Sunday, January 3rd, 2010...1:18 pm

Get Off The Digital Grid

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I was fortunate to be able to get some time off over the holidays and checked out Costa Rica for ten days. It’s an awesome country and with some decent planning and a little luck, the vacation unfolded perfectly. The beaches, waterfalls, weather and Imperial beer were all pura vida. But one of the things I found myself appreciating the most was the break from my digital connectedness.

Besides a few random days off I didn’t take much time off in 2009. When I did, I was still attached to my laptop or blackberry. In fact, I just copped a netbook a few weeks ago to alleviate the stress of travelling without my computer – the tribulations of being a geek.

The first bit of luck came when my blackberry didn’t work in Costa Rica. I even gave it a half-hearted effort to call T-Mobile to try and fix it but to no avail. Without me checking my phone, email, twiter, etc. every 20 seconds, I learned that stuff happening within my line of sight is kind of interesting also! I have this vicious habit of checking my phone the instant I wake up in the morning, even before I am fully conscious. It’s a crappy and stressful way to start a day. Sometimes I even fall back asleep after I check my email and then I’m not sure if my overdue cable bill is reality or a figment of my theta state. Anyway, I digress.

A limited functioning blackberry is actually a triple whammy as my BBM and twitter were also down, and without a pressing need to carry around my phone I also lost my source for tracking time. I assured my friends that I could determine time from looking at the sun and that would be correct within a margin of error of +/- 90 minutes. Some might say that is about the same margin of time in which I operate even with a clock.

Interestingly, all the places where we stayed (and some were quite remote) had wi-fi. This is one of the biggest tech advancements in traveling over the last few years (GPS being the other MAJOR improvement). I used to have to seek out a business center or internet café, but now the internet comes to me. This was actually quite comforting as I knew that I could go online whenever I needed too. I was pretty good about checking email only once per day and was also able to use the connection to Skype home every few days to let my parents know I was still alive.

Finally, between the four of us we had no functioning digital camera. We did buy an underwater disposable camera but couldn’t figure out if it worked and felt kind of lame carrying it around. I’m not a big picture taker or picture poser so not having to stop and freeze mid-peak added to the relaxation.

It took a few days to unwind but eventually I realized I was disconnected. It felt fresh. Without digital distractions, I was left to live the life that was unfolding in front of me or in my mind! When that consists of rafting, surfing, fishing, reading and amazing beaches…well, that’s a recipe for happiness.

Without killing time bouncing around esoteric blogs and analyzing Division II box scores on the web, I was even able to polish off a few excellent books including The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson, A Farewell to Arms and How Soccer Explains The World.

But even more interesting, was the sheer amount of focused thinking, reflection and introspection I was able to accomplish. An uncluttered mind leads to a new perspective that is often refreshingly clear. I realized that some things that were frustrating or nagging were causing an unnecessary amount of stress in my life. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish in the near future and the far future in much more simpler terms. It felt great.

I hope that all of my future vacations will allow me to digitally disconnect. I also want to figure out how I can do that in smaller pockets of time. It feels great and when I reconnect there is a lot less static.

I hope you had a great holiday season and a festive New Year. I wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year in 2010. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, I highly recommend you take some time to get off the digital grid.