When Was the Last Time You Unplugged?

  • September 14, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 42 Comments

I have a confession to make.

I’m taking a vacation for a week starting tomorrow, and I’m unplugging from the Internet for the whole week. No email, no web surfing, no tweeting.

That isn’t my confession though.

When I started planning this little vacation, I realized something. I haven’t taken more than a couple of days away from the Internet in oh, probably a decade or so (maybe since my first web-based email account in the late-90s).

Is that crazy?

Despite living in Mexico every winter, despite traveling through Europe for nearly two months this summer, I rarely unplug completely. I’m not saying I’m putting in 16 hours a day in paradise, but I always manage to put in at least a few hours behind the laptop screen, even when I’m “not working.”

So next week should be interesting. Friends are coming to visit us in Croatia and enjoying the vacation will be my 100% focus. My new assistant editor Caleb will be handling things while I’m away.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in having not unplugged completely for any extended period of time. I’ll reserve judgement about that fact because I want to hear from you.

When was the last time you unplugged for more than a day or two? What did you learn from it? Did you enjoy it? Do you wish you could do more of it?

And if you haven’t unplugged for a decade like me, how do you feel about that?

What does our always-on nature say about how we live today?

Please share in the comments.

I’ll let you know how my experiment went when I get back.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


Think Traffic is now The Sparkline. Click here to check it out.

Or View The Archives

Sarah Russell September 14, 2011 at 6:15 am

I took a four-day cabin camping trip with my husband in August and promised him that I wouldn’t bring the computer. I was even delighted to find that my cell phone’s data service worked intermittently (I wasn’t able to do a lot of work, but I also think I would have freaked out losing all contact for that long – baby steps, right?!)

It’s definitely something I’d like to do more regularly, but it’s tough – taking time away from the computer means emailing a ton of different people, working ahead of time on big projects and then rushing to catch up later. On the other hand, I did some incredible business brainstorming sitting alone on this beautiful river, so maybe I should make it more of a priority for the future :)

Kayla September 14, 2011 at 6:41 am

Something I need to work on – it is just too easy to spend an hour or so checking on things… I have a trip planned in October and I think I am going to seriously set a goal to unplug then. Thanks for the reminder.

Colin (aka Midlife Maverick) September 14, 2011 at 6:51 am

Hi Corbett, as you know I unplugged for a whole year with family. No TV, radio, phones, internet, and newspaper. Extreme – absolutely! Uplugging from the media matrix was amazing liberating and helped put things into perspective. Your readers might like Lesson #9 and the two valuable lessons I learned from media detoxing.

http://midlifemaverick.com/the-big-idea-that-changed-my-life-forever/

Chris Stott September 14, 2011 at 6:57 am

I’m unplugging for a week in Greece from next Friday and I can’t wait. I will also only be reading real fiction books. No eBooks or printed business books. I will have a simple mobile for emergencies only.

I need to let my mind recharge from years of information overload. I hope it will spark a fresh perspective

My last few trips I have taken my iPad with me so I’m always connected. Part of it is because I like being connected, though I am noticing more and more how much time I spend in front of a screen.

Look forward to your update on the experience and I will add my thoughts when I get back too.

Liz September 14, 2011 at 6:59 am

Yeahh! Now I don’t have to feel so guilty about being totally unplugged from social media while I travel. I’m hoping at some point you will share with us your travel tips on Croatia. ;)

Enjoy your trip and thanks for inspiring us all the time!

Cathy | Treatment Talk September 14, 2011 at 7:02 am

Hi Corbett,

I’m leaving tomorrow for a yoga retreat for just four days, and with that planning on taking a break from the computer. I have some writing to do, so I may do that, but will not check emails or the internet. There is a part of me already that worries that I’ll miss something, but that is not as important as taking a break once in awhile. It will all be waiting when I return.

Have fun with your friends from Croatia. So much to see and do in San Francisco – enjoy!

Shane September 14, 2011 at 8:18 am

You deserve it Corbett….and kudos. I am noticing this more as well. Also called a digital sabbatical and some do it for one month.

I think the most interesting part about it to me is that we see it as unplugging but not to long ago, it was just the norm to not have the phones, internet, etc.

I feel that it’s healthy to do this. But it’s a cycle, you will at first feel the need to plug in, then you will not think about it, then you will wonder what’s going on….

Would love to hear how it goes and which one you miss the most :)

Harley September 14, 2011 at 8:19 am

I’m not sure if it’s been a decade for me, but it’s definitely been a very long time. Interestingly, I’ll be in Denver for a few days as of tomorrow and was thinking of ‘unPlugging’ all except for a camera, and phone for emergencies.

Good luck and have fun :-) see you next week.

Jay Benfield September 14, 2011 at 8:27 am

I’ve spent much of my adult life suffering with workaholism. Somewhere along the way a thought was deeply lodged in my brainbox. That thought routinely whispered to me that if I wasn’t gawking at a screen and buried with projects, I wasn’t doing what needed to be done. I was driven to succeed and thought that success could only be achieved by working silly hours and never really being unplugged.

Through a series of life events a couple years ago (which would demand way too much verbosity to share), my perspective changed. My success criteria shifted and I realized that my efforts to advance life and business through a constant connection were not nearly as effective as I had led myself to believe. The most dangerous form of deception is self-deception, or so I’ve heard.

I found that setting some boundaries for my work and periodically putting down my Internet paraphernalia was a Good Thing. It’s really amazing how a few days of disconnection will change your perspective and ultimately make you more effective. Creating some distance between your over-stimulated brain and the problems that it is continuously crunching on yields better results. When I return from an actual vacation (worcations don’t count) I am more focused, creative, and enthusiastic.

My soon-to-be bride and I are honeymooning in the Caribbean next week for seven days. To say I’m looking forward to unplugging would be the understatement of the century.

I’m pretty sure the world can wait a week for our domination. I hope you enjoy your trip!

Tim Webster September 15, 2011 at 5:56 am

Self-deception is dangerous.. and powerful! My mind is pretty freaking good at convincing me of some BS that I would otherwise know to be false.

Motyar September 14, 2011 at 10:04 am

I wish I can, But it seems impossible for web professionals like me.
But I try to stay away from my laptop and internet on weekends.

Ryder September 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

When you start to shake and hyperventilate just slow down your breathing and jump into the Adriatic; everything will feel better.

Joseph Ratliff September 14, 2011 at 11:01 am

Corbett,

I unplugged earlier this year for about 3 weeks…at first it was tough — but I have to say that afterwards I achieved a clarity about my life that was exhilarating.

I will be doing it WAY more often.

It’s like I was so connected I became disconnected. And I’m sure there are other people who feel the same way.

Tiani September 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

I often “go offline” (an expression i literally use when that time is upon me). I may have a brief period of a few minutes where I have to adjust, but I find it doesn’t take long to get used to it and just relax. I may come back “online” to find I missed out on a few things that are insignificant at best. Have a great trip! I have always wanted to visit Croatia.

Stewart September 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Corbett, enjoy it!

Three years ago, I innocently booked a 14 day Caribbean cruise without giving any thought to how people would get in touch with me. As the sail date got closer, I began to realize there would be no Internet (without a pricey fee I was not willing to negotiate), nor would there be cell service (again with the fees!).

Completely unplanned, I came back having completely bleached my soul. My life was, literally, completely in a new perspective.

May you come back a changed man!

-Stu

Natalie Sisson September 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm

If anybody deserves it you do. I wrote about it here actually when I was struggling to do it last year and felt so good when I finally did http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-
disconnecting-makes-you-more-connected/

marianney September 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Haha, I was THINKING I unplugged the last 4 days while I was back home visiting family, etc. but even though I didn’t work and check much email, I was still on Facebook on my smartphone every day….sigh….
;)

I am getting married in Costa Rica in less than 2 weeks and will spend 2 weeks there. I hope to unplug while I’m there. Let’s see if i can do it!

Have fun on your vacation Corbett!

Benny September 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I probably haven’t unplugged for more than a day since I learned about the internet with a free AOL CD back in the day.

I need to find a good excuse to be totally unplugged. Being on Necker Island would be a good excuse.

Have fun on your trip! We’ll try and make sure Caleb doesn’t turn your blogs into a Michigan State football fan page.

Zeke September 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

If it wasn’t for college football and fantasy football I could get away every weekend. Those are the only 2 things I limit myself to over the weekends. Took a lot of discipline down a tough road.

Drew Meyers September 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Last time i truly unplugged was my Mount Kilimanjaro adventure in late 2010 – that was 6 days away from everything. It was amazing.

I’ve done a couple other 2-3 day stints recently, but a week plus is needed every once in awhile.

Tim Webster September 15, 2011 at 5:42 am

Kilimanjaro. Sounds awesome! I keep thinking of a 14 day hike to Bhutan during their dragon festival.. I saw one of those adventure vacations somewhere.. would be incredible.

Tim Webster September 15, 2011 at 5:40 am

Each year a friend and I head on ‘Mancation’ for about 5-8 days. We typically try to find locations that interest us but will have no cell service or Internet. Decompressing for a week or more is outstanding, and after a few days I do not miss my cell phone.

The shock occurs when I return to civilization and realize that I am really, really far behind on some projects. I could probably alleviate this with some prior planning, though. =)

JoAnna September 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

I recently wrote about this exact same topic. As the ability to live and work from anywhere becomes easier and more widespread, we’ve found it more difficult to step away from the technology because it’s always in our lives. I make a very conscious effort to take actual vacations and not just working trips at least a couple times a year, and when I do, technology isn’t invited.

Alexander H. September 15, 2011 at 10:17 am

Haha, that’s pretty crazy actually.

Totally unplugged? I’m not sure.

But what I do know is that that simple period of life is extremely enjoyable. I love “accidentally” not recharging my phone when it dies – leaving that for about a day of total quiet, and then charging it that night.

I don’t watch TV so that’s pretty easy to go without, but the internet would be a toughie.

Are you nervous at all?

Alex

Jay Piecha September 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Sounds awesome Corbett!

I haven’t *actually* unplugged for any amount of time in the past 10+ years except when my baby was born in 2007.

I stayed pretty occupied when I was in Vegas this year but I definitely was not “unplugged”. I was using my iPhone regularly, and had the Macbook in the hotel room. lol

I think I would have to actually go to a remote location where there was no signals. to be able to follow through

Benjamin Spall September 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm

It’s not been so long for me, only since March when I took to Barcelona a few days. Before that I’d unplugged during a week long Norwegian adventure in November, and a longer round-trip across continental Europe the previous spring.

To be honest, I think the only reason I was totally unplugged during these times was due to my fear of over-seas data charges. The next time I plan on going overseas (to the US, no less) should be for a longer period, so I’ll be packing the internet in a little tote-bag with me.

Assuming you’re reading this after you’ve returned, I hope you had a good trip! It feels amazing to unplug, does it not? :)

Sarah O September 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

It’s amazing how addicted I’ve become to being connected. But I had a chance to unplug just last weekend for about 3 1/2 days. I was at an herbal retreat at a remote hot springs resort. At first I was annoyed that no wireless service was available to guests (I knew my cell wouldn’t work, but had hoped to at least check email). But after half a day I realized what a gift this actually was! I actually had time to listen to my own thoughts for a change!

Now my challenge is to figure out ways to unplug even when all the connectivity is available. Still working on that one…

Alban Brice September 17, 2011 at 9:43 am

Frustrated when I get unplugged..cause this is not a desired event. I usually get unplugged by my internet provider due to techincal problems.

2 weeks ago, it lasts for 5 days. For the 1st 2 days, I was miserable and unable to post any article or reply to emails. This undesired event, unexpecteldy, allowed me to write a couple of great articles, decluttered my house, clean my bathroom, pay visit to friends and family and above all reflect on my life…just to a name a few.

I learned though this experience that Unplugging not only from the internet but also from mobile phones, TV, etc… is a great source of creativity.

I therefore plan to make it a monthly habit!

Tks Corbett for this insightful article!!!

Cara September 19, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I unplug fairly often, and it feels great. I’m always surprised at how little of any actual substance I miss by doing so. People often don’t even notice I’ve disappeared for a stretch, or if they do, it peaks their curiosity about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing…international woman of mystery! My mother threatens to have t-shirts made that demand to know, “Where in the world is Cara??”

Roughly once per year for the last 3 years I’ve attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat…no talking, no phones or internet, no writing or reading…for 10 days. The only chatter is in my own mind, and believe me, that’s more than enough to keep me busy! It’s chatter we rarely if ever notice, and it’s this unobserved chatter that’s running us like a trojan software program. I also live in Colorado and go camping on occasion for a few days at a time, usually solo. Whether or not I have cell phone reception, I turn my phone off and shamelessly claim that I do not! It was only the first time or two unplugging that was painful. After that, it became easier, and now I don’t even bat an eye. Of course, there’s the occasional subconscious picking up of the iPhone to check email without thinking, but I soon shake myself back to the present reality and give thanks to those heavenly gaps in tower coverage!

Technology can and should be a tool that works to improve our quality of life–REAL life–not to run us like robots. Easier said than done sometimes, but deeply rewarding when we can wrangle it into submission.

Enjoy the unplug and decompress, Corbett!

Ana | Web Traffic September 21, 2011 at 1:23 am

I don’t take much time away from my blog at all, but sometimes situations force us to do that. I hope you enjoyed your vacation, Corbett.

Mitch K. September 21, 2011 at 8:19 am

Corbett,

I have 30 days coming up in Nov. for a trip into the Philippines. The Islands are awesome, the people are real, warm and friendly, the enviroment much like Mexico in many areas.

Best of all, I have nothing to do but to continue to get in touch with the eight things you shared with me in the adventurous entrepreneur test. The power of prayer, but not just prayer alone, linked together with medatation is off the charts powerful. Medatation is key to this process as you have alluded to many times. Compliments to your blog!

Now to the reason for this post, I seek your consultation service, yet am unsure how to make contact with you?

Jeff - Digital Nomad Journey September 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

But if we unplugged, we couldn’t read your blog Corbett!

Unplugging is fantastic, and really helps you experience some of that creative energy you felt as a kid. The last time I unplugged was about a year ago. I went to an Ashram, and left my Iphone behind. For about 4 days I didn’t miss the Internet at all.

The level of refreshment and vitality I felt upon return was so amazing! I hadn’t felt like than in years. I think at minimum, doing a technology fast once a year is really crucial.

Carmo September 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

just got back from a week of doing just that. A week with no internet/email for the first time in 10 years. Felt really good!

Peter September 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I jokingly mentioned this challenge to a co-worker this afternoon. We talked about it, set rules, even toyed with the idea of making it a ’48 hour unplug’ starting this weekend but agreed 1-day of no-phone/text was long enough. He being a Director of IT, myself a Software Developer – both not exactly ‘technologically relaxed’. We agreed on the challenge, finished our meeting, and headed out to finish the day.

As I collected my things I glanced towards the doorway and saw him exit the conference room and slowly turn the corner, head down, and…phone in hand. He got about 15 feet down the hallway when I heard, in exclamation…

“DAMMIT!”

Just thought I’d share :)

Traveler Tim October 3, 2011 at 8:17 am

I do this at least once a year, anywhere from five days to a week and a half. Twice I’ve missed an opportunity that really mattered. Everything else could wait, and did.

Just because there are more ways to communicate now in real time doesn’t mean you need to. Especially when traveling, it’s so much more of a rich experience to live where you are instead of being willfully tethered to the people back home.

Denise October 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I never unplug. Minimum I check gmail on my iPhone. I probably should do this at some point, but right now is not a good time. Maybe during the holidays. I’ll be in California for Christmas with my family. That may be a good time to try.

Matthew Stibbe October 9, 2011 at 12:56 am

It’s a bit worrying isn’t it? How we get addicted to the constant stimulation of incoming emails and social media messages. I check my iPhone before I go to bed, when I wake up and practically every five minutes in between. I’m trying hard to get my time back (see: http://turbinehq.com/2011/who-stole-my-time/) and to learn to concentrate better (see: http://www.badlanguage.net/concentration-22-ways-to-stay-focused-on-writing) but it’s hard work!

Julio Peironcely October 10, 2011 at 12:27 am

Back in the 90s I used to go with my parents for a month to a beach apartment in Spain (note: I am form Barcelona). No Internet then, of course, and no TV, only books and eventually a newspaper. On 1992, the year of the Olympic Games in Barcelona, we decided to bring a little tv to follow the games. When the summer was over we said: never again!
What positive energy you accumulate when you are just enjoying the moment without distractions and perturbations of the outside world.

Michelle October 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Nope.

Not even going there. That’s waaay out of my zone at the moment.

If I could unplug and still be making money online (passive) then I think it might be different.

Oh hang on… I’m not making money even when I am online!

Maybe there IS something in that!?
:-)

Jakob Schenker March 7, 2013 at 5:53 am

I try to disconnect a few times a month – makes you appreciate internets power more! lets you focus on conversation, meals, the city and people around you. Helps refocus what you do on the internet and what you want to actually use it for. Use technology, don’t let it absorb you forever ! I try to show some of my disconnected environmental travels on my website blog: jakobschenker.com/blog – cheers, J

Jay Benfield October 3, 2011 at 11:09 am

Absolutely! (Sorry for the slow response, I was unplugged.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

Sites That Link to This Post