Josh feet
Itea, Greece.

I just returned from a two-week experiment in relaxation. The test: Can an information-addled developer unplug from the internet for two full weeks without so much as a peek at e-mail? Can sunshine, leisurely meals and gorgeous Mediterranean locales possibly compete with the allure of RSS feeds and Perl subroutines?

The results

Friends, I’m happy to report that the experiment was a success. The test subject survived 14 days in Greece and Italy, including several grueling trials of beautiful vistas and delicious antipasto. The subject exhibited no symptoms of digital withdrawal, and there were even moments when said subject claimed to forget his own e-mail address.

Upon his return, contrary to his own expectation, the subject discovered that the sky had not fallen and that the world continued to turn in his absence. Indeed, observations suggest that he has settled happily back to work with new enthusiasm and a bundle of fresh ideas.

The only visible side effect of this experiment was unsightly growth of the e-mail inbox, and some occasional cases of rapid breathing from some customers. Both conditions have already been mitigated, although it seems likely that a full recovery may still be a couple of days away. (If you’re waiting for an e-mail from me, hang in there, I haven’t forgotten you. I’m working through my inbox as quickly as possible.)


The test subject at the Colosseum. Note his strange calm without e-mail, mobile phone or web access.

Even in these hectic times, it remains possible to engineer a complete escape from the worries of work with no adverse effect. More experimentation is definitely required.

Other findings

The ancient sites that I visited in Athens, Delphi, Siracusa and Rome triggered lots of thoughts about design process as well as the proper balance between tech innovation and respect for past design traditions. More on this in the next few days, plus photos.

In the meantime, a few miscellaneous findings of this month’s experiment:

  • It’s amazing how far you can go when the only words you know of the local language are hello, please, thank you, one and two.
  • Ancient mosaics blow doors on modern pixel art.
  • The Greeks sure know their way around a pork sandwich. A true Greek gyro is a mighty thing to behold.
  • Addendum to previous finding: I thought that I knew what tzatziki was all about, but I had no idea until I had the genuine article in Athens. Begone bland cucumber spreads; somehow I’ve gotta find a way to obtain buckets of this stuff direct from the source.
  • Cafe culture in Greece is even stronger than in Italy and France. Everyone is so mellow. Even the omnipresent dogs in Athens lie on their bellies all day, grinning.
  • Rome rocks. After my fourth visit to the eternal city, I’m more sure of it than ever.
  • There’s really no reason not to sample a little champagne every day.

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