Be online. But be offline, too.

So friends? I just spent a week almost completely offline. Aside from the very occasional Instagram-turned-tweet, I was blissfully and fully among the three-dimensional world. And it was heavenly.

It wasn’t expected, to be honest. Norwegian Cruise Line sent the five of us on a cruise to the Bahamas (and I’ll be writing about it over at Babble), and for that we will be forever grateful. We had no idea how badly we needed a family vacation until we actually went on one.

But it turns out that the Internet is pretty sketchy on a cruise ship—it has to be done via satellite, which means it’s unreliable, expensive, and slow as molasses. Kyle and I were transported back to Kosovo in 2000, when we’d only get online when it was absolutely necessary.

I got the shakes a bit at first, wondering if I was missing anything urgent or important, but by the third day, ignorance was bliss. I loved that my hands were tied, forced to do nothing but enjoy my family and nature. The blog was in good hands, so I could keep my hands full of sticky toddler hands, paperback novels, and the occasional margarita.

We had not taken a family vacation, purely for the fun of it, since 2009—and it had taken its toll. I’m aware of how much we needed this time together by how much more patient, rested, and smiling I am at my children now that we’ve returned.

The trip reminded me that I used to completely go offline on Sundays, just to give my mind a rest and to help me slow down and soak in the world around me. I’m going back to that practice.

So I encourage you today: do what you need to do online, read what’s encouraging to you, maybe say hi on Facebook for a few minutes. Then close the laptop. Work on a project around the house, meet a friend for lunch, lay in the backyard with your kids, or maybe read a book made of ink and paper.

I love the Internet—it provides a living for my family, and it’s brought some of the best people in the world to my life. But offline is pretty great, too, in case you were wondering. I had forgotten that.

What are you doing today?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. that takes me back to the cruise we went on a few years ago and trying to get as much internet usage time as possible into the fifteen minutes per day we allotted ourselves. 🙂 i think forced online breaks are good, but i was glad to have it again when we got home!

  2. I’ll be offline for most of Memorial Day. We’ll be eating hot dogs and pasta salad, swimming at Grandma’s house…and sneaking off to see The Avengers while the kiddo naps at Gma’s house. I’m looking forward to a fun-filled family day!

  3. I started a Sunday Switch Off from my blog, too. I find it so settling. Nothing to check, no distractions from family, time to actually DO the cool pins I’ve collected “for another time” on Pinterest….

    I even made a blog button for it, which is a bit ironic.

  4. Yes, absolutely! I occasionally do screen-off time, whether for a day or a week, and I always end up refreshed and focused. The internet is such a great tool, but it can also be a dangerous distraction if we let it. Balance, as always, is the key.

    So glad you got a vacation! It sounds heavenly!

  5. We just enjoyed a BBQ block party with our neighbors. Everyone brought their own meat to grill, etc. and all the families hung out in the cul-de-cac with our kids running around. Although we cheated a bit, as one guy had his IPad where he played a couple funny YouTube videos for everyone to watch, lol. Still, good times in real life. 🙂

  6. I think I’ll go find a book to read made of ink and paper. LOVE IT!

  7. I work as an online tutor and I like you I used to go completely offline on Sundays but now that I started blogging I’m connected everyday. However, I’ve decided that I’ll go back to taking one offline day a week (probably Wednesday which is the day when I do not tutor. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. I’ll be offline! Breakfast date with my sister from out of town, and then grilling, splash park fun, etc, with church friends for Memorial Day!

  9. Such a great reminder!! I think I will steal your idea of being offline on Sundays. 🙂

  10. The Bahamas? How fun!! Glad you all had a great trip.
    And thanks for the reminder to spend some time offline on this holiday.

  11. Oh that looks blissful! I think having Sunday as an offline day is a great idea. I may start it too.

  12. When I unplug, hubs, the kids and I hang out in the backyard, or go for a long drive. I might work on a craft project, read a book or do some writing – just for fun! And just sitting in the sunshine, drinking a cup of tea or a beer, having a chat – it’s wonderful.

    For me, the most restorative thing I can do though, is get outside in the garden and just work my arse off. Digging, planting, watering, feeding. It is therapy. And I can’t do it online, or inside. It forces me offline and it’s awesome!

  13. We have screen free Sundays at our house, too. At first, the kids thought we were just torturing them, but it is really for myself and my husband — we need to control our screen habit! My favorite times are when we go backpacking and no one can have any electronics for two or three days. It’s amazing how it helps family communication!

  14. Wonderful reminder, Tsh. Can’t wait to hear/read more about your trip!

  15. Sunday is my pinterest day. I spend an hour searching for pins I like and a few more minutes organizing my boards. I spend perhaps another 30 minutes first thing in the morning putting my Sunday post through a last edit before I post it. Besides that I try to stay off line for the day. I like letting my creative side come out to play and actually try out a “pin” instead of always “pinning”.

  16. Watching my hubby do yard work while I simultaneously read one of those ink and paper books! 😉

    Ok,… I’ll watch the kids blow bubbles and romp around too!

  17. Love <3

  18. Katie N. says:

    We moved out of state away from fam and friends this weekend. I am going to be unpacking and being together as our own little family. Thanks for the reminder to get outside!

  19. Our entire family (2 parents, 2 teens) is off-line every Sunday. No computer, internet, texting, etc. It’s such a pleasure to have everyone present and not distracted. We did it last year as a New Year’s resolution (for 2011) and made a family rule. It’s great – and I need the break as much as anyone!

  20. Well said! It is so important to unplug on a regular basis. Sometimes you don’ t know how badly you need that break, vacation, downtime until you do it.
    I think your unplug one day a week is completely essential, thanks for encouraging others to do so, and practicing that yourself once again.
    Happy Memorial Day!

  21. Tsh, thanks for the reminder. I’m trying to get to a whole day offline. But ironically, I got a little overbooked between my copywriting biz and Your Healthy Home Biz – my blog about running your home biz sanely and healthily.
    But even though I don’t have my offline days that often, I try to limit it on the weekends to chunks and reduce the amount of checking in. Funny how we think we’ll miss something online when we’re really missing the world offline. I wrote about this here – In fact I even go so far as to advise getting away from books, radio, tv for a bit so you can find out what you’re thinking deep inside of you and truly observe what’s going on around you:

  22. The internet has a way of sucking the time. I’ve heard using a timer can be helpful. I love your suggestion. Do what you need to do, then get off and live the moment.

  23. We do Sundays off-line as well. I try to stay off from 6:00 pm Saturday night until 7:00 pm Sunday, but I don’t always make it. It makes such a difference in how much attention I give my children and husband and makes for a much more peaceful week for me.

  24. Crystal says:

    Thanks for the reminder, I will always remember this things matter…

  25. Off to go to a bbq with my sister’s family and the pastors of their new church. Great advice. Off on Sundays sounds like very wise advice. So glad you got to go on a vacation with that precious family of yours.

  26. Going offline on Sundays is a wonderful practice that I try to implement as well. It is good to disconnect from the Internet and reconnect with the “real” world.

  27. I try to go offline for a few days every few weeks or so. It’s so refreshing. I love learning & being entertained online, but offline is where I really connect to myself- my goals & dreams. Sounds like a great vacation!

  28. Katrina says:

    I’m so glad to see so many of us going off-line. I stop computer-world at 6pm or so on Saturday and don’t reconnect until after 6pm on Sunday. That time away is so life-giving, I’ll never go back!

  29. I found that I lost track of time far too easily online.
    And with social media always on the move, there was always a reason to check.
    I was distracted from the real life happenings of my children and just *life* around me.
    So I made a schedule. It’s not perfect, and I’m not legalistic about it, but I try to only check email & social media during those 3 scheduled times per day.
    The rest of the day my smart phone sits on it’s shelf, volume high so I don’t miss an important call or text (no land line here). 🙂
    And I set an alarm to remind me to turn it off an hour before bed.

  30. Isn’t it strange how we think we need to keep our lives so crammed full of things, until we get on vacation and realize how non-essential so many of those things are. I’m glad you got to enjoy time with your family and relax, and that you’ll be able to carry the lesson of unplugging with you.

  31. So happy for you. What a blessing to take a wonderful, restful vacation.
    Going offline….we all know that we need more balance. Wonder why it’s so difficult? Thanks for the nudge to re-establish some boundaries.

  32. Wow I really needed that reminder. We just moved 900 miles to a place where we know nearly no one. I find I have been relying on e-mail and FB to feel some sort of connection to the world. But, your post does remind me how good it feels to be offline. Not to mention how much more productive and attentive to my family I can be when I do go offline.

  33. What a great post. In a world where everyone seems to constantly be plugged into something, I agree, being offline is ever so refreshing.

    ps – I’m glad you and your family had a lovely time 🙂

  34. When we went on our cruise last January, I was all concerned about how I was going to be reachable, get my email, etc. I think I checked email on the ship’s computer briefly, maybe twice, the whole week. The universe did not change course. No little children died because of my being offline. In fact, I think it was what a vacation is *meant* to be (and USED to be, before smartphones and other gadgets produced the expectation that we’ll be in constant touch).

  35. I accidentally left my phone at home when we went out for an outing today and I actually felt good for not having to check my emails and blog stats! I realize that the constant checking online actually ends up not as enjoyable as seeing all the updates all at once at the end of the day.

  36. Welcome back! I actually just got back from a week long vacation as well…I was just thinking how after a week I get some great perspective. How unimportant a lot of time spend online is and the things I really missed and uplift me. I think I will be limiting my online time this summer!

  37. hey these are really nice words that you used . you surly have a great writing skill and a very open mind .. i like your post a lot .. its really inspiring ..

  38. I appreciate the reminder. My brain could certainly use at least one day offline. That’s the goal for this Sunday. Just me, my family, and something fabulous for dinner.

  39. I am not naturally an online person which is nice. It can be so addictive though, so it is a good reminder to take a break too!

  40. Did you write this just for me? you did. I know you did. You wrote this just for me. Thank you. thankyouthankyouthankyou

  41. Love this, Tsh. So glad you were able to get away with the family. xo

  42. How wonderful you received this gift!

    I had trouble signing onto Blogger today and almost wished I couldn’t. Almost wished I couldn’t get on my blog ever again, and would have a reason to be forced 100% back into my life. It’s given me a lot to think about today.

  43. I just landed on your site from the Thesis theme site. I must say, this post was a pleasant read. It reminded me to do the same. Thanks! and good luck!

  44. I took Sunday off from the internet and it was lovely. I think I will try to do that every Sunday!

  45. Jenny Scott says:

    It is very important to take a family vacation occasionally. That way you get to have another dimension on the look of things as opposed from the usual look at home, and just have fun as a family. I make sure that in a year I go for several vacations.

  46. I think it is good practice to go offline on the weekends, especially when you are working online.

  47. I wasn’t on too much over the holiday weekend. And some days I just walk away for a few hours and do projects with the kids or take them somewhere…or clean up. I don’t have a smart phone, and I’m starting to prefer it that way. When I’m out with the kids…I’m OUT with the kids! I rarely call or text anyone and only if I really need to. But I’m not constantly checking my Facebook or something. I’m really WITH them. And that’s pretty great too. 🙂

  48. This is a wonderful reminder about how important it is to maintain balance. I have really been struggling lately, trying to find a balance between keeping up on my blogs (and everything that comes along with that) and soaking up as much time as possible with my five-month-old and husband. My natural tendency is to stay offline and revel in 3D life, but then I feel guilty for not giving my blogs 100% attention – not to mention all the relationship-building that goes along with that, which I’ve never been that great at, partially because it so often seems to require being online the majority of the time (see Twitter).

    Then I’ll switch gears try to be online working on my blogs, etc. as much as possible and I stress about being online too much. Laughing … my friends *did* tell me that guilt would be a natural part of my life once I became a parent.

    So glad you had such a therapeutic vacation with your adorable family.

    I love writing, and I love working, but I like to check myself now and then with that wise old thought about how, when I’m on my death bed, I’m not going to say, “Gee, I sure wish I’d spent more time working.” I think “Gosh, I wish I’d spent more time online” applies as well.

  49. I am stuck in the old tradition of reading books made of paper and ink. Simply reading this way makes me feel unplugged. There’s something about technology that makes my mind race and I’m unable to relax.

  50. I’ve just written a blog post about that topic as well which will be online next week. My wifi-router broke more than a week ago and I was forced to be offline until yesterday. It was okay, I missed the internet but I realized I could live without it…

  51. I used to go offline regularly for 1-4 weeks, but now it’s to the point where people think I’m ignoring them if I don’t respond within a few hours. *sigh*

  52. We had no idea how badly we needed a family vacation until we actually went on one.

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