If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because travel, post-COVID, is going to be WILD.
By Fiona Zublin
The little boat was speeding through Saint George’s Channel off the coast of Wales pre-COVID, and I was thinking about throwing my phone into the water. Our phones are miraculous, communicator and encyclopedia and map and camera in one, but they’re also leashes to our jobs. You may be on vacation, but you can still be Slacked, emailed … even, in an emergency, voice-called, the millennial’s nightmare.
Beyond that, is there anything quite as irksome as only seeing people’s foreheads since their eyes are drilling down into a phone? I’ll answer that for you: No.
“It might be a losing battle that we’re fighting,” said tour manager Chris Holden, “but this is a frequent request: Wi-Fi-free vacations.” That is, places where the world you’re vacationing from can’t at all get ahold of you in the world you’re vacationing to.
A study released last year of 2,598 employees who were able to do work remotely found that only 27 percent actually unplug from their job while on vacation.
In the end I didn’t throw my phone overboard, because of it being the only camera I had. But Mother Nature was watching out for me: The island where I was spending the weekend had no Wi-Fi and very little cell phone signal. So, once a day I would stand at the highest point I could find and very slowly send a single landscape Instagram with a caption like “goodbye forever everyone.”
See, if any of us are lucky enough to be able to go on vacation ever again, we’ll have to hone in on what the secret to the future vacations will be. First: You’ll have to find somewhere you can’t be reached — or at least, crucially, where you won’t have enough internet to do work.
Islands are a good place to start, but they can’t be the usual islands. Windswept crags are a better bet than beaches. The countryside is good: Airbnb lets you search for rooms that have Wi-Fi but not for rooms that don’t, so the pro tip is to start with tree houses and yurts and work your way back into civilization.
You could also seek out countries with internet choke points that slow or make Wi-Fi use pointless and frustrating. Places like Bhutan, the Central African Republic (with its beautiful Dzanga-Sangha Reserve), Chad, Lesotho, Malawi, Solomon Islands, Somalia and South Sudan. The following are also world famous for being difficult to get online: Bolivia, Egypt, Honduras, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Suriname and Uzbekistan.
These may not be your top vacation destinations but it’s something to consider. More beautiful places to vacation sans Wi-Fi would include American Samoa, rural parts of the Black Forest in southern Germany, the Grand Canyon, the Sahara, the Sequoia National Parks in California, Tristan da Cunha (the most remote inhabited island on Earth about 1,750 miles off the coast of South Africa) and Yakutat, Alaska.
But given that between 1996 and 2016, the average number of vacation days Americans use yearly fell from 21 to 16 — a full workweek of days lost — the issue is less “where to go” and more “how to be there when you’re there.” A study released last year of 2,598 employees who were able to do work remotely found that only 27 percent actually unplug from their job while on vacation.
According to Daniel Sieberg, author of The Digital Diet, in an interview on CNN: “If you respond to one [work] email, you’ve just opened the floodgates. It’s not giving you that clarity in your head that you’re seeking from a vacation — the reason you did it in the first place.”
And 62 percent of those who say they check in frequently with the office during vacations were also leaving vacation time unused: a reflection, perhaps, of the pressure to always be available for work even when you’re supposed to be decompressing. But it may be employee-driven too. Only 18 percent of employees in the survey said their offices are unsupportive of unplugging.
The good news is that once you do it, it’s easy. After all, you have no choice: Set your out-of-office email, trust everyone you work with to handle whatever comes up and leave your laptop at home (or bring it, but only use it to write your gritty half-finished novel about a cheerful ex-con out to clear his name).
A drive Sieberg supports. “Taking a real vacation from your digital life is one of the most restorative things you can do for yourself.”
And even if you can’t decamp to an island right now, you could always try a road trip. Slacking and driving is obviously a hazard, so you simply won’t be able to work while on the road.
Let us know how it went — but please, don’t bother us until Monday; we won’t answer.