Last month, I powered down my iPhone and placed it in the glove box of my car. I was about to embark on the trip of a lifetime: a seven-day float on Idaho’s Middle Fork of The Salmon River, and I was leaving behind nearly all connections to the world beyond 13 friends in 5 whitewater rafts.
For the first time in my life, I was unplugging to focus on the lost art of vacationing. It goes without saying the Middle Fork is a bucket list trip. It is a 104-mile-long journey through the most pristine wilderness of the lower 48: the 2.5-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. My husband was fortunate to pull an impossible-to-get permit this year, and on August 6th, we launched a private weeklong whitewater rafting adventure.
To be clear, I have taken PTO before, but I haven’t done it without any way to respond to work emails, read the latest news or post my photos on social media. To be honest, I thought that I would miss the connections to the world beyond the wilderness. But I quickly discovered that it was not only personally restorative; it was professionally beneficial, too.
My week of digital detox vacationing taught me:
- Everything at work is going to be ok. When you leave a team that you trust and respect, there is little likelihood a career-ending disaster is going to occur while you are out-of-the-office. Hire the right people, prepare properly before leaving, take a deep breath, and let go.
- Entertainment does not need to be tied to technology. No email, no Internet connection, no social media, no texting, no online shopping, no time keeping, no calendar reminders, no YouTube surfing — just you, your tribe and Mother Nature. Entertainment can come from great conversation, good fishing and a herd of big horn sheep you spotted on the side of the river.
- Time with loved ones is more important than everything else. We live in a world that is fast-paced and reliant on all things digital. When you vacation off the grid, you have time to reflect on what REALLY matters in life. As marketers, we need to connect with our audience on an emotional level and there is no better reminder than spending quality time with your loved ones—quality time that is completely free from distraction.
- Creativity improves when you let your right brain take a break. As Forbes points out, taking vacation results in breakthroughs; the Journal of Organizational Behavior states that disconnecting increases productivity and boosts performance. According to another study, hiking in nature disconnected from all devices for four days led to a 50 percent spike in creativity. If taking vacation clearly improves work performance, when did it become a badge of honor to not take vacation?
- Digital detox is remarkably refreshing. Each night, I found myself drifting off to the sound of the river and not thinking about anything except what a great time I was having. Instead of worrying about my next deadline, I would giggle over a joke or story shared around the campfire. I woke up every morning feeling completely refreshed and energized.
No matter who you are, a designer at a Boise marketing agency or a construction foreman in San Francisco, you will benefit from taking a vacation unplugged. I contend that digital detox is not only important for you as an individual, it’s equally important for the people you work with and the partners and agencies you choose.
Seven days later, I turned on my phone and listened to a few hundred emails and text messages ding away. For a hot second, I actually considered living as a hermit in a cave. But then I smiled. I had just experienced one of the best weeks of my life and was looking forward to channeling this newfound energy into my work, my family and my friends. Oh, and a nice hot shower.