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Leave Laptop Behind and Take a Real Vacation

Leave Laptop Behind and Take a Real Vacation

Opinion

by Ana Veciana-Suarez

By ANA VECIANA-SUAREZ

Have you seen that ad for wireless service? It touts our ability to keep in touch any place, any time.

“Get to work,” proclaims a voice, “before you go to work.”

Then the camera zooms in on a guy as he hunches over a wireless gizmo while riding public transportation.

I remembered the commercial as I was packing for vacation. I found myself in a quandary that has become far too common among a certain group of fools.

Should I pack the portable keyboard and the charger for my personal digital assistant? Maybe also stow away the notebook and the cellular? And if I did decide to tuck away my gadgets between my shorts and tank tops, would I be tempted to check my e-mails or phone my agent before walking the sand-swept sidewalks fronting the Mediterranean?

Before I knew it, before I had even boarded the plane, I had fast-forwarded to the frightening specter that would await me on my return: piles of mail, dozens of phone messages, countless more computer transactions to answer. I paused, toiletry bag in mid-air, and asked myself aloud: Was time away worth such punishment?

It’s a shame that such a question would even cross my mind. What I need what lots of people I know need is a guilt-free vacation. A REAL vacation, away from the 24/7 world, disconnected from our communications equipment, mind firmly set on fun and relaxation.

This means leaving behind the laptop and Palm Pilot. It also means short-circuiting those pangs of withdrawal, that feeling we get in the pit of our stomach when we think the office can function unperturbed without us.

According to a survey by online travel agency Expedia.com, U.S. workers leave an average of 1.8 days of paid vacation on the table. That translates into a $19.5 billion donation to our companies.

Reason: Most employees say they’re too busy to escape. Many more fear that being out of sight, even for a few days, could mean out of mind, and under the ax.

Yet, you don’t need a medical degree to figure out that vacations are good for you. We all know that, done right (sans the virtual office smuggled in our luggage), vacations offer breaks from stress and opportunities to reconnect with friends and family. Compared to the cost of prescriptions, that mountain getaway in the dog days of summer may be a cheap antidote to burnout.

Still, knowing all this, I recognize that separating from the daily grind is no easy matter. It has been two years since I last took a vacation that wasn’t sandwiched in between business calls and furious note-taking. And that was during a long weekend on a cruise ship, when I loudly vowed that I wouldn’t tune into the news or try ship-to-shore communications. My husband held me to that promise.

Thank goodness he did, because those three days were glorious. Danced into the wee hours. Did the limbo on deck. Awoke each morning without an agenda.

Then, a funny thing happened when I returned. Refreshed and invigorated, I actually appreciated the structure and deadlines of my job.

Ana Veciana-Suarez is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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