San Jose Mercury News
For many people these days, getting away from it all means getting away from their gadgets.
Not for me. But I am aiming for a ďtech-liteĒ vacation.
I love my gadgets, particularly my smartphone. On our travels, you can guarantee that Iím taking it as well as at least one digital camera, a tablet and probably a laptop, too.
Whether for taking pictures, contacting friends and relations, finding the best places to eat or shop or keeping the kids entertained on long flights, gadgets can be invaluable vacation aids.
But Iím well aware that gadgets arenít always great to have around. With them often comes unwanted stress. They can provide a window into all the work thatís awaiting you back at the office ó and tempt you to get some of it out of the way now. And when they donít function correctly, you can end up spending valuable time trying to fix them instead of enjoying your time off.
I once spent several hours on a short trip to Rome working on a story, instead of touring around the city. And my wife often spends a good chunk of our vacations trying to stay on top of her email and work projects.
When we head out on vacation this year, Iím hoping we strike a better balance than we have in the past. Weíre going to take our gadgets with us and use them when we need to. But Iím hoping we can put them aside most of the time and focus on our family and the world around us.
That may be easier said than done. Weíre heading to my parentsí house in San Antonio, where they have fast home Internet service and ample cellphone coverage. Weíre likely to be touring around town and almost certainly will want to use our smartphones to navigate. And weíll want to be able to contact friends and family to make plans as we travel around.
Things were much easier last year when we visited Lassen Volcanic National Park. Most of the tech gear I took with us wasnít usable because we were completely out of cellphone range and didnít have consistent access to power. We still took lots of pictures with our digital cameras, but we were able to disconnect from Facebook, our work email and all the other online distractions.
But as idyllic as that might sound, we were more disconnected than I would have liked. My parents worried when they couldnít reach us, as did our cat sitter.
It would be nice if our gadgets themselves could help us strike the balance, maybe with a ďvacationĒ button that would impose time limits or block access to work communications. Or it could shut off access to certain mobile applications except during particular times of the day.
In the meantime, weíll have to work on self-control. Itís easy to get sucked into the vortex, to go from simply trying to find the nearest local taco stand to checking the score of the game to getting caught up in the latest email thread at work or catching up on your news feeds on Facebook and Twitter.
But thatís not what vacationís all about. It doesnít have to be tech-free, but it canít be tech-centric.
So Iím resolving to set down my gadgets when I can and enjoy the world around me, not just the screens in front of me.