When I tell someone where I’m going next, statements follow such as, “How fun!” and “I wish I got a vacation!”. The trouble with these sentiments is maybe they don’t know how I have to travel, not necessarily how I want to travel. I arrive to a new place and immediately feel guilty if I waste a minute napping or hanging out in the hotel. I have to get busy sightseeing, tweeting or snapping photographs. I am forever mindful of the story I am there for, the one I need to keep afloat. Travel for me is not unplugged, leaving my home and work life behind. It is much more chaotic, hurried and stressful than any vacation. I want to be able to never say, “I have work to do” while exploring new lands.
Candice of Candice Does The World recently wrote about a trip to the Dominican Republic. She was on the island for a friend’s wedding. While trying to explain to the bride-to-be she would have to work a few hours in the morning, she was met with puzzlement. In the end, Candice shuts down her traveling work life just to enjoy being on a true vacation.
I envied her ability to let it all go, to write all the world and say do not disturb. I’m on vacation. I wish I could do that. There are certain limitations in making travel your job. While you get the chance to see amazing places and people, you aren’t always experiencing the place with open, non-tweeting or pinning arms.
A few summer’s ago, I was down in Puglia, Italy, the heel region of the country. In Alberobello, the homes are called trulli, ancient conical roofed structures with thick walls. I had rented a trullo for the night, only to find no Internet connection. When I hear the words, “no WiFi”, I become a crazy person, one I don’t want to be. I panicked. I had work to do. I rushed out to a cellphone store to buy a portable Internet stick. Little did I know, the signal would not emit from the thick stone walls of a trullo. And so, I spent my early evening not roaming this new Italian city but in the middle of a neighborhood street on my laptop, fervently typing away to meet some deadline. Locals stared at me, probably thinking this girl needs to be more Italian. I should have been living “la dolce vita”. Instead, I was living the sweet life of a work obsessed travel writer, one many think is just a life of vacations.
I can’t remember my last vacation, the last time I merely enjoyed a place without having to work at the same time. This isn’t my sob story, but rather I know one many of us, like Candice, are living. We bring our work and home lives with us in our suitcases. We spend time talking with friends and family back home when a whole new world is beyond the Skype screen. Travel doesn’t become an escape, but rather a continuation of life. While I don’t think travel should be all puppies and lollipops, I do believe it should be enjoyed at times without agenda, without worry and without any sort of email checking or cell phone monitoring.
I don’t know what it feels like anymore to truly go on a break, to have nothing but that place on your mind. I am always worried about deadlines and articles past due. In this age of social saturation, I think it’s all time we promise each other to truly take a vacation. I am going to challenge myself and resist procrastination. I always strive to get all of my work completed before going somewhere, but that never occurs. I want to change this pattern. I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to check a pinging email inbox. I want to let it all go and truly take a vacation.
On the next plane ride I take, I promise to be committed to my destination. Rather than romancing an Internet connection and my computer, I want the place to take me, sweep me off my feet and tell me to always go unplugged, at least on occasion, when I travel. We only have so much time to see the world.
Do you find it hard to unplug when you travel? When is the last time you truly took a vacation?