Miss W’s blog: The art of switching off
The summer season is over and Ibiza is officially switching into hibernation mode. Well, some parts of it are – for others it seems the parties never stop (just check out our chock-full calendar of winter events!). In any case, the island definitely switches gear at this time of year as islanders slow down, chill out and takes a step back from the manic energy and crazy vibes of summer. But even though many of us finally take some well-deserved time off or (if you’re lucky!) stop work completely, do we ever really, truly switch off?
I pondered this question recently as I spent a week in my own personal happy place: Formentera. Side note: How lucky are we to have this paradise on our doorstep? Seriously, who needs the Caribbean when you can spend less than a tenner on the ferry and be there within half an hour? So anyway, there I was, on the aforementioned big fast Balearia ferry, which just so happens to come equipped with WiFi. Now, I’d already left my laptop at home so I couldn’t be tempted to check in to work – everything had been set up, scheduled or left in very capable hands. However… just because you’re sin computer really doesn’t mean you’ve switched off does it? And so, I reached into my overstuffed beach basket to get my phone…
Instantly – and I mean that very second, just 15 minutes into my swift journey at sea – I was thrown into a panic because I could see a couple of missed calls, quite a few unread WhatsApp messages, loads of emails and who even knows how many social media notifications. ‘What is WRONG with people?’ I thought haughtily. ‘Don’t they KNOW I am on holiday?’ Well, of course they don’t. You can’t blame friends, family or clients for accidentally interrupting your holiday time if you haven’t forewarned them, can you? Unless they’re mind readers of course.
So, I had a little stern word with myself about my attitude, and promptly responded to everything (assuring my long-suffering boyfriend that it really WAS the last time I would do any work and I WOULD pack my phone away for the remainder of the week HONEST) with a quick note that I was on holiday and would forward it to someone who could help where needed. I logged into my email account and set an out of office reply, so anyone trying to contact me would know I was un-contactable. And then, I did something I previously thought was unthinkable…
I turned off ALL notifications on my phone. The lot. Email, text message, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, etc, etc… I also put the phone on silent mode. I made the decision that I would officially switch off. Of course, I still wanted to have the use of my telephone – I do like to take the occasional photos of stray cats, Google Maps are actually quite helpful at times (though Formentera is so small, once you’ve been there a few times you no longer need maps) and there is that ‘in case of emergency’ thing too. Oh – a phone is also handy when you need to make a last-minute restaurant reservation or call the hire car company and apartment manager to let them know you’ve decided to stay on yet another day.
I figured… if anyone called me, they could leave a message and I’d get back to them when I was ready. Friends would understand. And again, if it was work related, I could simply pass it over to my colleagues (a two-minute phone conversation to make sure your clients are looked after certainly doesn’t kill anyone). If it was the friend who was looking after my cats, I’d pick it right up of course, though thankfully that never happened! I must admit… the first day was hard. I felt weird. I mean, my phone is a huge part of my day, every day. I normally wake up and scroll through social media. When I’m out and about, it’s like a mobile office. I often take photos. My phone is basically my watch. And even when I’m interviewing people, it’s my dictaphone. But I vowed not to reach for it, unless absolutely essential.
The second day… well, I caved and secretly opened WhatsApp and my messages (while my boyfriend was still asleep) just to see what kind of action I’d missed. I didn’t actually OPEN any of the messages (because you know, when people have seen those pesky two green or blue ticks they expect an answer – it’s a mental minefield sometimes), and there were quite a few, but I took a step back and assessed what was there and I knew it all could wait. I also knew I could do with a social media detox after the summer, so I didn’t feel any temptation to check anything there. And with emails, I knew my OOO would do the job for me. And just like that, I stashed it back in my beach bag pocket, where it would stay the entire day, save for telling the time on occasion. And a few photos of fat seagulls and countryside goats.
On the third day, I finally felt detached from my phone. The urge to reach for that little piece of technology had dissipated and I finally felt free. Life was good. Life was quiet. Life was amazing. On the fourth day, I even stopped wondering what the time was… we ate when we were hungry and we slept when we were tired. For the first time since the invention of the iPhone (yes, I was an early adopter), I felt switched off. Disconnected, literally and figuratively. The rest of the week was completely blissful, and we kept extending our stay because it was just so heavenly and free of responsibilities. We had no access to news – good or bad – and it was nice, living in a bubble like that.
I know that life has evolved, and technology and apps are an essential part of our lives these days – especially when you work in an online environment such as I do. Communication is vital to make sure your business runs smoothly, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like if you had kids – surely you need to be contactable 24/7. When I stop and think about all the things that are possible for us with our little smartphones, that weren’t possible for previous generations, I am still simply amazed. It’s no longer realistic to imagine life without our devices these days but every once in a while, it’s well and truly magical to practice the art of switching off. I highly recommend it…