Laura, Unplugged

Last week, after a perilous five days of packing and shopping for water shoes and gifts for the in-laws, we shoved off for the long drive to North Carolina. My in-laws live in a beach town below the Outer Banks; It's nearly in South Carolina.

It's a long drive, so we broke up the trip with lots of stops along the way. One night in Baltimore. 10 hour drive to the beach house. Three days with the in-laws. One day in Nag's Head. Up the DelMarVa Peninsula to Lewes, Delaware, where we took a ferry to Cape May. Cape May for two days and then back home.

I wasn't entirely unplugged, like these guys in the New York Times story. I did have my iPhone and would check Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail from time to time. But I was certainly online a lot less. I wasn't writing constantly. People knew that I was away, so nobody expected me to return e-mails immediately. I would check the headlines in the Times, but I didn't feel like I had to keep up. There was definitely less online multitasking. 

There was also less offline multitasking. I still have to watch the kids when on vacation, but Steve was around, so it was 50 percent less work. I didn't have to drive anyone to soccer practice or a doctor's appointment. I didn't have to make three meals a day. The phone didn't ring. I wasn't writing a blog post, making dinner, and sorting out a fight at the same time.

There was less visual stimulation. Beach photography is terribly boring, because all beaches look the same. Sand, water, horizon. It's beautiful, but monotonous. Still, the beach resorts were a riot of color compared to the rest of our drive through the smaller highways. When you get out of the dense areas around our metropolitan areas, there's not a whole lot to see. For hundreds of miles, there's nothing but tree farms and trailers by the side of the highway. Maybe you see an anti-Obama sign to liven things up, but pretty much, it's a lot of emptiness.

It took me a little while to unwind. A few hours into the trip, I was making plans to clean out my office when I got home. There were a couple of writing projects that I was itching to get into. I dreamed about getting an iPad. I missed the immediate gratification of writing a blog post.

I didn't realize how good it was to get away from the craziness until we got back home. We dumped out bags at the door Saturday evening, and everybody scattered to check out their favorite toys and to work on projects. Jonah made a garbage chute from the top of his bunk. Ian made a helicopter out of Lego. Steve fixed up the backyard. I picked tomatoes and made a fresh salad. I wrote up a short story that Jonah and I had made up over the weekend about a picky child named Ian who ate nothing but chicken fingers and french fries for a week. 

Relaxing makes me work better. My thoughts aren't shredded with distractions and bursts of adrenaline.

I suspect I would get bored with rural, quiet life pretty quickly, but it is certainly great in small doses. Perhaps the best option would be to have a weekend house in the woods and live a yo-yo existence with commuting back and forth.

5 thoughts on “Laura, Unplugged

  1. When you get out of the dense areas around our metropolitan areas, there’s not a whole lot to see.
    That’s your thinking about North Carolina? You should see Kansas or South Dakota.

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  2. I could see the “empty” line about Nebraska or the Dakotas (most of them, anyway- the the badlands) but that area is full of beautiful views, things much more interesting than the endless strip malls, gas stations, McMansions, and fast-food in the areas around the metropolitan areas.

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  3. Nebraska is a jewel. The Badlands are actually visually stunning (it looks just like the Roadrunner cartoons), except that parts where the stuck the reservations.

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  4. I’d meant to say “not the badlands”- they are really amazing- like nothing else. Nebraska, at least along the interstate, was always pretty dull to me, broken up only by the semi-regular stench of a huge feed-lot. And, after driving all day, you’re still in Nebraska. In North Dakota Teddy Roosevelt National Park is also pretty neat.

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  5. I’ll grant you that Nebraska might be an acquired taste, but it certainly does not take more than 9 hours to drive across on the interstate. And that leaves time for a nice lunch and a dinner.

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