No-Photo Vacation Days

by | Productivity

Year One with Sara

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Think back to your last vacation. How many photos did you go back and view? How many did you share while you were still there? Did you experience the moment as much as you could have? Here's why I'm a fan of no-photo vacation days.

With my mom and my Mexican boyfriends, Erik and Daniel

Right now, I'm in beautiful Huatulco, Mexico, splitting my time between two resorts. It's my sixth year where I stay for three weeks. In the past, I brought a client the first two weeks, and my husband joined me for the third for a real vacation. Last year I brought my mom one week, my friend another (four years for her!), and my husband the third. This time, due to COVID, it's just me the first two weeks with my husband joining me the last nine days. I'll be working ‘underground' on my business on two big projects, a rebranding of the company to RaderCo and a move to the ClickUp project management system. I'll also be reworking some of our processes since we've onboarded three new team members since October (yeah!). These are things I wouldn't have the brain space for in my regular day-to-day.

But that's not what this post is about. Last week, my finance coach said, “take lots of pictures”! When I said, “I don't do that,” the look on her face was confusion, which is often the look I get.

Huatulco is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, and the hotel is one of the most gorgeous I've stayed in, but the view doesn't change year after year. I could take photos, but it will never capture the sunrise over the ocean. I've taken a couple of pictures from my room's balcony, just for context. Still, by sending you to their website, you would get a much better shot of what I am experiencing. I've even sent people photos from other years because it doesn't matter. 

I want to see the ocean waves with my eyes.

Year One

I'm friends with the dancers and entertainment staff and often go out with them. I might take a photo or two of them in their costumes and me with them (short hair, longer hair, COVID hair – that's how I tell the years apart!). I like to take photos with the staff with their name tags, so I remember them next year. Still, I don't video the show or, at most, less than a minute, because then I've just missed the real experience that I will not be able to capture again. I also want them to see my eyes and smile and not the back of a phone.

One year I met a couple who had paid for a whale-watching excursion. The husband saw a whale, and the wife missed it because she was posting photos on Instagram. She almost cried as her husband was laughing about it.

Mardi Gras with Wendy

Because I'm LinkedIn only, where vacation photos aren't the norm to post, it saves me from feeling like I have to share with everyone. Even so, I wouldn't need to post to social media at that moment. I'd rather stay present in the experience and share later. When I text someone a photo, I can guarantee you I am in my room and not still there.

Does it really matter when you posted it? 
Does it have to be real-time?

I've overheard people discussing what hashtag to use while watching a cooking demonstration. After settling on it and posting, they proceeded to ask the chef questions about something he had just gone over that they hadn't been paying attention to. It was disrespectful to him and us, and again, did it matter that they posted it at 4:45 pm, or could they have waited until 5:00 pm when it was over?

Jhoana and Kevin on his 50th birthday

Because I'm around a lot of sand and water, I often leave my phone in the room. I don't want to be tied to the electronic leash. I have to worry about it getting stolen while I'm in the water, or it baking in the sun, or fight any urges or impulse to start futzing around on it. When my husband is with me, I definitely don't need it. We only need one phone between the two of us if there is something we want to capture. With Wendy, we would often take turns so that one person didn't have to have their phone all the time.

I'm not against photos. 

Looking back through these photos, it was fun to find some to put in here, but quite frankly, I hadn't really looked at them, some of them in years.

I know some people will think they are ‘catching me' when I snap a picture. I'll reiterate, I'm not against photos! What I want people to consider is their experience and presence at that moment.

Could you take a no-photo day where you leave your phone in the hotel room?

Can you have a one-phone only policy with your family since one person can capture the moments, and everyone can be less distracted?

Can you wait until you get to the hotel room or (gasp!) until you get home to post or write about it? Not only will it help you be more present while you're there, but it will also help with thieves knowing your business and where you are with your house empty.

Take that photo, and then put the phone away, or commit to having at least one no-photo vacation day.

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Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects


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