What I Learned Unplugging While on Vacation

12 Days Unplugged – My Summer Vacation Experiment Results

Reporting to you after 12 days of leaving email and business behind. Temptation and an old fear conquered.

In a quest for achieving work life balance while on vacation, I challenged myself to unplug from work for 12 days of vacation. I was on holiday visiting family and thought this was the perfect opportunity for mindfulness during the entire visit. Here’s the highlights of the experiment.


The morning of my flight, I was a bit twitchy when I saw or touched my phone. My hands were on auto-pilot fidgeting with the phone and wanting to check messages. Although I didn’t open any email or send any messages, I did notice that little red flashing light indicator. Beckoning me, I knowingly clicked on the mailbox icon and saw a few subject lines.

With the early AM flight, I took a deep breath and put the phone to sleep. I began to accept that I was unplugging, starting now!

The rest of the trip, I recognized that it was strange to not be connected. As the days passed, I stopped focusing on it. Out of sight, out of mind. I unplugged while on vacation. The mental break was rejuvenating, and it did make me think back to the days before having a cell phone to what vacations looked like for me circa 1997.

With all the extra free time, I was able to read American Colonies (one of those people’s version books about North American history) and enjoyed going to bed early. I watched TV too and spent quality time with my family.


The flight back home to Vancouver was another story. I knew that soon I would have multiple points of access to my email. With the time zones helping me to call it a day, I got home around 9-something PM and unpacked before heading to bed. Day 12 and the experiment is now complete.

When I woke up, I didn’t have my phone beside my bed. I didn’t rush to the computer. I felt kinda eerie thinking about was lurking in my inbox. Maybe there was a big emergency? Maybe my first day back would be full of firefighting. Even though I left my corporate life behind nearly two years ago, I had the sense that these things might actually happen. In my head, it’s that feeling of ‘Jessica! It’s a huge proposal that we have to bid on. No one else can lead it, and we put you in charge. It’s due in 2 days! Let us know what you need’ which I felt more times than I care to remember.

Of course, that was not the case.


The biggest lesson I learned was that my conditioning to sacrifice vacation time was a very real and present danger that wasn’t healthy nor respectful of what it means to take vacation in the first place.

I’ve faced this fear head-on with the experiment. Being on the other side of it, I’ve learned:

  • Not every re-entry back to work from time off means you’ll experience the CTU like Kiefer Sutherland on the TV show 24.
  • Imagined fears can hold you back. I feel reassured that this experiment gave me the evidence that your world doesn’t crumble or your brain turn to mush when you unplug while on vacation.
  • Schedule renewal time. Adding regular “me-time” to my calendar often helps me stay refreshed and balanced.

I’m hooked on unplugging, and I would do this again. Setting boundaries is a form of discipline to support yourself in giving you what you need. Although this idea isnt’ for everyone, it feels amazing and gave me the rest that I needed. You can’t ask for more than that from a vacation.

Do you have a fear (imagined or real) of what unplugging would be like? Do you avoid vacation because you’ll just have more work piled up when you get back? Maybe unplugging for a portion of your next holiday is an option? There’s no hard and fast rules to taking time off. If you’re still skeptical, I was in your shoes once and can assure you there is another way to work.

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If you liked this article, you’d also like Saying Yes to Your Greater Purpose.


For more upcoming events, webinars and training, visit Managing Mindspaces.

JESSICA MANCA is a certified coach, author, entrepreneur and former management consultant. Jessica founded Managing Mindspaces, a professional coaching firm, providing sensible career and life coaching services to professionals making life-changing decisions.

© Copyright 2014 Managing Mindspaces. All rights reserved.



One thought on “What I Learned Unplugging While on Vacation

  1. Reblogged this on Managing Mindspaces and commented:

    This month, I’ll be conducting a second annual unplug experiment. What would it look like to totally and completely unplug from email, work, social media and your devices? Turns out, the sky doesn’t fall and it only enhances the vacation time you’ve earned. So relax, sit back and unplug! I’ll post my lessons learned later this month. Happy vacation everyone!

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