Cutting the Cord

Diary of a Digital Nomad Disconnecting from Work

In previous articles I have gushed about being a remote employee and having the ability to work from anywhere. In 2018 I visited 10 countries and at the end of the year I decided to take my first “real vacation.” Unplugged. Offline.

I booked a 3 week vacation to Vietnam and Indonesia. Once I arrived in Indonesia, I hopped on a Liveaboard ship to take part in a 10 day SCUBA trip. No internet. Everything we needed would be on the ship. No access to the outside world. Sounds heavenly, right? Not for me.

In my 3 years working remotely I’ve mastered the ability to work and play. No matter the time-zone, I am always virtually there. I logged in from the Eiffel Tower to check Slack, I was ready to respond from the Galapagos Islands, and in Ibiza I was only a Zoom call away ready to support my team. This actual away-from-work-vacation experience opened my eyes.

Captain's Log

Day One: I was still excited to be in a far away country diving in waters with the highest coral reef fish diversity in the world. We had four scheduled dives a day, three meals, and anything in between was free time. I eased into sunbathing, read some of my book, tried not to get seasick, and called it a night.

Day Two: Getting up at the ring of the Captain’s bell, preparing for dives, diving, eating, reading, sunbathing. I like structure and knowing what was coming next, but geesh they mean business.

Day Three: My “free time” was spent eating, chatting, describing and researching (in books) the marine life we were lucky enough to see. I was definitely still excited to be onboard and surrounded by Indonesian waters.

Day Four: I am more gungho with reading my book in between diving now and currently thankful I downloaded two of them. I brought my laptop, but accidentally left my charger in Vietnam. Today I had 20% battery remaining, but come on! I wasn’t going to use my laptop. I’M ON A BOAT.

Day Five: I did the morning dive and skipped the 11am dive to lounge around. I finished my first book and started on the second. I am now basically a sun goddess and my sea legs are in full force. There are only 6 total divers on the boat, so when they all go out I get to pretend steer the boat and play my music (downloaded) as loud as I want whilst scanning the water for dolphins. I did the afternoon dive and after a short tank night dive, promptly decided night diving is not for me.

Day Six: I enjoy the morning dives, the fish are going to school (muck muck) and everything underwater is so active! I skip the 11am dive again to lounge around and read. I finish my second book. I now have nothing to read. I know I don’t have wifi, but I keep checking... Just in case a blip shows up. I decide to play music to distract myself and do the 3pm dive. Eat. Dive. Sleep.

Day Seven: Morning dive aside, breakfast eaten. I am getting stir crazy. I decide to make it a game to jump off the top of the 35 foot high boat, which was a nice distraction and a few hours of fun in the sun. At the end of the day I had so many things I wanted to write down but nobody had a pen or extra paper. I opened my laptop to write some things down and felt better, but now my battery is at 10%.

Day Eight: I know people at work must need me now. I probably have so many missed messages. I wonder if work is going ok? At this point the FOMO is kicking in. I know Dave is taking over invoicing, but does he need help? WHY DOESN’T THIS OCEAN HAVE WIFI?

Day Nine: We are headed back to shore today. One whole day to get back to reality. To people. To internet. To work. Meals are eaten quickly. Dives are enjoyable. I am packed and ready to go home. I want to journal my last feelings in my Google doc, it dies as I’m typing.

Day Ten: I make it to shore and we say our goodbyes. I find the nearest restaurant that has a “FREE WIFI” sign hanging from the door. I log into work and scroll through all my Slack channels. There is no fire. There is no emergency. Everyone is fine. We hired two new people in my absence and with a quick “hello I’m alive” message, my team promptly responds and wishes me well.

End Captain's Log

Time For a Break?

I am writing this blog to let all of you digital nomads, location independents, working travelers, freelancers, and desk free employees know that taking a vacation is a benefit for the company as well as your mental health. I was too connected to work stuff and found that taking that break (and maybe even more often) is necessary for me to enjoy my personal time and be a better, more motivated employee when I return.