What I learned on my summer vacation — lesson #1

I’m back at home and back at my laptop, now, after a week’s vacation in Denmark with my family. Along with another family, who also has two young daughters (their son was away at camp), we went to visit some Danish friends and their kids.

One daring move on my part was to leave my laptop behind, which I’ve never done before. I take my laptop everywhere; it is the foundation of my work and my play, and – I discovered when I decided to leave it behind – it is my “comfort object,” like a baby’s special blankey. I felt a little lost without it.

But although at times my fingers started itching to type, I think it did make my vacation better to be without my computer.

If I’d had my laptop, I would have constantly been thinking about whether I could pull away from our current activities to log in a little keyboard time. It would have made it harder to be “in the moment” (a phrase I dislike, but for which I can’t think of a good substitute). We wanted our family vacation to be a lot of intense family togetherness, and working on a laptop would have been a distraction. As it was, I did find myself trying to find to sneak away to read Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa (I’d forgotten that she was Danish until I started reading on the airplane) or G. K. Chesterton’s Autobiography. But it’s easier to jump in and out of reading than it is to jump in and out of writing.

I also think it refreshed my mind to turn off my own personal word processing capacity. A huge part of my day, every day, is spent on writing and taking notes – which is extremely lucky for me, because these are the things I like to do most of all. Nevertheless, it was good to have a break.

I can’t tell if it spurred my creativity, but it definitely boosted my enjoyment of these familiar activities. There’s nothing like deprivation to sharpen pleasure.

Also, just on the mundane physical level, it was a relief not to have to worry about taking care of my laptop. I drag it around with me everywhere, and in my usual life, I don’t worry about it much, but given the rigors of traveling, I’m sure I would have spent a lot of time fussing about whether it was in the rain, being crushed, getting lost, or whatever. It was more relaxing not to have that concern.

Before I left, I wondered if I’d be eager to take a lot of happiness notes in Denmark, because it is the country that scores #1 in world happiness rankings.

However, I didn’t make a single astute observation to account for why Denmark ranks so high. It’s a lovely country, and we had a terrific time, and everyone we met was extremely nice – but I didn’t notice any factors beyond what other commentators have pointed out.

I had a lot of fun cruising around the excellent blog, Peculiar Beauty. It's not the kind of thing that will interest everyone, but I loved the wry yet enthusiastic tone, and actually found myself laughing out loud at times.

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