Forget isolation and relaxation. For the seriously connected geek of today, vacations just aren't what they used to be. An informal and completely unscientific poll of InfoWorld readers revealed that -- although a few certified techies unplug completely when on vacation -- most elect to stay at least somewhat connected with their regular life; thanks to the ever-broadening range of cellular and wireless networks, most of them can.
Jeff Helm witnessed the transition at one vacation spot: "I first took the family to Pigeon Forge (near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) in October 2001. I walked across the hotel parking lot to the new public library to get on the Internet and check mail. I was told I would have to fill out a form, pay $5, let them hold on to my driver's license, and swear that I wouldn't 'conduct any business' or credit card transactions of any kind." Fast-forward to August 2006: "We went to the same hotel. I got out of the car to check in, and my PDA gave an audible report that it found a wireless signal. Yes, the same library was now beaming invitations to connect to the Internet to everyone in the area. Every hotel … did the same. I checked e-mail at the outside mall, waiting for a patio table at the restaurant, and just about every place I went. I shut off the audible alert because the thing was going off constantly with all the networks."
"The Outer Banks of North Carolina have a full complement of Net hotspot and cell-phone coverage capabilities," writes Peter B. Young. "I like to sit in the shade of an upper deck on our mansion-of-the-week, my sturdy old laptop plugged into an outlet in the living room or often out on the deck itself, and let 'er rip -- as gentle southern breezes caress my worn and wounded body." Rand Foster recommends cruising the San Juan Islands in northwest Washington between Vancouver Island and the mainland: "There is Wi-Fi at every marina." Brad St. Pierre found the perfect combo in Canada's Northwest Territories: "At the Bayside B and B in Yellowknife, I could watch the lakeside airplane and boat activity from the lounge or deck all day while surfing the Net. With almost 24 hours of sunshine, it's never too late to do the things you forgot to do while you were online."
"Since this was an East Coast contract, I would get up at 4:30 or 5 to do a quick message check and reply as a first-thing-in-the-morning connection for them. Then we would drive to the Monterey Bay Aquarium but leave me three blocks away at the Kinko's with my laptop, where access is free, 24 hour, and comfortable. I would spend an hour or two working, then wander down to the wharf to meet them for some exhibits and lunch. If there was work, I would check back at Kinko's; if not, we had family time. Except for some mad coding from the backseat of the Volvo, plugged into the cigarette lighter for a portion of the trip home, this was the best working vacation I ever had."
Edward C. Horvath had the best idea for a busman's holiday: "Buy yourself a ticket to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Live on caffeine, sugar, new technology, and the famed Jobs Reality Distortion Field for a week."
The prize for the most far-out connected experience has to go to Savio Rodrigues, one of the authors of our Open Sources blog. He proudly sent us a photo from Machu Picchu -- not of himself, but of his BlackBerry, with a strong connection. A close second: April Harris Calderwood's working vacation, "going to a third-world country and helping a community project with technology; you rest and give back to the community."