Over the Hills and Far Away

Elaine Massung All Roads Lead to Machynlleth
INTRO ] [ PART 1 ] [ PART 2 ] [ PART 3 ]
[ As we make the transition from one year to another, it’s a great time to look ahead to new horizons as well as turn around to see how far we have come.

I wrote All Roads Lead to Machynlleth a few years ago in the middle of dealing with stress, burnout, and generally feeling quite overwhelmed by everything I was trying to accomplish. But the 11 lessons I learned from my time away have been invaluable in building up greater resilience, and I would recommend an occasional digital detox to everyone: sometimes you have to unplug in order to recharge — Elaine, January 2019 

Escape. The word has been on my mind for a while. Last year I read an article about “glamping”*, or glamourous camping, and the seed was planted: no internet, no emails, no Facebook. I envisioned reading and writing in a beautiful setting, having the opportunity to photograph and explore a new area, and just getting away from the constant demands that seemed to be coming at me from all across the interwebs.  

Much has already been written elsewhere about how an always connected, always available culture affects employees, and I am fortunate to work for an organisation that does not expect its staff to be online 24/7. Yet my position is one where I get dozens of emails a day. Some are just for information (but still need to be read, digested, and filed where they can be easily found in the future), others require a coherent, timely response at some point, and a few need data to be found or an action to be carried out RIGHT NOW. The latter land in my inbox with the force of a hand grenade, disrupting my other work activities and reshaping my to-do list beyond my control. Regardless of the type of message, the onslaught is relentless and just keeping on top of emails has begun to feel like a Sisyphean task.

Then there are my side projects. I have three—and I am coming to the realisation that with a full-time job this is two too many. All of these rely on the internet: blogs powered by Tumblr for Indian River by Air, Rubbish Walks, and MissElaineous. Hootsuite to post on Twitter and Instagram for each of the sites I run. MailChimp newsletters. And of course the ubiquity of Facebook and its comments and messages. With the connectivity of smartphones, all of these are always present, always lurking somewhere in the background.  

Recently I was at the point where it felt like every email and every Skype message brought with it another thing I had to do, another request for my time, attention, and energy. The things I was doing for fun began to feel like work … and work I didn’t want to do at that. There was no breathing space.**  Instead, I felt like a fly caught and bound by the World Wide Web. I needed to unplug in order to recharge.

I admit there is an irony in using Google to search for WiFi-free locations to escape to, but that’s what I did a few weeks ago when it was all seeming too much. Up popped an article from the Guardian that mentioned Rock Villa B&B in the middle of Wales. It boasted almost non-existent mobile reception and poor WiFi in a tranquil setting. Perfect. I booked it and began to count down the days until leaving.

* I’ve spent a month camping in the regular way and the only way to lure me back is with a proper bed, electricity, running water, and heating.  

** The Oatmeal is usually NSFW (not safe for work) and to be avoided by those of a more sensitive disposition. This comic is no exception but makes a great point about the creative process.

Off the Beaten Track Wiltshire

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