Photo: Melanie BakerHow I spent my semi-unplugged late-spring vacation Melanie Baker June 23, 2016 Columns, Featured, M-Theory Years ago, in the days when Social Media Guru was an actual job title, I read an article posted by one of said gurus who had recently gone on vacation. This came to mind last week when I, too, was on vacation. In those days, the prevailing wisdom still was that to truly chill out and recharge when you took time off, you needed to entirely disconnect. Look ma, no devices. Note that we’re talking the days when BlackBerries still dominated the landscape, tablets weren’t a thing and laptops weighed more than a Chihuahua. Said guru threw down the gauntlet, however, and stated that he did NOT unplug during his vacation. Because it wouldn’t have helped him relax: it would have made him more stressed. I don’t recall the entire flow of his arguments, but much of the rest of the piece focused on why that was the case. He also qualified how he used his online time while on vacation, and reassured that he didn’t completely ignore his kids, etc. He got a fair bit of pushback for that piece and his stance. Though I suspect that those folks wouldn’t be so quick to wield their judgey pitchforks today. Of course, back then, remaining online out-of-country would have taken considerably more effort, and likely been crazy expensive. So you had to really want it. I dunno about you, but I started to maintain connectivity while on vacation as soon as I was able to. Doing so both enables me to prevent a lot of stress, and enhance my vacation experiences. The biggest potential issue – not working when I’m not working – isn’t and has never been a problem. Not least because my team would yell at me should they catch a glimpse of me during vacation. Your mileage may vary. But if your team/management/company won’t let people truly be absent, you have bigger company and cultural issues. These days it’s common among my friends to swap recommendations for mobile online access while abroad. As you likely know, not all countries are created equal in terms of cell and data coverage and pricing options. (Canada is, unfortunately, pretty dismal in that regard.) We have unlocked phones and collections of SIM cards for assorted countries we’ve been to. I’ve arranged service for certain places before I even got on the plane. Having online access means I can remain in touch with my co-workers (when travelling for work) or travel partner, use maps (I am woefully navigationally challenged), look up great places to eat (and make reservations), find out hours of operation for places we want to go, and ensure my Mom knows that I arrived safe and sound. These conveniences are worth a lot to me, and go a long way toward making my vacations better. I can also post pictures and whatnot on social accounts to let people know how things are going and try to share some adventure and beautiful places in the world. I have friends who will FaceTime with their kids if they’re travelling solo. Now, is any of that necessary? No. But it’s fun. Plus, let’s face it. Life kicks in again pretty quickly once you get home. It’s good to get at least some photos, etc. out there before you get busy and it’s weeks or months before you manage to go through your photos again or write up your adventures or assemble a scrapbook. I also tend to read a lot while on vacation. Back in the day, my travel companion and I would each have to bring a big, heavy stack of books in our suitcases. We’d each read ours, and then swap, which would pretty much cover our time away. If you ran out you could always pick something up at the airport. Now, my tablet has half a library on it, and weighs next to nothing. It can double as my phone and laptop, too, and can go anywhere with me in my purse or backpack. (I draw the line at rampant iPad photography, though.) Fellow bibliophiles will understand the need to never be caught without a book. And since I don’t sleep well while travelling, ebooks and mindless hours of movies are essential. To date I’ve never had to manage a real emergency while away (knock wood), but it’s reassuring to know I could. One time, in France, we managed a bus work-around when rail workers went on strike last-minute (not uncommon in France). Thanks, Internet access. We’ve also caught delayed train departures, flight time changes and other things that can screw up otherwise carefully planned logistics. Some people love serendipity and winging it while travelling. We are not generally those people. Certainly, there are still parts of the world where being offline while travelling is unavoidable. And that’s totally cool. So is just intentionally turning off everything until you’re back at it Monday morning, if that’s your thing. But overall I think that the idea that you have to be completely disconnected on vacation has gone the way of the floppy disk. And as I put my recording of a Costa Rican thunderstorm at dusk on repeat, I say “Pura vida!” to that. Photo: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where the author spent her recent vacation. M-Theory is an opinion column by Melanie Baker. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Communitech. Melle can be reached @melle or firstname.lastname@example.org.