The Vacation Dilemma

by Alli Polin on January 21, 2014

Vacation Dilemma: Work vs Unplug?

I started writing this while on vacation with my family. Before you roll your eyes that I struggled to let my blog go for almost a month, I think most people that go on extended vacations face the vacation dilemma.

  • Do I work or turn off completely?
  • Blog?
  • Be on Social Media?
  • Take a conference call?
  • Respond to an urgent email?
  • What about an email that isn’t urgent but I know the answer and can help…

Before I left, I got a ton of advice both solicited and unsolicited on how to handle my break.  With my clients, it was straight-forward and our work is on hold during my time away.  At this point, work boiled down to blogging and social media.  People, and their holiday philosophy, ultimately fell into three different camps.

The Unplug Camp

Mantra: Vacation = No work.

Recommendation:  Just step away 100%.  Who cares that you’ll be away for nearly a month?

Belief:  It can’t be relaxing unless you disconnect entirely.

The Outsource Camp

Mantra: Looking present is more important than being present.

Recommendation:  Hit Fiverr hard and find a Social Media stand-in and maybe someone to respond to blog comments too.

Belief: It doesn’t have to be you to still be Social.

The Get it All Done in Advance Camp

Mantra: Set it and forget it.

Recommendation: Write all of your posts in advance, schedule all of your tweets and you can step away while things hum along.

Belief: Humming is a one-way monologue, dialogue is unnecessary.

My Pre-Holiday Plan

I took in all of their well-intentioned advice and thought I had a plan that would work for me:

Mantra: Cut back, no need to turn off

Plan: 1) Cut blogging down to once a week 2) Stay present on Twitter but no Tweet Chats 3) Ignore Facebook (I admit, I’m not a huge fan so this one was easy)

Belief: I had to stay engaged or people would forget about me.  Even worse, what if it’s like the last time I stopped exercising and never quite got back into the habit.

Welcome to Camp Reality

For my first few days I was having fun but still immersed in the pressure of a virtual presence.  My blog looked like the lights were on but I was rarely home; it didn’t feel good. I didn’t have posts in my back pocket and after a long day of touring and looking for inner peace that I had lost in the frenzy of my day-to-day life, blogging, well, wasn’t going well.

I missed my first post in a year and a half.  Deep breath.  Life rolled on and so did the adventure.  I spent my days at Buddhist temples and my nights looking out over the water, cuddling with my kids and making eyes at my husband.  When I missed my second and third posts of the year, that was OK too because I was writing my story and the time wasn’t right to put it on paper.

Funny, when the time came to make my own choices, and not just think about what I was going to do about work on vacation, it wasn’t a dilemma at all.

I missed five posts in all and here’s five things I learned:

  1. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in it.
  2. I’m happy I remained on Twitter because it was easy, fun, and relationship-focused.
  3. I have learned about myself as a parent, woman, leader and a human while I was away and I now have even more to share.
  4. What worked for someone else will not necessarily be the right answer for me (or you)
  5. Vacations are a dilemma because we pack expectations, assumptions, roles and responsibilities in our bags with us.  It’s time to lighten the load and do what feels right.

What’s worked for you?  Are vacations a dilemma?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

John Thurlbeck January 21, 2014 at 6:31 am

Hi Alli

You made me smile enormously when I read your post. In three days time I am flying to Hanoi for the start of an eight weeks adventure with my wife Lesley touring South East Asia, as part of her retirement ‘gap’ year! I am so buzzed about it that it is unreal!

I was contemplating exactly the same thing and had already told people I would be unplugged intermittently. Then LaRae told me that Twitter and Facebook are restricted in Vietnam and Cambodia … and I thought, “Hmm … what to do now?”

Then I read this and thought, “You know what? I am going to enjoy the colour of leadership … and immerse myself in a fabulous holiday of a lifetime with my soul mate! If I get the chance to do any #SoMe stuff, then cool!”

So, thanks for the post and for the tweet back, as I was writing this. You are so right ~ it was timely indeed … and very, very helpful! In response to your other comment about hearing about the travels, Lesley has decided to do a travel blog, when she can, so I will share the link as soon as I can. Then when I return, rather than have just vicarious pleasure, we can revel in a Hangout and share our mutual joy in what we did!

Take care my friend … and have a brilliant week ahead!

John 🙂


Alli Polin January 21, 2014 at 7:20 am


Have an AMAZING time. I just got home and I’m very jealous that you’re just starting out!

Somehow, knowing that Twitter and Facebook are not a choice, it makes it easier. You simply can’t and will be forced to be in the moment with Lesley. 😉

As much as it feels like a dilemma, it’s also wonderful to give yourself the permission to do it if you want to. Hard and fast rules are so restrictive – plug in when you can and if you want to and just ENJOY!

When you get back, let’s count on that hangout!


Karin Hurt January 21, 2014 at 7:09 am

Terrific post. I’ve faced these same questions and received similar advice. Listening to your heart and staying in the moment as you decide makes sense. I’ve stayed very involved on some vacations (often in desperate search for wifi in some remote corner of the world or at a camping site), and also unplugged as I did at Christmas. I don’t think there’s one answer… even for the same person. It depends… and that’s okay.


Alli Polin January 21, 2014 at 7:26 am

Great point, Karin! It’s not only about a personal holiday philosophy but also the timing… I’ve been on family vacations where taking a conference call actually helped me to relax more because I tuned in when I needed to most.

I know I made the right choices this time around.


Jon Mertz January 21, 2014 at 7:13 am


Welcome back! Although we noticed your absence, being present in the moment of where you are will always be more important. Like you, I have felt torn on what to do and, as we enter that time away, we always seem to know the right thing to do.

Struggling with the question means you care and that may be what matters most.

Thanks! Jon


Alli Polin January 21, 2014 at 7:28 am

Thanks, Jon! Felt really wonderful to be in the moment and be present in heart and mind with my family. One size fits all rarely does!

I really do care and it feels wonderful to be back.


Lolly Daskal January 21, 2014 at 7:37 am


Great post! I am sure many many people can relate to your words of wisdom.

Anytime we make the important decisions about our social media, our blogs, our tweets, our presence– we must do what feels right!

And what feels right comes from the heart.

Follow your heart in important decisions, it knows what matters most.

Lolly Daskal
Lead From Within


Alli Polin January 21, 2014 at 7:40 am

Lolly –

What feels right absolutely comes from the heart. Almost every time I’ve struggled with a decision, when I let go and looked within, I knew what to do. All the asking and all the stressing happened because I care about what I do and the people I’m connected with virtually and in my day-to-day life.

Thanks, Lolly!

~ Alli


Carl January 21, 2014 at 9:16 am

Alli, excellent post – as I read I realized I drew a distinction around your other roles – you are Mum & wife – to be able to honor those roles you must be truly present and taking a long holiday is a family event. The memories created during that holiday will last long after your last blog post or tweet.
While maintaining presence is important for business – it is critical for maintaining the relationship of family.
Personally I congratulate you on your decision and as you are finding – all of your ‘virtual’ friends are still here. 🙂

Best regards,


Alli Polin January 22, 2014 at 6:45 am


I have a sneaking suspicion my family will be there long after my business. My initial struggle definitely transformed when I thought about how this was a once in a lifetime trip – they will never be 8 and 10 again. How could I miss out?

Big thanks for popping by – means a lot to me, Carl!


Chery Gegelman January 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Welcome Back! We missed you, but are so glad you spent the time with your family! And thank you for always writing posts that we all relate to – because we struggle with those decisions too!


Alli Polin January 22, 2014 at 6:47 am

Thanks, Chery! Funny how we all struggle with it. I really wanted a perfect, tie a bow around it, solution… but instead I got an in the moment, feels right, right now, solution 🙂

Still a few days left on summer vacation and the balancing act continues!

Appreciate you, my friend!


Samantha January 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Welcome back Alli! (Officially!)

Aside from the fact that I would LOVE to learn more about your adventures on vacation ie.. visiting Buddhist temples etc!

This is the big take away right here: ‘You can ask for advice but you choose what’s right for you.’

In the end, ANYTHING we choose to do or don’t do works best when we decide what is right and best for ourselves. We can bounce things off of each other, glean some guidance from others, and it’s practical and wise to have others fill in our blind spots especially when it comes to important matters. Yet in the end, we are the ones that have to decide. To make the choices. To do or not do what we think and/or feel is best for us and our situation.

And even in those times where we may follow the advice of others instead of what our own hearts wanted, we still learn. We learn in hindsight that ‘I should have listened to my gut in the first place!’ And each time we do this, we are reminded yet again to TRUST our own inner guidance. That we CAN count on it. More often then not.

Now how bout those Buddhist temples!? : )


Alli Polin January 22, 2014 at 6:54 am

Hey there! Thanks!

YES!! Advice is wonderful but we need to step up and into our personal leadership and choose what’s right for us! Love that you point out too that when we go against our gut, we know it. The best is when we learn from it and the worst is when we just sit around wondering why it didn’t work for us like it did for so many others. Learning to trust that you know what to do can take a lifetime but luckily, every time we listen to our inner-knower, we’re one step closer.

The Buddhist temples were AMAZING. I’m not Buddhist but felt so much every time I walked into one. Lots of learning and reflection – awesome, huh?

Thanks for ALWAYS adding so much to the conversation, Samantha!!

With appreciation ~



Terri Klass January 21, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I am pleased to hear that you followed what worked the best for you, Alli and didn’t follow someone else’s advice.

We are the only ones that know what we are really feeling and needing at different points in our lives. Work/life balance can be for the birds so we need to check in with ourselves and choose authentically.

Your trip looked amazing! You will never look back and say- “Wish I spent more time writing my blog!” Can’t wait to hear all about it. WELCOME BACK!!!! Missed you!!!


Alli Polin January 22, 2014 at 6:56 am

That’s it! Authentic choice and a little wiggle room too. I announced my plan in advance yet gave myself the wiggle room to change my mind.

Funny – I was tempted to get on a call with you and some other friends at one point and I’m glad I not only trusted my own decisions but also trusted that my friends and colleagues are smart, resourceful and have my back too.

Btw – “Wish I spent more time writing my blog!?” nope. Got the pictures to prove it.

Thanks, Terri!


Sharon Reed January 22, 2014 at 11:57 am

Welcome back, Alli!

As I continue along my own season of ‘purposeful pruning’, your words and wisdom resonate. Like you, I’ve learned that while I appreciate others’ advice, when I tune out for a period of time, I’m better able to tune into my heart discern the best choices for myself.

Look forward to reading more about your trip!



Alli Polin January 23, 2014 at 8:23 am

Such an important point, Sharon! Advice, after a time can become like a noise bouncing around our heads and the way to stop it is to tune into ourselves. For me, I’ve discovered how much quiet helps me hear the message of my heart and not only my head.

Thanks so much!


LaRae Quy January 22, 2014 at 11:58 am

You were REALLY missed by many people…especially me 🙂 I can think of several times when your sage wisdom and advice would have come in handy during the past few weeks 🙁

I find that it’s more stressful to unplug entirely while on vacation and let my emails pile up than to keep in touch with what’s going on in my world…even if it’s so I don’t have 500 emails waiting for me when I return. I always take my laptop with me (except to China, Cambodia, and Vietnam) and spend a few minutes every morning getting caught up…and then spend the rest of the day doing what I want!

Welcome back!


Alli Polin January 23, 2014 at 8:21 am

Thanks, LaRae! I totally know what you’re saying… coming back to an avalanche of email always makes the ends of my vacations dreaded. Historically, I’d much rather take a little time each day to keep up even if I don’t respond to everything immediately. Doing what it is that takes the stress off can free you up to enjoy! That’s definitely the approach I decided to take this time around too.

Appreciate the welcome back!


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