The Case for Vacation


Most years in August I manage to get away for four or more days to a lake in western Maine. The lake was formed by a dam, which flooded the surrounding countryside in the 1940’s. There is a lot of driftwood around, and the lake is relatively shallow, making it unsuitable for power boats and jet skis. This means the lake is relatively quiet, and it is a favorable habitat for moose and loons.

The place I stay in has no electricity, and, being in the shadow of a substantial mountain range, it has no cell phone service, (for Verizon at least). Usually I arrive relatively fried, and yet even after a couple of days my head starts to clear. Before returning to the fray, I wanted to remind myself of some of the good things:

1. The ratio between time spent being active, and time spent in a chair is reversed compared to a normal workday. We spend the these days paddling, hiking, exploring, swimming, cooking, photography, walking, chopping wood, bicycling and picking blueberries.

2. Most of our idle time is spent in company. We sit around drinking beer, conversing, counting loons and mergansers, and watching the sun set. We spent a couple of hours watching a spectacular lightning storm where we were practically inside the storm.

3. As time is spent away from personal electronics I find I can think more clearly. When you are not responding to persistent external electrical stimuli, you can take notice of the natural world.

4. As the workday world begins to fall away, I find that I have the mental space to think of less trivial things.

5. In a different environment, you can cultivate and improve skills and competencies that you’ve neglected, or try something that you have never done before.

6. The Fallacy of Indispensability. After I get back, I’m reminded again that the world managed to get along just fine with out me…that my inbox isn’t exploding with important messages, that there is little or nothing that I need to deal with that can’t gracefully be dealt with even with several days delay.

7. What my inbox does show, however, is that I’m subscribed to dozens of useless eMail lists. My RSS feeder delivers fifty or sixty useless messages per day. I’ve got too many files on too many computers on too many servers.

8. Above all, what these days teach me is immediacy and focus. Or rather, they remind me again of how far we have strayed from our ability to give each other our undivided attention in our conversations, and in our work. Somehow, little by little, we have allowed all these electronic toys to erode our lives. Which means.. happily.. we should take more vacations. šŸ™‚

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