Live Free or Die

White Mountain River 1 by *ellensama
White Mountain River 1 by *ellensama

After spending a few days in the mountains of the neighboring state with the distinguished motto “Live Free or Die,” we are back to our daily routines. The mountains and the fresh air seem to have certain healing powers… well at least for the mind and the spirit. Spending time with the family was definitely a treat forcing me to count my blessings more than once during the trip. Upon our return, I found the usual giant stack of blog posts, hundreds of e-mails, news articles and the never-ending list of projects waiting for me. One step at a time, one task and project at a time, I’ll get these completed as usual. But why is vacation time so different from non-vacation time?

Ten years ago when we went on vacation, we’d somehow always manage to stay at a place that seemed nicer than our house. It seemed that bringing those amenities or that environment back home would bring the vacation feeling with it. I can confirm that is not the case. We have 26 acres of conservation land with trails in our back yard not unlike the mountains yet we go for walks in the woods maybe half dozen times per year. While my wife and children go to the beach a few times a week during the summer, I somehow end up there maybe once or twice a month. After building everything the way we wanted, we find little time to enjoy everything we have built.

Ten years ago, on the road to Hana I remember pulling over to use a payphone to check on the status of an important client project. Last week free wi-fi and the iPhone made it a challenge to restrain myself from carrying on with daily routines. Ten years ago in St. Thomas, I was reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography, printed book borrowed from our library. This time I was reading the same downloaded for free to the Kindle on the iPhone. Ten years ago we took pictures on regular film while past weekend we took pictures on digital film. Technology has improved so much in the past 10 years. However, somehow it has evolved toward giving us access to non-vacation activities while on vacation. One could say that bringing home digital pictures that we can browse at any time helps remind us of the vacation times during non-vacation times. Overall, I sense that technology has made our vacation and non-vacation times more hectic. This reminds me of the great state’s motto. Is there life these days free from constant interruption, full of serenity, peace, in a place that is relaxing and enjoyable?

I remember really struggling with stress a few years ago to the point I could not fall asleep at night. My wife would gently remind me of a really nice day on one of our trips and somehow those memories would magically transport me from the reality of the day to a time and place that was nothing but happiness. Perhaps the change of routine and scenery is what vacations are all about and by definition vacation time must be different from non-vacation time so we can understand the difference. Maybe vacations are the weekends of our years. Maybe they’re God’s way of lifting and holding onto the crosses we carry for a brief moment to help us rest a bit. Whatever the case may be, even a long weekend away is a good idea once in a while.

4 Comments

  1. ld, sounds like a great vacation. We spend a week every summer at Lake Winnipesaukee. It is beautiful up there.

    But it is getting harder and harder to stay away while on “vacation.” I have found that I always feel the most relaxed after a hike where I literally have no cell/internet connection for days at a time. To me one of the most relaxing feelings is having no clue what is going on in the world. I think it really helps me reconnect.

    Hope you and your family are feeling well rested.

  2. LD: Great post … Among the many negatives of ubiquitous technology is that clients (and markets) develop a 24/7/365 expectation. Because of this I’ve found vacations can be much more stressful than regular work… and a vacation without blackberry/wifi is the most stressful of all. (I have statistical proof that market volatility increases during my very occasional vacations!)

    For about 10 years I always slept with the FX-Alert under my pillow. One day I quit (cold turkey), and my P&L is no different but my sleep is better. I’ll write about this experience on my blog one day.

  3. The urgent always seems to win over the important! We (especially me) should continue, however, to try and get it right!
    We do seem to find joy in the smaller things now. A quick one day trip to see our grandson and grand-daughters. Looking at video and photos on facebook. Screaming at my hard of hearing mother over the phone to try and encourage her. The calls to my son in Alabama as I am on my way home from teaching college at night. Even the phone calls to our Armenian family in Boston.
    These I consider important!

  4. Sam – “… helps me reconnect…” I know exactly what you mean. We must first disconnect from the hectic, the routine, and connect with other non-critical parts of our lives. This process in my case also helps see work and life in different (and usually more positive) ways.

    Rocky – You said it perfectly about the changed expectations. While I’m a victim, I am also guilty of the raising my expectations of others empowered with the new technology.

    Mike – A good reminder about the urgent vs. the important. The volume we can individually process has increased with the recent advances with it bringing more of the urgent. Someone told me these were the result of conspiracies to keep us busy and out of the affairs of those in charge. While I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, they’re like jokes with each being based on tiny bit of truth.

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