Sunset in the North-Indian Himalayas.
With an anxious stomach I dusted off the suitcase at the top of the cupboard. Throwing in socks, shirts and jumpers I packed lightly and then halved it. Tomorrow I’d be gone from here.
After a restless sleep I woke up before the alarm – way too early. But I was awake so decided to double check everything. It felt like I had forgotten something, but you always feel like that.
Three hours later I’d cleared customs and made my way to the brand new Airbus A330-300 seat.
Four or five on-demand movies later I was in India – bound for the fresh air and pine forests of the chilly Himalayas.
Ten days with no email, phone calls or websites.
Constantly plugged in but tuning out
When you’ve spent as much time as I have at home working for yourself you start to notice a few personal trends.
You’re always working because no one else can take care of it.
Stress arises in disproportionate waves when even the most minor of hiccups occur.
You put things like friends, exercise and healthy food down the bottom of the list.
But most worrying (for me) is the fact that you’re always plugged in. You can’t go five minutes without checking social media on your phone or reading the news. There’s a constant need for instant gratification that makes you anxious, dependent and murders your creativity and energy levels.
The more time you spend plugged in the more you tune out to actual human events and emotions. It becomes very hard to enjoy the simple things in life and, as all the wise people say, they are the things that bring the most happiness.
So I went to India for ten days and didn’t check my emails once.
A battery re-charge out of my comfort zone.
Why I went to India for 10 days
To be perfectly honest the trip wasn’t all about escaping and re-charging. A dear friend wanted to visit and I had always promised that I’d show them around as I’ve been there so many times before.
But every time I go there the effects are similar:
- A new perspective
When you spend a lot of time indoors you lose perspective. Internet memes and events seem to become really important. Time away helps you reset or gain a new perspective and outlook.
- A battery re-charge
As I said before, going overseas can really re-charge your energy levels and help you get out of a self-created rut. Meeting new people, seeing new things and developing new ideas in a foreign place.
- A new commitment to help others
When you go to a place like India where there is extreme suffering at every corner you find that compassion and a wish to make a difference arises naturally. This can have a flow on effect to all areas of your life and make your work a lot more meaningful.
And although I find myself tired and sick now that I’m home I also feel renewed, alive and ready to put more of myself into my work and, most importantly, my much-loved readers. I’ve got so many ideas that I’ve had on the back burner that I now feel ready to put out into the world.
A man sleeping in Sarnath – the place where the Buddha first accepted a request to teach.
Could you go offline?
Going offline is one of the best things you can do for your online career. – Tweet this.
It can, however, be a really hard thing to do. We spend so much time setting ourselves up as internet business people and every part of our life is, in some way, tied up with what we do on the computer/phone/tablet.
But it is worth it.
I want to challenge all of the Tyrant Troops to think back to the last time you logged off and left it all behind for a period of time. How long ago was that? How long did it last? What effect did it have on you?
Lastly, if you haven’t spent time offline in a while I’d like to know whether you reckon you could manage it. Is it something that you think would benefit you? Is it something you could afford/have the time to do?
Please leave a comment and let me know.
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Sounds like a good excuse to book a holiday somewhere far away! I don’t think I’ve really been offline since I started my business, not sure a 24 hour flight to the UK counts? I’d love to do it though, the headspace would be awesome!
Ha ha. Perhaps I should have found a travel affiliate link somewhere?
Taking a break is not only a good idea, it’s necessary.
Think about it: Salaried employees get automatic weekends and two weeks vacation (typically) – this is because human beings NEED to get away, disconnect, rest and play. Otherwise burnout, dissatisfaction and a plethora of problems is just around the corner.
So why aren’t freelancers, bloggers and the self-employed giving themselves the same privilege?
I personally check out every weekend to spend time with my family. I also check out every day after 5pm – enough with the 12-hour days. And I specifically plan for frequent mini-vacations, just a night or two in a nearby city hotel, just to disconnect and get away.
All work and no play makes James a dull… well, you know how the saying goes.
James I am very not-secretly in love with you.
Be forewarned. I’m not easy – and I’m definitely not cheap. 😉
I never pay for love James. 🙂
Yay! Well done. Sometimes I think the Jewish faith have the right idea with a complete disconnect on their Sabbath.
New Year’s day I took a 10 day break to Lanzarote, it was so peaceful. I came home and booked a month in October. I’ve been twice as productive since the break and I bet you will be as well.
Is that the “day of rest” that the Jewish observe? Or is this a longer period of time?
Depends on the Jewish congregation.
Many will not use any equipment for the day – which means no TV, radio, phone or computer. You cannot cook either – not even a cup of coffee.
Very devout people will not even use say a match to light a candle. An aunt who used to teach in the 1930s would go and light the fires of the very devout religious families as they could not even do that.
The great thing is that Sabbath is there to get people to think and make sense of their lives.
I’m not Jewish – but I’m tempted to switch off all electric gadgets as a recharge.
That actually sounds like a really connecting practice. Probably the only time of the week one would spend time with your wife and kids in a proper way.
Switching off and going someplace else is a fantastic way to get some perspective back.
Did inspiration strike for a new project or two whilst you were away?
There were a few things but mainly I started to develop some confidence and bravery to launch some things I’ve been working on for a while. Almost like a bit of a flash that I don’t have forever to contribute to the world.
Funny that what you did seems so radical when it’s what helps us feel human again!
Good for you. Seriously. 🙂
Did you do this solo, or did you have a guide?
I actually offer retreats in just this vein, because I’ve noticed that lasting transformation happens not by a getaway but in community. Something sacred happens then.
I’ve been a few times before – sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. This time I went with a close friend to show them around. They only had a short gap of time to get away and so it motivated me to get moving.
Agree about the solitude and the community – I think humans need both.
Sounds lovely, really lovely, disconnecting. I am working on getting a reliable person to cover for me while I am away. I have found the person, now to launch myself!
Also welcome back! 🙂
Thanks Rachelle. Enjoy your time off!
I went away for 5 weeks once, although just to the west coast. I’ve found that if you go longer, you get more perspective. It’s kind of how you look back at your childhood and see all your mistakes clearly.
I like that you posted about this too because this is the type of stuff people never blog about.
Thanks Brian. The longest I’ve been away is 6 or 7 weeks alone but I started to get really homesick.
Thanks for the feedback. I like sharing an occasional personal story or two.
Like some of the other commenters have noted, it’s important to turn off some of the electronic gadgets that we have turned on all the time. My wife and I recently moved the television out of the living room (which we hang out in all the time) and we’ve noticed how we’re more relaxed and also getting more chores and activities done.
We’re also checking out this summer for a 2 1/2 week vacation to visit my family in England. It’s always good to check out for a while. Like you said Ramsay, going offline is one of the best things you can do for your online career.
Enjoy John! Thanks for commenting.
I was plugged out for 5 days last month due to a visit to my uncle’s place. It not only helped me to get re-charged but I actually ended up making two very important decisions for my blog and other projects. This was all because the creative energy I was able to release by my open mind.
Exactly! I know the feeling.
Thanks for sharing Ram.
Ramsay, awhile back, I wrote a blog.. Designing a simpler life. It was well received, and my message was heartfelt. The biggest problem with trying to stay offline is that it’s kind of like being on a diet… Well for me it is. Not only do I forget how I was thinking at the time I made a promise to myself, I easily get wrapped up in the Internet world again, and all my wise thoughts and resolutions end up in my brain’s recycle bin. The thoughts are still there, but I forget to access them.
Thanks for this post, a great reminder for me. Here’s the link to my post… But please feel free to remove it if I’m spamming by putting the link here. It’s rather lenghly.
Hope you are fully renewed. Getting away is such good therapy!
It can be really hard to stay on track when we set a new goal. I’m the same.
Always happy to promote a good post!
Cool story bro. 😉
Seriously – you’ve illustrated the need for ‘down time’ in a great way here and it’s good to know even the mighty Blog Tyrant needs to get away sometimes.
Full on inspirational stuff!
I’m off to book my plane ticket right now…..
“Cool story bro” is the most insulting thing you can say to a gamer! Ha ha.
Nice work on the ticket! Where you headed?
For 7 years I was working + studying with no break, I had no vacations and my day was starting at 5am and finishing at 1am – in a good day. Sometimes I was awake for 2 or 3 days in a row and my lunchtime was the 40 minutes I had in the bus from work to the university.
In September 2011 I took all my savings to study in Europe. It was the best thing I could have ever done for my career and for myself. Travelling in Europe is extremely cheap – if compared with Brazil, from where I am – and I had the chance to visit around 14 countries, most of them with completely free hosting (couchsurfing), where I could find people that now I consider as very good friends.
I was not exactly offline, but breaking-up with some of our certainties can be one of the best ways to find inspiration and discover more about yourself, what you love and what you can do well.
This weekend I was in the French Alps taking my first skiing lessons and practicing photography in the snow, what gave me some ideas for the posts of the new blog I’m preparing…
Glad you recharged yourself, can’t wait to see more of your contents, I probably read the (almost) the entire blog in the period you was offline! =)
(By the way, India is in my plans to be visited soon!)
Holy hell Isis! 5am to 1am. Are you a doctor or a banker or something?
Hey were in India did you go to. I am also from India. I would have loved to meet you and interact with you.
Next time you come to India, shoot me an email.
Hi Charles. I spent a day in Delhi and then went up to Himachal Pradesh.
This is called life, right? 😉 And if the majority of your life is spent in front of the computer that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I’ve been trying to get away from screens whenever I can, really. I’m not just talking about weekends or vacations, but every day. My morning ritual now involves pen and paper and more than a few great ideas have come forth because of it. Trading in the dopamine rush of social for an hour or so just writing out ideas is great for creativity and puts you in a better frame of mind.
Goddam dopamine cells, right? Always so demanding.
Good idea Craig. I read a book on paper vs iPad the other day and it was amazing.
Great ideas. I find weekly or daily sabbaticals from the Internet and email help my creativity. Going away for even a half a day or a walk around the block is an opportunity to tune into real life: nature, people and what’s going on inside myself.
Yep – perfect Lori.
I am about to take a break and am looking forward to it but also have anxiety about not being plugged in!
I know whenever I take an opportunity to step away, I really like the reflection. Reminds me of working on a thesis in college – sometimes I just needed to get away.
I hope you have someone trustworthy to look after the raggie! Mine is still angry at me.
I must admit, when I saw the email in my inbox this morning – and took close look at the title of this post – I certainly did expect the post’s imagery would be “galactic.” You’ve got me spoiled, Ramsay.
Nonetheless, I find your point priceless. Day of rest, unplugging, or any other term that it is given, the act of spiritual connection is something that is absolutely necessary for my health and well-being.
My recent trip to western Tanzania – truly “out in the bush” – was one that was fraught with the need to stay e-connected. Not only because of my own Americanized lifestyle but also because of the questions & curiosities & needs of my Tanzanian hosts. And, ironically, my honeymoon in Monterey 3 years ago – in the comforts of a top notch hotel – was the last time I really, intentionally stayed offline completely.
Thanks for always encouraging me to think about good images Scott. It’s a lot of fun.
What was Tanzania like?
Thanks for asking! Tanzania was an amazingly wondrous experience. I simply loved the people there; they are far richer than most of the people I know in California — and I don’t mean money. Tanzania is still very much non-westernized and so much about that fact was refreshing. As you travel repeatedly to India, I hope to have continued opportunity to return to Tanzania.
Here are two quick picks I thought to share and I think they highlight the whole concept of spending time far, far away: http://i.imgur.com/PDwV6Nb.jpg and http://i.imgur.com/915S0bF.jpg
Awesome! And I’m impressed that you use imgur.
I’ve gone ‘tech lite’ before for 2 weeks. Just going online strictly for work and not lingering around checking social media all the time. I loved it! I do however need a complete break. My soul is craving it!
Do it Laney!
Cool to see that unplugging has helped you. I often get my best ideas when I’m away from my computer. Being away from your country, the effect would be magnified.
Travel was what actually got me into blogging. I wouldn’t have written a blog about my ordinary life at home. Boring. But when I started traveling, I had tons of ideas, thoughts and stories I was frantic to get down into words.
I think you need a balance of travel and home life to feel fulfilled. While I love travel, it was also a huge distraction. That’s because I lived abroad and going to another country was so cheap and accessible. Instead of working on projects, I’d daydream about my next trip. Never got anything done. Since returning home, I learned a lot about Internet marketing and moved forward more than when I lived in Asia.
For me, being based somewhere for a longer period was a boost to my productivity. Since travel was so far and expensive, it was easier to put it out of my mind and focus on getting things done. That’s not say I’m cured of the travel bug; I still think about seeing more of the world, every day. 🙂
I wrote a blog post a while back of how travel can be the ultimate self-help program:
Embedded in that article is a great TED Talk called “The Power of Time Off.” It’s be a designer who takes a 1-year sabbatical every 7 years. He said going abroad was an important part of his creative process. Cool stuff.
You’re right about it being distracting but also necessary Marcus. Cool post!
Good for you. Generally I have very limited Internet access on trips. Did take an iPad with me last summer, but my wife definitely is encourages me to not do much with the Internet when we take a big trip. Definitely for the best.
This is a big reason why I don’t have a smartphone. I could afford it, but at least for now it’s a good thing to unplug sometimes.
Yeah I’ve actually been thinking about ditching the smart phone lately. It’s such a “created” need vs an “actual” need.
good to hear you have been revitalised. I’ve been craving a get away for a while now. I know what you mean about creativity levels, trying to work at night after staring at a screen all day doesn’t leave you all that refreshed. Easter this weekend will be a good opportunity to switch off for a few days, that’s the plan anyway!
Yeah. Hopefully we get some good weather down here to finish summer off and maybe hit the beach!
you are right.. rest is important. when away from gadgets, it’s great peace of mind and evolution of new fresh ideas.
sarnath is very nice place. try uttarakhand and nepal.
What is Uttarakhand like? Is that in the North East?
Well next time you might want to visit Udaipur(Rajasthan)- ‘ world’s best city ‘-as mentioned by travel & leisure mag. Its like city of lakes and that is why is also called “venice of east”.
I live here and it feels like heaven btw no advertising meant.
Its in north west of India
I have a few friends who have been there and loved it. Thanks for the recommendation.
there are mostly shrines, and also animal reserve . river ganga for rafting and also great place for camping.. , also have “valley of flowers” and many spectacular natural view.. uttarakhand also known as “land of gods”
Hope you had a great trip. And kudos for keeping your promise to your friend.
Also, wanted to drop in and say thank you. Your blog inspired me to finally start my own. I now write to recharge myself (9-5 job 🙂 ) and hope to take it to a level where I would need to trips to switch off it.
Cheers & Namaste from India
Thanks so much for that feedback. That means a lot to me. I wish you great success.
Hi Ramsey, I will visit India one day, it is on my list of places to go, right, do I take much time away from the laptop etc? … well yes and no, it is strange but I fear if I do then I won’t go back to it. For the first few days it feels odd, I want to go and check something but after a short period it feels natural not to. I enjoy the freedom from checking emails and comments and worrying about site traffic or reputation.
It is at that point that I could walk away and find a small hut on a beach and live there lol. Not good really. It is during those times when you realise how much work is involved in being online. I have a kind of love hate relationship with it, I love meeting people, I love writing and chatting and sharing stuff but at times I do hate the list of things that needs to be done but generally I love it more when I work through those lists.
I get frustrated when I don’t get things done but once I have had a few days away from being online I am actually happy to forget the lists and the work and that is the worry.
Also I know that after having so much time off there would be emails and comments to answer etc and I like to try and keep on top of that, if I feel it is building up and I haven’t kept on top if it all then I would rather not go back to it.
So to recap, I fear that if I am away too long I shall never return, and I am sure some would look forward to that day! =D
I can understand why you might feel like that. But there is one safeguard against it: food! We need to make some money somehow. Ha.
Thanks for your great comments, as usual.
Awesome Ramsay, glad to see ya back.
Seems I also need to keep myself away for sometime from my laptop, and blogging. I really need to be disconnected and take some rest couse, as James mentioned above that how important is this.
Ohh India? great! Next?
Thanks Ehsan. I think next might be India again!
I thought It’s Afghanistan next. Haha
Because I’m from Afghanistan 😉
So why aren’t freelancers, bloggers and the self-employed giving themselves the same privilege?
Probably because money is tight and schedules are full. I think it’s a lot harder when it is your own business.
I don’t think I could last 10 days, I get itchy feet at the thought of spending an evening in the pub away from the internet!
Maybe that’s a sign you need the time away Dean?
Hi Ramsay, It’s always nice to get away isn’t it? I woudl love to go to India. I actually know many people from that area and many member son blog engage are also from that local area. I wish I could get up and go where I want but with the new addition of my little boy ( 5 months old) I have the pleasure of being with him.
Hi Brian. Yep – sounds like you’ll have your hands full for a while. Congrats!
I just discovered you from implementing the click to tweet in my upcoming blog posts. It’s just another task to add to my list of things to make my blog look better:)
Anyway, I love this post. Every three times a week, if the weather permits, my hubby and I go tent camping in Texas. We leave all of our technology behind.
No IPad, no smartphone, no laptop, nada. Well, we take a cheapo flip phone for emergencies.
It’s something I look forward to every week. Keeps me balanced and happy. I am reminded of how blessed I am to be able to even take that much time off compared to the “traditional” career.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
Woman in Leadership
Sounds awesome Stacie!
Three times a week though? Wow!
[…] Why I Spent 10 Days Far, Far Away […]
People visit India to experience peace, to absorb her rich culture, to see the unique heritage……the list is endless if you really talk to an Indian. However I was pained to read your analysis of finding ‘Extreme suffering at every corner?’! and would like to know how many corners did you explore?
Suffering can be found all around the world and if it inspires to add meaning to your work, then just look around you anywhere, metaphorical suffering can no doubt be found at every corner of the world!
Hope next time you visit India, you will get an opportunity to find better ‘corners’ too.
All the best!
I hope I didn’t offend with that statement about the suffering. It’s just that, compared to the west, the suffering is a lot more “in your face”. There is so much poverty, disease and so on all over the place.
That said, there is so much beauty in India – I love it very much.
I agree with this: “Time away helps you reset or gain a new perspective and outlook.” Whenever I go on a project visit on a public bus, dust entering the open windows, i use the time reflecting on everything. Sometimes there are things that decisions have to made; but often i just leave it that way… what matters most was seeing life in a new perspective…
Wow that’s intense. I’ve been over India a bit and didn’t experience that. I take it’s happent to you
What I find fascinating about about “Unplugging” is the way you notice the “Noise” when you come home. I find this even more powerful when you travel into those wild places where the “noise” is even less.
We all have our different version of “noise” but it does tend to go away once we are in the wilds. In 2011 I had the good fortune to create and host a show called “Operation Unplugged” for the Travel and Escape channel. In it we “Unplugged 8 of Canada’s most Tech Obsessed individuals” and then challenged them in an outdoor journey and competition from one side of our country to the other. It was amazing to see their transformations.
Thanks for the article. Great read.
i love Himalaya. that’s best of claiming in the world. and this sunset point are very inserting full of all Himalaya Designation.
I admire people that search for a deeper meaning in almost everything they do. Having said that, kudos to you and your “journey”.
I especially agree with the notion that once you see people in need, you develop this urge to produce meaningful work. Also, diversity creates the perfect soil for creativity, and these two put in combination can really give birth to extraordinary things.
I went offline for a month in Oahu, Hawaii, and looking back in retrospect I always point on those days as the time that changed my life.
Thanks so much for sharing that. How did you find it changed you?
Mostly in the sense of being determined to pursue what I want, to be focused on what needs to be done. Another thing is that (and this might sound funny) I somehow became more objective towards everything around me.
I stayed there for three months, out of which one and a half was vacation. Great place!
I’m afraid that I can’t financially afford it right now. Also, I would feel guilty. My wife doesn’t have a work schedule like mine that makes opportunities available. Instead, she would be left alone, working and watching our two young children.
I want her to be as free as I am!
Sounds like the right thing to do.
Goodness, I would love to take some time away. Eat, Pray, Love-style 🙂 Thanks for sharing the story!
yes Everyone wants to enjoy the Holiday but people faced some serious critical situation in his life..
This seems like an interesting holiday place to me. Wish to visit this place sometime in the future.. Have fun.. Cheers