No. 36

Finding Quiet

Before leaving on holiday, I decided to go low tech: no cell phone, no GPS, no computer. I allowed myself my iPod for long drives and an occasional internet connection via my airplane-mode-only cell phone, just to call my parents regularly so they knew I was still alive (sometimes you have to let parents win the argument). Otherwise, both devices were off.

The first time I checked emails was the hardest. There was a small mountain of them, including a few from my job, which I did need to deal with. I promised myself to only respond to the most important ones and leave the rest for after returning home.

I also forgot that without a cell phone, I had no clock. There was no way for me to know what time it was, and really I never had to be anywhere. I had no set schedule. So I rose with the sun and ate whenever I was hungry. I wandered down streets in the cities, sat in beautiful places for as long as my own spirit compelled me to, lingered over tea, and wrote like there was fire in my hands.

It’s a good thing, to go low-tech for a bit of time. It reminds you how wonderful technology is — and more importantly, how vast and expansive time feels without it. Here are the rules I wrote for myself:

Tips for a Digital Sabbatical

1. Decide on a time frame. Pick a date to start and stop. Having that end date in mind can help you really take advantage of the time you have. It could be for a day, for a holiday, for longer…

2. Set an autoresponder message. Let people know when your hiatus will end and how to get in touch with you if it’s absolutely necessary.

3. Leave the electronics behind. Ideally, don’t even tempt yourself. You might need to bring a phone on vacation, but when you go out, consider leaving it wherever you’re staying.

4. Smile and say hello to people. You may feel a bit naked at first, not being able to busy yourself with texts or emails or the internet. People know you can hear them if you don’t have headphones on. We so often use our technology to put up walls; let them crumble down for a bit. Amazing things happen when they do.

Would you ever take a digital sabbatical? If you have, what was the best lesson you learned?

{photo by me of East Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland}

About brandi

Brandi is a digital strategist, website developer, and founder of Alchemy+Aim, a company that helps entrepreneurs and business owners elevate their online presence and enhance their digital experience. Her academic background in theatre, philosophy and physics was the perfect foundation for launching her business, where she’s worked with Brené Brown, Laverne Cox, Judy Smith, and other notable thought leaders since 2013. She is an advocate for using technology in ways that humanize, connect and serve people as well as for asking deeper philosophical questions and teaching others to think more broadly about impact when they create, particularly in STEAM fields.

7 thoughts on “Finding Quiet

  1. Brandi! Did you get my message?! Don’t you dare even think about not posting your Edinburgh photos! I cannot wait to see that city through your poet’s eyes.

    About going dark- I want to do this so bad just to see if I could do it. It would be good for my soul.

    Thanks again for inspiring me to relook at my Scotland photos. They were tucked away for so long, but it feels good to see them again.

  2. I totally need to do this! I have no reason to be on the computer now and yet….um here I am… lol

    It would be amazing to just go with the flow too and not worry about what time it was all the time! I really love my schedule (and I need one for a 3 year old most days) but I love those days where everything just happens without being forced!

    Oh and that is a beautiful photo my dear! : )

  3. There is something so scary about leaving all things digital behind. That pulsing nervous energy of email at my fingertips makes it hard to be separated from my iPhone/laptop/internet point/digital-adrenaline-rush. But – I did it once, in Italy. I was five days without internet, and I let myself sink into the digital-less world. It’s sunny out there without the LED glare. I missed the email connections with friends and family, but it was good to focus on the moments themselves, rather than let a computer dictate my day. I love that you had a beautiful, clock-free existance for a couple of days, subsisting on sunshine and nature and smiles rather than time and email.


  4. i really should do a digital sabbatical, again. i am a little addicted to the internet at times. i’ve been trying to use it less but it is very easy to get caught up. anyway, i might do a evening digital fast for a bit and see how that goes. thanks for the inspiration…as usual.

  5. i took a short four day digital sabbatical two weekends ago when avi and I went to big sur. we didn’t plan on it, we just didn’t realize how shoddy our reception and wireless connection would be u there. after the initial nervousness, i really loved it. so much so that I am now looking to pare down my digital life a bit.
    (beautiful photo, by the way!)

  6. That’s really wonderful Brandi. I’ve never taken a complete digital sabbatical – I’ve always had my Blackberry with me whenever I’ve gone anywhere abroad and can, in theory, still be reached via email. But you’re right, that may be just the thing I need. I wake up and check my email almost reflexively now

  7. we take a digital sabbatical every time we leave on vacation… with distracting devices it’s hard to fully relax. i plan on taking one partially on my maternity leave. they are fabulous!

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