I haven't had a proper vacation in about four years. By that I mean a trip outside of New York as well as a total separation from anything resembling work. For years, any time spent away from work has still involved checking work e-mail and thus worrying about (or at least thinking about) some issue at the office. Until recently, the only remote device I had that was capable of sending and receiving my personal e-mail was my company Blackberry. When I read my personal e-mail, I had no way of avoiding my work e-mail as well. And if I were checking one account I might as well check both. When I've been away for more than a few days, there has always been some issue that comes up that is my responsibility. Even if I knew someone else would be able to handle the problem in my absence, I would still worry that they would either call me for help or make some odd change to fix the issue that wouldn't be the way I would have fixed it. Regardless, I end up spending part of my vacation thinking about something at work and thus not enjoying my time away from my job, which is usually the point of taking the time off in the first place.
Step one in breaking out of this habit was buying the iPhone. Now I have a hand-held e-mail device of my own that is completely separate from work. I couldn't check my work e-mail on my iPhone even if I wanted to.
The other problem with my vacations the past few years is that they haven't involved leaving everything else behind. I've either gone to visit family or I've stayed in the city for a now-trite "staycation." My initial plan for next week was to visit family, or failing that, to stay in the city and avoid any part of my regular workday routine. But when an opportunity to actually get out of New York and go somewhere new came up, I jumped at it. Next week I will spend a few days on an island, away from my computer, my Blackberry, and hopefully anything resembling a reliable cell phone signal. I'm looking forward to having nothing to do but read, eat, sleep, and enjoy a new environment. It will be refreshing. I can't wait to come back even a little bit recharged.