Everyone loves to write about disconnecting while on vacation, and about whether it’s a good idea or a bad one. (Uh, yes, I do put myself in the category of loving to write about it.)

Anyway, my husband and I just got back from a week-long camping trip where we disconnected completely. I’d like to say it was for some profound moral or spiritual reason, but it was actually because we were camping in a park that had no cell signal and no Wi-Fi. Can you believe it? In 2013? And we didn’t leave the country. Heck, we didn’t even leave the state!

Disconnecting did not include leaving behind electronic devices. I had my Kindle and iPad. My husband had his iPad. We both had our phones, but turned them off as soon as we arrived and didn’t turn them back on until we left to drive back home.

I was surprised at how little I missed being connected. I did wish for Wikipedia a few times (doesn’t everyone wonder about angelic hierarchy while vacationing?) But other than that, I didn’t miss the Internet. I certainly didn’t miss email.

I did miss texting a couple of times. My husband had to make a Walmart run, and usually we text back and forth on those to make sure he doesn’t miss anything. And there were a few other times we were briefly separated when a quick text would have come in handy. We survived, obviously.

So was it a better, more relaxing vacation? Actually, I’m not sure it made much of a difference. Even when I have access to phone, email and the Internet, I do little to no work while on vacation. So it’s not like disconnecting made a difference there.

Email was the biggest impact. When I have signal, I process email a couple of times a day. I don’t read or answer; I just delete junk and schedule important emails to return to when I get back home. Turning on Wi-Fi on my iPad and seeing a three-digit badge on my email app wasn’t a happyifying event, but I managed.

So, I’m left with the same opinion as before: We choose how much technology rules our life. Not missing it while I was gone, I think, says more about choices I’ve made than the inherent “goodness” or “evilness” of technology. It’s a tool. Tech, including the Internet, makes my life easier and often more pleasant, but I don’t let it rule or take over my life.

I doubt I’m alone in that. What about you? Does losing your access make you twitchy … or is it relaxing?


  1. Juli, great post and as someone who has never owned a computer in his life, and currently has no land line or cellphone (for the past two years and I love it), I enjoyed your piece. You might want to see Matt Haber’s recent commentary at the NYT website titled “A trip to digital detox” in which he spent time at a summer camp called Camp Grounded. Google for link.

  2. Okay, Dan, I have to ask. What do you use instead of a computer? You read this piece on something. (Sudden vision of Dan as either an omniscient god or an amazingly cool android.)

    I’ll check out the story you mention. I enjoy reading about other people’s disconnects almost as much as I enjoy writing about them. :)

  3. Juli, i thought you’d never ask. Smile. Long story short: i have never owned a computer in my life and never will. It is not a protest, just my style. So how do i do all this writing and reading and posting and commenting online if i do not own a computer? Good question, and there is a good “how to disconnect story” here for someone to write. Since computers were invented, and while I was living in Alaska, and then Tokyo and now Taiwan, i have always “used” either for free or for rent (at internet cafes in Tokyo or Taiwan, which is how i am writing to you now at a local internet cafe in south Taiwan, 30 cents US money per hour to use the machine). I have enough money to buy a computer if i wanted, but i hate machines, in genereal, they tend to break down and crash, and then i might lose all my info and data and files, so i have always used hotmail at first and now gmail as my de facto home computer. I blog via blogspot, i cooment via facebook and twitter, and i write my articles at the email cafe. ONE REASON I DO THIS: since i love computers so much as a writing and reading tool, yes, i am afraid i would stay home all the time and never leave my house, addiction yes, if i owned a computer. SO at home no computer no phone, land or cellphone. just a TV for CNN news in English and local news in Chinese. WHen i “need” to read emails, i must go out and ride my bicycle about ten minutes to the local internet cafe, also do not own a car or a motorcyle, and this “distance” from the Net, keeps me sane. and happy. it has been my way of disconnecting on a daily basis, so i never feel a need to disconnect, it’s built into my lifestyle. More people should try this. Stress goes down. really. and i am online 24/7, about 3-4 hours a day, a bit in the morning, a bit at noon and final emails at evening time. In between i am 100 percent disconnected out of reach adn i love it. I can think.

  4. And you know that book by William Powers titled “Hamlet’s Blackberry” — if you read the acknowledgments, you will see Bill mentioned me by name as one of his ”technology thinkers” and an early booster of his book!

  5. @Dan, I recognized when I was being (kindly) baited. :)

    That is a good disconnect story. I’m afraid I’ve so embraced the digital lifestyle that I couldn’t pull it off. But I do like to control my tech, not have it be in control of me. I was listening to a presentation on HTML5, and why it won’t replace apps (because HTML5 “apps” don’t work when there’s no connection). The presenter said he got twitchy if he was disconnected for an hour. I never want to get that dependent.

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