The Data is In: You Must Unplug

I’ve worked in the tech industry my whole career, so it’s safe to say that I’ve been immersed in gadgets and devices since the 1980s.  PDAs, anyone…? Yup, I had one.  The Apple Macintosh shaped like a grocery bag?  I loved that thing.  I have never been the first one to buy the latest gadget, but I am usually not far behind.

At the same time, I had the good fortune of being raised by parents who took us on some pretty low-tech vacations: hiking the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, canoeing in Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park, and camping throughout the Western United States.  And of course, there was the cabin on South Twin Lake, where we gladly lived without a television for one week every summer.

Dave and I now own that very same cabin.  And from the moment we started envisioning it as a vacation rental, we knew it would be a screen-free zone.  To be sure, we were so busy paying for a new well and a leak-free roof that we couldn’t even think about what it would take to wire the place for internet and TV.   But as we worked on the cabin, hauling out musty furniture and rebuilding walls, we came to love the unplugged aspect.  You don’t realize how many times you check your phone in a given day until your phone says, “No Service” for days on end.

For me especially, a person who spends most of her work day talking and typing, planning and networking, an unplugged vacation is magical.  My mind is free to wander without the pings and tones of the many alerts from my apps.  Most of my unplugged vacations have involved a lot of hard, manual labor, and I find myself delighted to be able to physically see the results of my work at the end of each day.  That doesn’t always happen in my office job.

My experience maps nicely to a Harvard Business Review article about vacations.  In The Data Driven Case for Vacation, researchers have found that people are more productive and professionally successful when they take all their earned vacation every year.  All of it. The article says, “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.”

And furthermore, the kind of a vacation matters.  The study found that, “… if you plan ahead, create social connections on the trip, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94% of vacations have a good ROI in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work.”

Breaking that down, it’s important to get away from “it all,” whatever that means for each person or family.  There is plenty of other research to suggest that the best social connections are made in person, without the assistance of social media.  Score one for the screen-free zone.

And you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to “go far from your work.”  A quiet cottage at the end of a dirt road in northern Minnesota might be just a few hours from home, but psychologically, it’s very far from work.  Score two for the screen-free zone.

Feeling safe is a consideration that people on South Twin seldom think about, because they seldom have to.  Neighbors look out for each other without getting in the way. Even the critters prefer to keep a healthy distance from the humans.  Hat trick for the screen-free zone.


Amy Anderson