Summer Stories: How I've Spent My Summer Vacations

Robin Williams' movie "RV" may not have gathered much critical acclaim, but one scene at least hit a comedic home run with me. Williams has to get a presentation back to the home office during a camping trip with his family. After his laptop goes AWOL, he uses his BlackBerry to retype the presentation and then tries to get a signal strong enough to let him email the presentation to his boss. He scales the top of his rented motor home, holding his BlackBerry heavenward trying to get a signal. This is an episode directly out of my life. I did exactly the same thing in a state park in California one summer, trying to get some file (it might have even been a Search Insider column) to someone who was expecting it. Running a business means splitting your time between family vacation activities and keeping the bare essentials going back at the office.

Have Column, Will Travel

In the five years I've been writing for Search Insider, I've usually continued to contribute throughout my vacations. This has meant filing columns from campgrounds up and down the West Coast, from Hawaiian beaches, from London hotel rooms, from a chalet in the French Alps and from a charming little hotel  in Florence, Italy. Each has presented their challenges in finding a connection but it's always been interesting weaving my experiences into the story line.



A few years ago, we were taking the family through Europe and spending a lot of time on trains. We were on the high-speed train from Lyon to Paris and I had to get a column filed. I had just received my first mobile Internet device and thought this would be just the ticket for a little "wired" jet setting. It took me the better part of the trip to key the column in with the tiny little keyboard, but finally the column was done and ready to be filed. I hit the send button and marveled at how technology allowed me to stay connected, even on a train whizzing through the French countryside at 200 kilometers an hour. Unfortunately, no one had explained data roaming charges to me. My little flirtation with international mobile computing came with a nasty little $800 surprise when I got back to the office. The technology is amazing, but the ethics of mobile carriers are noticeably less so.

My Wife Said I Could, So There!

Every time I write something while on vacation (by the way, we call it holidays here in Canada, but you'll notice I'm carefully keeping my column Americanized) I usually get emails or comments saying I should leave the laptop and PDA at home. My wife and I have talked about this and we agreed that the ability to stay connected not only to work but also to family is worth the odd hour or two checking emails. I am much more at ease when I can check in and make sure everything is fine back home. We have amazing support systems, supplied by both family and my co-workers, so a periodic check-in is usually relatively stress-free. Besides, the Internet is a tremendous resource for a little ad-hoc planning while on the road. Last year, when plans suddenly fell through in France for three days of our trip, I was able to book alternate plans at the last minute.

In continuation of the Hotchkiss summer tradition, this column, too, is being penned on vacation. Right now I'm in a hotel room in Florence, but this Florence is in Oregon, not Italy. A friend and I are biking down the Oregon coast (three days and 192 miles behind us, so we're a little past half way). Our wives and children are following us with a van full of anti-chafing cream and cold beer. It's been an amazing experience, but I swear I'm going to hunt down every jerk driving a motor home down Highway 101 who doesn't give cyclists a little extra room when whizzing by at 70 miles per hour and teach them how to dump their holding tanks, Robin Williams-style. That was the other scene in the movie that had me rolling on the floor.

Over and out from the Oregon coast!

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