The joys of unplugging

Commentator Jen Miller looks forward to taking a real, e-mail free vacation by the lake this summer.

Tess Vigeland: It's August already, summer is over. OK, not quite, but it feels like it. If you've been able to take a vacation, I hope it was a real one, devoid of e-mails and texts and maybe even Facebook. Commentator Jen Miller has learned her lesson.


Jen Miller: When I became self employed in 2005, I considered my job a 24/7 operation. I worked from seven to seven, and answered e-mails until much later. Weekends off? For slackers. I didn't put up the out-of-office message, because I was never out of the office.

I know this isn't just me. Last year, Americans left 226 million unused vacation days on the table. Is this good for us? Would my business be hobbled if put up an out-of-office message -- and stuck to it?

Last summer, my boyfriend dragged me to his family's annual retreat at a place called Woodchuck, a collection of cabins on a small lake in New York state. There's no electricity and no cell phone reception. No way to check e-mail. I put up the out-of-office message and waited for anxiety to strike.

Guess what happened? Nothing. Nothing except eating pancakes and bacon cooked over a wood fire stove for breakfast every morning. Nothing except running the hills of the Adirondacks, then jumping into the lake in my workout clothes. No one showered. Everyone napped. I learned how to kayak but chickened out on the rope swing. I read four books in five days. My smart phone, useless, stayed at the bottom of my duffel bag.

We need time away from work, even if it's work that we love. Sure, I enjoy writing. But I also need time when the most pressing issue is whether to read the romance novel or the mystery next. Decisions about blueberries vs. bananas in the pancakes is a big one too. It recharges me. It makes my writing better, much more lively than when I'm producing copy while chained to my desk.

I'm headed back to Woodchuck in a few weeks, this time without the "OH MY GOD, NO E-MAIL!" anxiety. I can't wait.

About the author

Jen Miller is a freelance writer and proud denizen of the Garden State. She's the author of "Book a Week with Jen: 1 Year, 52 Books, and the Year of Starting a New Chapter."

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