My friends, it’s time to unplug and go on a vacation.
These feel like insane times. Turn on the news, read the paper, go online, and it feels like you just can’t escape it. At home, kids seem addicted to video games, YouTube videos, and if they are on social media, even worse (I have managed to keep my younger ones off it so far – though YouTube is a problem). Information overload, or Cognitive Overload as referred to by health experts, can lead to depression, indecisiveness, and stress, and Smartphone addiction is a real thing which can lead to sleep deprivation, mood swings, and even a lack of focus.
Because my work is mostly online, I have often felt the effects of always being connected and over time have had to make significant changes – though it is still a work in progress – to disconnect more and even fight the urge to engage in conversations which will likely suck me in for hours, if not days. With my kids, I have removed all gaming systems for a while and though they still have access to the computer, it is very controlled and limited (outside of homeschool requirements).
But that isn’t always enough and it is work especially when still at home and surrounded by it all. Sometimes the best way to really unplug is to get away, preferably to a place where no WiFi or televisions are available.
That is exactly what my family and I recently did when we went away for a long weekend to Woodstock, VT. We had planned to spend most of our days in outdoor markets and hiking through the mountains, but because of heavy rains during most of our visit, we settled for lazy afternoons on the couch, reading and playing board games till sleepiness took over.
Now some might wonder how happy my two boys, 10 and 11 years old, were with this arrangement, and the truth is they were happy. I mean, truly happy and yes, I was surprised too. However, if parenting has taught me anything it is how often I underestimate the awesomeness of my own children.
Their entire demeanor changes when they are unplugged. They become less irritable and more relaxed. There isn’t this dire need to push past other things in a hurry because they need to join an online group game or catch up on their favorite YouTuber. At times they seemed like a weight had been lifted and they could just breath. I could see it in their demeanor. They never once complained about the lack of technology or non-access to it. Imagine that. Most adults I know wouldn’t make it past 30 minutes without throwing a tantrum. The minute we entered our AirBnB cabin rental, they unpacked the books they had brought with them or grabbed one from the wonderful collection in the cabin, found a bright spot and read.
As for my husband and I, it was nice to not know, if only for a few days, what was happening in the world. It was nice to just breathe and not care about anyone or anything other than our little circle. It was delightful to be in the woods, the sound of the stream nearby, the birds, and the wind.
For a few blissful days nothing else mattered in the world but our little family.
We shopped at Woodstock’s Farmers Market, which felt a lot like a Fairway Market in NYC and picked up some treats to cook with (we didn’t eat out once, but instead cooked all of our meals in the cabin). We went to bed early and woke up early to see the sun rise and the fog dance over the tree tops.
We grilled outside and dined next to a large window where we could watch the rain fall and the hummingbirds indulge in the sweet water left for them by the cabin owners. We cozied up in the living room laughing and telling stories while the log burned in the wood burning oven to keep us warm.
When it comes to travel posts, I know the expectation is that something exciting will be shared, but the most exciting thing I can share here is how healing being unplugged and lost in nature was for us as a family and I highly recommend it. I was sad to come back to the world.
Were the weather nicer, there are tons of things to do in Woodstock, VT, from hiking to photographing covered bridges. Some highlights to keep in mind are:
The Billings Farm and Museum, an outdoor history museum which is also a working farm and often hosts family friendly activities.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park for hiking, touring of the historic house on site, and taking part in local events.
Woodstock Village is such a sweet place. We strolled on the one sunny afternoon we had during our visit, past sweet little shops and boutiques and plenty of coffee shops and eateries.
Mount Tom is about a 30-45 minute hike to the summit and has some pretty epic views of the village. There are more than 60 trails to explore in the Woodstock area and in the winter there is Suicide Six ski trail.
Tips for planning an unplugged vacation
Avoid temptation, leave the phone. My husband and I did check our phones when we ventured into an area where we had WiFi access, especially during the first day. Hard habits (and addictions) are hard to break. But after that first day, I often found myself walking out without my phone, or would leave it in the car. It was liberating.
Don’t just unplug, make sure there is nothing to connect to. Because being unplugged was beyond our control, the kids didn’t give us a hard time at all about it, so sometimes it is easiest to just not have it available. I had a harder time with the outhouse (though I loved the outdoor shower and bathtub), than I did with no TV or WiFi. If you schedule a getaway in the mountains, chances are you will find your unplugged escape too.
Don’t over plan to make up for the lack of distraction. The point was to relax, and we did! I wanted the kids to remember what it’s like to not always be on-the-go, to just sit by the fire, to be in silence, and to do nothing. The doing nothing part is a lot harder for active families like us, but
Go often on these retreats, or try it at home. Just put it all away, walk out of your house without your phone, plan a dinner with loved ones or friends and have a “no electronics at the table” rule. Start small and you will find that over time it gets easier and easier to do. I have been actively unplugging for a few months. Sure, it means I am not always online or even blogging, but I feel healthier and happier.
Returning from our trip was a little hard and sad. Kids went to the computer and we to our phones and of course, the world is still in chaos according to all the news. But the beauty of it is that we have the tools to take care of ourselves, ignore the noise, and of course, there’s always our little cabin escape in Vermont.
For more information on our AirBnB cabin in the woods rental, check out their listing.
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