Gearing up for withdrawal

The last time I went away for more than 48 hours sans laptop was in 2010. That was seven years ago. Seven years. Every holiday (?) I’ve been on since then I’ve worked. Not all of it, but some of it.  Enough of it to know that I wasn’t completely switching off, letting go, being present. Back in 2014, I managed to stay offline for 72 hours.

It’s a  symptom of the freelancer’s lot. You take the work when you get it because you never know when you’ll get the next bit. Add to that the fear of being disconnected and having some or all of your clients find someone else while you’re gone and then staying with them out of convenience. [And you know this will happen because convenience is why you haven’t moved banks in 9 years or changed utility provider even though you know you should.] And you know that no matter how good you are, you’re not indispensable. There’s no contract. No paid leave. No redundancy clause.

That said, I wouldn’t swap the freedom and flexibility that freelancing offers for anything less than 353 days of paid leave per year from a corporate. I like what I do and like that I can do it from just about anywhere. It’s the ‘just about’ that brings me out in a cold sweat.

I’m off to Cuba. I hear tell that you can buy (not inexpensive) 30-minute vouchers for the Internet but that the Internet there might not be quite as fast as the slow Internet here. So rather than put myself through the torture of watching a large file upload to an FTP and get to 99% at 30 minutes, I’m steeling myself to go dark. Offline. For 10 days.

I’ve done the unthinkable and told my regular clients that I’ll be incommunicado. I’m figuring out how to post an out-of-office message on my various email accounts. And I’m working like a mad woman trying to clear my inbox before I leave. By the time the holiday comes, I’ll be exhausted.

And that will be great. Because I’ll have ten whole days to recover. I reckon I can decompress on the flight and not start to experience the first withdrawal symptoms until Day 2 in Havana. By that stage, I’ll have found a cigar factory and will be busy testing a theory I have about rum and tobacco so the anxiety levels will be minimal.

From experience, day 3 is when the full impact hits – that disconnectedness, that wondering what I’ll be going back to, that faint niggling worry that the workflow will have stopped entirely. And knowing this, by day 3, I plan to be on a beach, somewhere near Trinidad, by the water.  And there’s very little, in my book, that seawater can’t cure. Bring it on, I say, bring it on. Who knows, it might be the start of a whole new career.


It’s my first time online since the 23rd of December – three days. Not bad. And it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I’d imagined it could be. Day 1 was a blurr. I was on the road meeting people for a lot of it and then there was the annual neighbour drop-in, where everyone within shouting distance of our house drops by for a few hours.

offlineThe day itself was quiet – more neighbours, lots of food, and hours of TV. For the first time ever (I am still in shock) I watched Jimmy Stewart in the original 1946 version of It’s a Wonderful Life. How I have gotten to where I am today without seeing that particular gem is beyond me. And did you know that it was a box-office flop when it was first released? Apparently it didn’t become THE Christmas movie until the 1970s. What a sweet, lovely, film – imagine someone wanting to lasso the moon for you… sigh…

Later that evening, another long threatening came to pass as I managed to stay awake to get through all of Argo. Set in a time when Jimmy Stewart’s film was becoming popular, it couldn’t be more different. Six Americans holed up in the Canadian’s ambassador’s residence in Teheran for more than 70 days in fear of their lives. The mind boggles. The hostage crisis was more than 30 years ago and yet today, the world doesn’t seem to have moved on any.

St Stephen’s Day saw more visitors, more turkey, and more telly. While there was a faint niggling in the back of my brain all the time, accompanied by the full knowledge that I have deadlines to meet early next week, I simply couldn’t bring myself to turn on my computer. And that’s progress.

And what’s more I even forgot about my phones, accidentally muting them more often than not or leaving them in a coat pocket. [My trial iPhone is driving me batty anyway, so that was no loss really.]

There’s another few days to go before 2015 ratchets up and thoughts turn to resolutions and better ways to live. I don’t have a telly in Budapest but I do have shelves of unread book and unwatched movies. I also have years of accumulated ‘stuff’ that needs to be disposed of. My plan for the coming year is twofold: to unplug a little more, i.e., to go dark at least one, if not two days a week and recapture some of my free time to put to more constructive use; and to purge, to lighten the load, to unshackle myself from attachments to things and thoughts that have outlived their purpose.