Monday, July 26, 2010

Electronics Free Vacation

It wasn't too long ago that going on vacation meant completely detaching from our everyday life. Yes, there was a time back before cell phones--though some may not be able to remember back that far--before computers and the internet, when people left town and, really, left it all behind. Now, it's difficult not to stay connected, no matter what part of the world you're visiting. Take my recent trip to Africa, for example. For the most part, we were pretty detached from the world and the daily occurrences in the news, unless it related to soccer. But for some reason no one liked being that distant, that cut off. Since we didn't have wireless in our villa, it became a mission to find some way to access email, the internet, anything. I was not as eager to find a way to connect back to life in Chicago, but even I had my smart phone that could access my email. But I made it a goal to keep my phone turned off, and only to turn it on in case of an emergency. The guys, however, were determined, and carted their laptops all through one of the local malls until they found a place that had wifi. Admittedly, I caved in and checked my email, and it was a good thing, too, since I would have missed a credit card payment had I not.

The bottom line is that more and more people are going on vacation and not really leaving their work at home. There is no such thing as "getting away" because you can always be found. Our society is over-connected, it seems, and no one wants to change that. I mean, look at the facts. We live on a planet of 2.5 billion cell phones. In America the Kaiser Family Foundation says that children spend nearly 8 hours a day looking at phones, computers, TVs and other interactive media. CareerBuilder says 25% of workers stay connected with the office during their holiday. And really, I think that number is probably larger, cause how many businesses can CareerBuilder really monitor.

But what if you really want to detach? To go on a trip where phones and computers are prohibited? To venture to a place where they've never heard of wifi? To truly achieve escapism? Is it even possible? What if there was a vacation company that created electronics-free getaways? Researchers at Mintel say that technology is not going to decline, but the forecast for downtime and disconnection is improving. Research has shown that taking short breaks away from media and technology can actually help students with their reading and arithmetic. Perhaps we all need to take some time away, truly let go of everything, head to a "zero coverage" zone, and just switch off. If we took the time to dig our toes in the sand, lay in the sun and not use our touch-screen-prone fingers except to sip a large cocktail, then perhaps there were be less chaos and craze in the world. Maybe if we switch off, our brains will actually light up.

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