I’m headed on one of those vacations that you plan years in advance, but never think is really going to happen. You do the research and you pay your deposits. You even ask others to join you. But it doesn’t seem like we’ll really go. But lo and behold, my long-awaited vacation is here.
For quite a while, I’ve been toying with the idea of not checking email on this trip. I’m naturally conscientious and diligent, so for me, not staying in touch with my email is like outright rebellion! But it’s not without precedent.
About six years ago, I was on vacation in Europe with Joe and another couple. I was working at a bank in Southern California and, as you can imagine, was quite committed to my clients. We checked into our gorgeous hotel near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It had been completely re-built after being bombed to rubble in World War II. It was stately and historic. In fact, the U.N. Secretary General was staying on our floor while we were there. He nodded at us as we rode down the elevator together, along with his entourage. History was being made in our midst!
Joe and I found the business center after a day or so and I began checking and responding to my work email. My boss, God bless her, answered right away to one I sent with a curt message. “What are you doing? Stop it.”
I was initially taken aback and my feelings were a little hurt. I hate to be scolded and was only trying to do the right thing. But she had what was best for me and for our entire department in mind. I think she didn’t want me to set a precedent for my peers or for her, that we should all be checking our email all the time, even when on vacation. She wanted me to have a real break.
Because I’m a rule-follower, I stopped looking at my work email and it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. We toured the Baltic, went to Russia and saw interesting museums and wandered down unknown streets. We saw plenty of examples of, as our guide put it, “Soviet style architecture.” (Translation: ugly buildings.) We dined at curious restaurants and ate food with foreign names. Thanks to my boss’s direction, my mind was far away from my work.
Now I don’t have a boss. I am my own boss. I probably haven’t chosen to take a break from my email since that last vacation. When this trip was months away, I was going to take an absolute and complete break from email. Now that the trip is upon me, I’m not so sure.
I’m wonderfully involved with three distinct projects and because I will not have any cell phone service, I feel uneasy being completely out of touch for two weeks. Maybe there is a middle way.
Maybe I can check it a couple of times/week, for a limited time. I can make an effort to not respond to emails that aren’t urgent. I have an “out of office” message on my email. I also have a consultant that is backing me up for any urgent inquiries. Let’s face it, not that much truly changes on most projects over the course of a couple of weeks.
I am packed. My schedule is clear. The dog is at the kennel. I have several great books I’m dying to read. I will be with fun friends and dear family. And hey, I’m my own boss! If I find myself becoming engrossed in my email, I can always send myself a message that says, “What are you doing? Stop it.”