Two weeks ago, I left for a week-long vacation with the family to the Outer Banks. Before setting out on what should have been a six-hour car ride (which turned into a nine-and-a-half hour ordeal because of traffic and potty breaks for my two kids), I packed the car with what seemed like a majority of the contents of our house. Clothes, bikes, beach towels, beach toys, non-beach toys, chairs, games, food: we even invested in a rooftop carrier so we would be able to bring more things for our week-long trip.
The one thing that I did not pack on this trip, however, was my work iPhone.
A few months back, I wrote about camping and disconnecting from my work life. In the same vein, in the weeks leading up to my vacation, I began to seriously consider whether I should leave my iPhone at home during vacation. I still had my personal cell phone, which normally gathers dust on my night stand, but I would be without immediate access to information (both work and and from ESPN and CNN) as well as other guilty pleasures (Words with Friends, Facebook). I decided to take the plunge.
Here are a few qualifiers to my decision: first, my law firm is supportive of the idea of truly taking vacations without having to constantly check emails or work; second, we have a system in place that provides coverage for the attorney on vacation; three, I brought my laptop and iPad (for personal use, but I would be able to log on and work if necessary); and fourth, if needed, I was available via my antiquated 3G Samsung Shine (which barely takes a decent picture and is good only for making or receiving calls).
Day One was mainly a travel day for us (again, two kids and I-95 traffic makes for a lot of driving), so I barely noticed the absence of my digital leash, aside from the absence of my ability to text. On Sunday and Monday, however, I felt some pangs of withdrawal. Was something going on at the office that I should now about? Did Client X respond to my email from the previous week regarding discovery responses? Did an earthquake or wild fire ravage my office in Towson? I had to work on comforting myself with the fact that I had proper coverage at the office and, in the event of a fire at the office, I would certainly be on the list of people that would get an update.
By Tuesday and Wednesday, I enjoyed the fact that I was no longer attached. Instead of checking my work email and then checking the score of the game, constantly updating my Facebook status or playing Words with Friends, I put Legos together with my oldest son, fed the turtles at the pond with my youngest and learned to play Settlers of Catan (which is a pretty awesome game, though the instructions are in excess of 10 pages and I had to watch the informative video on the Internet). We rode bikes, swam at the pool and built sandcastles of differing shapes and variety.
In other words, my vacation was a vacation.
And when I returned home, my office was still standing and how I left it and, while I am sure I was missed by my office mates, everyone managed without me for a week. I spent Sunday evening sifting through emails and other filings that had come to the office while I was gone. On Monday, while I still wished I was sitting by the pool with a cold cocktail, I felt like I actually had gotten a vacation and I was able to get back to the grind.
And while my vacation now seems like a distant memory, I can still remember when work felt the same way. And it was nice.