More than 2 weeks ago, when I exchanged my overcoat for a swimsuit and headed off to my Christmas cruise around the Western Caribbean, I thought it’d be easy to be away from my computer for a week. In fact, I was looking forward to being unplugged, disconnected, turned-off, and away from my computer for that 7 days. During that week the closest I got to an internet-connected computer was using my Pocket PC as an MP3 player (since mine’s getting repaired in Beijing). However, five days into my cruise, I was itching to use a computer and get on the internet. I began to worry that I may no longer have a job or that my business wouldn’t survive a week of my absence, or that I’d otherwise be missing important emails, and I missed writing my blog.
Seven years ago, when I took my first cruise, I didn’t even have my own email address. Needless to say, then, I didn’t feel at a loss without an internet computer. While on the airplanes and on the cruise, I was reading “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. In this much more traditional form entertainment and information, he talks about the rise of the internet and the easy access anyone can have to information and other people 24/7/365. He explains that it was a combination of factors working together in the last 10 to 12 years that really made the internet a universal presence. Given that I don’t normally consider myself an early adopter, it makes sense that 7 years ago, I wouldn’t have had my own email address, yet now, I can’t even be away from my computer and the internet for 5 days without my nerves getting the better of me.
Well fortunately, when I was able to get on the internet again (free wireless via my pocket PC at the Fort Lauderdale Airport), I hadn’t missed anything too important. What a relief! But it really makes me wonder, if I at only 22 years-old and therefore not yet a senior manager at a global corporation who is being relied on to make major decisions everyday can’t even stand to be out of touch for a week, how do global executives ever get to take a vacation? Do they opt for vacation places where, like my dad, they can be in constant contact via phone and email with the office so they won’t miss anything important? Or are they more like me, who tries to take a break from the ever-connected world but can barely stand their vacation because they worry about what they’re missing? Or can those execs choose a remote island in the South Pacific and totally disconnect from the world for their vacation without any worries or fears of what might happen in their absence?
If vacations are becoming increasingly punctuated and filled with getting in touch with the office or at least worrying about work, are we really ‘getting-away’? Is it considered a vacation anymore if you check-in with your office 5 times a day? As we lead increasingly stressed lives and take less and less real vacation, either there’s going to be a greater need for doctors to deal with our associated health problems, or there’s a serious market opportunity for businesses that can provide full–but quick–relaxation for the overstressed business exec. (Perhaps that explains the proliferation of spas in recent years.)