, temporarily bursting your relaxation bubble. Sound familiar?
This very thing happened to me a few weeks ago leading to a mini breakdown. I was in such need of a mental break that a single email nearly derailed my carefully planned efforts to truly unwind. Many deep breaths later, I was able to salvage my vacation and finally start to relax. While the work email episode of 2017 didn’t ruin my trip, it did make it much harder to ease into the relaxation vibe I was truly hoping for. I am not alone. More than half of workers report checking email while on vacation. Even those of us that gleefully set up the email auto responder ahead of time can still be subject to guilt over not checking in.
Unless you’re planning on spending your entire trip in airplane mode, it can be hard to stop receiving notifications. And it’s not just email. Your online social life doesn’t just hit pause when you’re on vacation. In fact, I have noticed with my own family and friends that going on vacation seems to increase the frequency of posts on Facebook, as you want to share snaps of pristine white sand beaches or fabulous cocktails with gorgeous sunsets in the background. Why pour over someone else’s trip board when you can create your own is an understandable temptation but the reality is that all those little moments of sharing to social media while on vacation actually move you further and further away from the true goal of complete and utter relaxation with a fair number of people reporting feeling stress while on vacation. Ideally once you arrived at your destination you would be able to just completely disconnect but that may not be entirely realistic since our phones and laptops serve as a lifeline for just about everything, whether looking up reviews for a restaurant or booking a horse riding expedition. Technology is likely not going anywhere during your vacation but there are still ways that you can get the most of your well-deserved time off.
One of the first things I now do when I go on vacation is switch off all my phone notifications once I check into the hotel. After my email checking fiasco, I went as far as hiding the icons for email and social media in another folder on my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to take even a quick peek. This way I had to make a very conscious choice to wade through various screens at which point I would hopefully realize the error of my ways and get back to laying by the pool. I also enlisted my husband to get directions on the phone or check in with our dog sitter back home so that I could truly unwind.
Another game changer has been to buy an actual camera to take pictures while on a trip. I had become so reliant on my phone for this and then of course the natural segue becomes to share a picture or two with friends back home. Leaving this up to willpower just doesn’t seem like the best idea, so choosing to take pictures the old fashioned way really can contribute to a positive mental state while on vacation. What’s the difference of a few days in sharing pictures anyway?
I also made a conscious decision to leave the laptop at home. I can’t think of a single vacation where I didn’t lug my laptop around, even if it mostly sat unopened (thankfully) during most of the trips; yet as someone who is constantly on the computer for work, it still served as a strong visual reminder of what I was potentially missing back in the office. Over 4 in 10 Americans report feeling guilty about relaxing while on vacation and having a laptop just staring at you from the corner of the hotel room can make it that much harder to completely unwind. If I need to do something more heavy duty than can be done on my phone while I on vacation, I now first ask myself whether it can wait (the answer is usually yes) and if it absolutely cannot, I use the business center at the hotel to take care of whatever requires my attention.
Finally, one surprising thing that you can do to really unplug while away which actually requires a bit more screen time upfront is to plan as many of your outings as possible ahead of time. It might seem counter intuitive but this has really made a huge difference. I am all for spontaneity (and plenty of downtime) when traveling but a lot of the time not having concrete plans can lead to boredom and that’s when I’m most likely to reach for my phone as time filler. If instead you plan your vacation days with out of the ordinary adventures you will be less tempted to check your phone because you will be deeply engrossed in those activities. Even if the day calls for mostly lounging by the pool, I will repeat a little mantra before I leave the room that I am going to relax and deserve to relax. I also bring everything I find relaxing like a good novel or my journal to capture stray thoughts about my vacation.
It might not be entirely realistic to ditch technology during a vacation but with the right mindset and a few of these tips it is possible to maintain a peace and serenity that would not otherwise take place with constant pings and buzzing from a phone. Happy guilt-free vacationing!