Thursday, 22 January 2009

Getting Away From It All

Last year Narrelle and I pioneered a new travel concept (at least, for us): the 'technology detox' vacation.

The problem is, as a travel writer, that most travel I do becomes a busman's holiday.

Rather than relaxing, I research, contact tourism officials, set up a tightly-packed itinerary and run around seeing sites, interviewing people and writing notes.

I know, I shouldn't complain. It is great getting too see those places and meet those people, and good to be paid for writing about them. But at times of the year when I'm really burned out by work, it's anything but relaxing.

So in February 2008, we headed to Apollo Bay, a holiday town on Victoria's Great Ocean Road.

An unexpected bonus payment had come in, so we could afford to stay for ten days in a spacious modern apartment on the top floor of a three-level bock, with a view over the bay and the Southern Ocean beyond.

As for the techno detox, it was actually quite simple. I left behind my laptop and Palm, and had my mobile phone in my pocket for emergencies, but turned off. Once we arrived there, I also took my watch off and placed it in a drawer.

It was good being out of touch in a way we rarely are nowadays. I even made a point of ignoring the Internet access in the building's reception area. Being able to focus only on where we were, and the present rather than the future, was enormously refreshing.

To my surprise, however, it was the discarding of the watch that had the most impact. There was no real need to tell the time, as we had no appointments and nowhere in particular to be. There was always somewhere open to eat at, and groceries in the apartment, so there was no need to worry about opening hours. The beach, of course, was available 24/7.

It was remarkable the difference it made. We got up when we felt like it, ate when we were hungry, lay around reading or went out to the town or beach, slept when we felt tired. There was something extraordinarily liberating about being freed from the relentless drive of the freelancer to write more, achieve more, earn more, to the mental backdrop of the ticking clock.

In a world wherein the Blackberry is often referred to ruefully as the 'Crackberry', and in which it's still impossible to persuade everyone that they don't need to be connected to the world during a 90 minute cinema screening, shutting ourselves off from communication and the tyranny of the clock was immensely powerful.

Even if it was for just ten days.