Last night my husband and I returned from a five day vacation in Las Vegas. It was lovely. We typically head to Vegas with a pretty good plan for where we’ll have dinner, what shows we’ll see, and so on. This time, however, we went with only one objective: to relax.
We realized a couple of weeks ago that we haven’t been on a vacation in three years. We were shocked, but had a better understanding as to why we felt we needed this one so badly. It’s been a busy few years! We desperately needed time to decompress, to relax, to do nothing, and to have no responsibilities.
We had an early flight last Wednesday, landed and rented a car, and took a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We made stops for lunch at a mom-n-pop cafe in the middle of the desert, and to ride horses in the mountains, and I took pictures that I’d surely post to Instagram or Facebook when we got back into Vegas. That evening we had a nice dinner and followed it up with a cigar and a glass of wine. I posted a picture of us at the cigar bar on Instagram, assuming it would be the first of many, and then as the evening progressed I noticed something. My husband wasn’t on his phone at all. When I asked about it he said that he’d had it off almost all day.
Wait just one second. Off? Who turns their phone off? My husband certainly doesn’t. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d turned mine off. Silent maybe, but not off. As we made our way back to the hotel I thought about it and made a decision. We really needed this vacation. Taking pictures, posting them online, and checking my phone for likes and comments? Or seeing emails as they came in, one after another, about the multiple projects I have going at work? Or texting friends with updates on Vegas? None of those things would enhance my vacation, allow me to relax, or make the time with my husband special.
I turned it to silent. Silent without being on vibrate mode. We both did. And do you know what happened? As the hours passed our phones became less important. Thoughts of home and work began to evaporate. We both have big responsibilities in our jobs, so it wasn’t feasible for us to ignore the phones altogether, but when you look at it much less frequently (or…gasp…leave the phone in the hotel room for a few hours) you’re better able to discern what actually needs attention now versus what can really wait a few days.
After just one day we were so much more present and so much less concerned with what everyone else was doing. It brought me back to vacations I took with my family when I was a kid. I’d talk to my girlfriends before I left and then there would be no contact for the duration of the trip. In retrospect, that was okay. Back in the day vacation actually did mean getting away from everything. For us, on this particular vacation, we desperately needed that. Making conscious decisions to give the phones a rest was the only way for us to successfully withdraw and regroup.
We slept in. We took naps. We sat by the pool for hours and read books. We met people from all over the world and shared fabulous conversations with them. We shopped. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. Only a couple of times in our five days away did work interrupt our otherwise outside world-free vacation. It was truly wonderful.
Last last night as we drove home from the airport my husband asked me what was wrong. I told him that I always get a little sad when I return home from a vacation. As I’ve thought about it today, I’ve realized just how nice it was to be unplugged. I love keeping up with people I adore on Facebook at Instagram. It’s great. Yet, there’s a part of me that hates this need we all feel to prove how awesome our lives are. Look at me I’m on vacation! Look at me I’m riding horses! Look at me I’m doing fabulous things! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! There’s something to be said for actually living awesome lives without feeling the need to prove it all the time. I’ve spent the past several years documenting nearly everything on Facebook. I’m starting to think it may be hindering my ability to actually enjoy all of the great things we have in our lives.
Today, we took the little girls to the pool. We needed just a little more pool time (I’ve decided I could sit by the pool every single day and never get tired of it). It was beautiful. Sunny, breezy, warm, and the kids were all screaming with glee. Most of the adults around us were on their phones almost the entire time we were there. I sat facing the sun, reading a book, and easing myself back into work by responding to emails as they came in. I now feel ready to get back to the office tomorrow morning and get to work.
I know myself well enough to know that I’ll still be posting pictures of the little girls as they accomplish wonderful things. Or funny anecdotes as they come to me. And probably pictures of my upcoming high school reunion (because…obviously). But I really do want to spend a whole lot more time looking at my handsome husband, or my little girls, or my favorite dog Sullivan than at all of the apps that live in my phone. Nobody is going to stand up at my funeral and say “from what I could tell on social media, Carrie had a damn good life.” It might just be time to do a little more living and a little less proving that I’m living.