From Type A to Type Ahhh: Learning to Unplug, Filipino-Style


Dad and me, 2007

I first visited the Philippines in 2007. My dad was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in the mid-70s. He has always told us stories from his childhood, but I didn’t quite know what to expect with my first trip to the other side of the world.

I had the typical Type A reaction to a vacation: excitement mixed with anxiety about being away from work. Abstract ‘what ifs’ ran through my head, and I imagined worst case scenarios that could happen while I was gone. I had only been working for two years at this point and was already failing at a work-life balance. This was my first time taking more than a week off – no wonder it seemed impossible to disconnect!

Well, for the first time since beginning my career, I truly disconnected.

It was by circumstance, not by choice. Wi-Fi wasn’t readily available back then and I’m not even sure I had a smartphone. So I went into the trip knowing that I would be out of touch for days at a time. And I was okay with that…because I had to be!

My family's coconut farm

We stayed with my grandma before traveling to the islands where my grandparents were born. It was exciting to see where my family came from and also to hear how things had changed in the last 40 years. The Filipino culture seemed so different than what I was used to. There was such a contrast between wealth and poverty and how congested the city felt, compared to being on the coast and feeling completely at peace.

My family owns a coconut farm that sits on the beach and is perfectly secluded. We only spent a short time there but it will forever be one of my favorite places on earth. I met family for the first time, we woke and slept with the sun, and I couldn’t ignore the sense of contentment I felt just being there.


How could ten days away from my life back home have such an impact?

Quite simply, not having access to the internet left me with a lot of time to think. It also afforded me the opportunity to be unreachable for the first time since I can remember.

I always forget how important it is to disconnect from time to time. And you don’t have to leave town to do it. I’m guilty of having my phone with me at all times just in case someone needs to reach me. Accessibility is the expectation.But does it have to be? It’s something I think about often, and there’s no right answer.

In an ideal world, I would set aside some time for myself every week. But in reality, I reach a point where I know I need a break, and then I take it. Anything that allows me to not feel the pressure of being connected helps. Even if it’s just for an hour!

Can't keep me away! Return trip, 2015

Can’t keep me away! Return trip, 2015

I love this Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.

I’m in the Philippines right now, celebrating my grandma’s 99th birthday. This trip has brought me back to my first visit eight years ago. So much has changed in that time, but one thing remains: Life will always be hectic and it doesn’t stop when I need a break. So it’s up to me to take it!

Those things we think we need to address immediately will still be there when we’re back. And life will go on. This trip is another reminder of what’s most important to me: being present for myself and being present to those around me.

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