Saturday, March 17, 2007



Lately there has been a lot of buzz about whether vacations are best spent unplugged from work or connected. Of course, it would not have occurred to me 40 years ago when I entered the work force that one could really work while on vacation. It simply wasn’t possible, so we didn’t.

But somehow it has come to be that I actually don’t want to take a vacation without taking my work along. Somehow that seems like a contradiction -- a vacation with work. But I am not by myself. More and more people are taking recreational travel with cell phones and laptops.

There are those who, probably with some wisdom, say that it isn’t really a vacation unless you can totally disconnect and that you really do need a week or even more to truly feel refreshed. That makes sense in principle, but…

What good is it to try to relax for a couple of weeks while simultaneously worrying about what opportunities you are missing out on? This isn’t about trusting or not trusting staff. I’d trust my life with my staff members, but they can’t do what they can’t access or don’t know about and they can’t read my mind (though we often work on – “how Pat thinks.”)

As they say on TV, “life comes at you fast.” Absolutely! Every day of my life I must filter through tons of information from all sorts of places – much of it email. A jewel of an opportunity is likely to be buried in my Spam box with unlikely bedfellows. And if it is lost, it is lost. Ditto for phone calls.

Our offices are now virtual, so there is not a lot of difference between my home office and a hotel room in Chicago or New Orleans or Hilton Head – provided there is good phone reception and a working Internet connection.

And there’s the rub --- not every hotel has good phone reception and some don’t even have an Internet connection. And the more remote the location, the more likely this is going to be case.

The last two trips I have taken I have had to have my room moved due to either bad phone reception or bad WIFI. These aren’t options. They are necessities.

But I think it is important when traveling on vacation, or even when traveling on business, to keep the work load in perspective. My rule is simple – when I am on vacation, I am in reactive mode. I respond to other people, but I don’t start anything unless it is a rainy day and I have nothing better to do. Realistically, this means that much of what I need to do daily can be done on my Treo cell phone, and that includes email. For a short trip, I sometimes only take my Treo. With just the laptop and no Treo, I can count on about an hour each morning and about an hour each evening being spent on email. With the Treo, I can get by with only about half hour spent each evening on the laptop because I can handle all the email traffic in bits and pieces here and there.

Is going on wired vacation as much fun as going on an wired vacation? Probably not, but there is more peace of mind knowing what really IS going on rather than imagining what COULD BE going on. And the good part is that when you get back you don’t have to spend a week digging out and making explaining you were away.

I honestly prefer shorter trips to long ones. I love a Thursday through Sunday or Monday vacation and the recovery period when home is brief if I have kept up while away. I have learned that I can enjoy 8 or 10 little mini-vacations (sometimes just an overnight in a close-by city with my husband) in a year and really never miss a beat. At my age I don’t think that is too bad!