Under the Radar in Italy

It's taken some time to get around to writing this, but I was determined to share it!

After ten years of marriage, my husband Jo and I finally had the opportunity to take our honeymoon in May 2015. Having fallen in love with Italy on a short trip a couple of years ago, we decided to go to Tuscany.

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Being both self-employed, we had never previously managed to find the time to take any breaks longer than 4 days, so booking two weeks away was a really big deal for us. We had originally made a plan to check in with emails etc once or twice a week while we were away to ensure things were going smoothly back in England, but in the weeks before the trip, we were given some invaluable advice by both clients and friends that completely changed our outlook and prompted us to go completely offline for the entire holiday. It boiled down to this very simple question: what if we received a message that caused us stress and ruined what was likely to be the most relaxing, romantic time we'd had in years? It had happened before – many times – a vibe completely crushed due to an outside influence. And as this fact really dawned on us, we began to see the value of being out of contact for the entire time.

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Anyone who is reading this is clearly internet-savvy, so it may be that you understand what a huge deal that was for us. Two self-employed people – one of whom (me) runs multiple social media feeds for several clients - going entirely off-grid for two whole weeks. No phone, no text, no emails, no Facebook; Twitter; Instagram – nothing. I have to confess to being more than a little anxious about it in the days leading up to our flight, but by a couple of days beforehand, I was 100% on board. We left our hotel itinerary with my mother-in-law, and made sure our family members knew to contact her if they needed to reach us. Then, with a very specific 'out of office' on my emails; all clients, friends & family primed; social media feeds advised that we would be offline and a clear cut outgoing message on my phone, once we arrived at the airport I removed my SIM card, turned off all wifi and mobile data etc and just like that, my phone transformed into a camera!

And it was entirely worth it.

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This is what I was so keen to share with anyone who reads this. Jo and I spent an incredible two weeks completely 'in the moment'. We gazed at breathtaking scenery, conversed with the locals in their own language (with the help of a dinky and fabulous Lonely Planet phrasebook), slowed our entire pace down to a glacial crawl and did exactly what we pleased for the entire time. We really EXPERIENCED everything.

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We people watched, enjoyed spectacular meals with incredible wine and charmed restaurant staff everywhere with our efforts at pigeon Italian. We were having a truly amazing adventure, and we couldn't help but notice how many of the people around us were missing out on so much as they walked around or sat at tables glued to their phones. While we were looking into each others' eyes across a harbour-side table, chatting away with goofy grins on our faces, dozens of other holiday-makers were sitting silently across from each other with their heads down engrossed in updating their statuses or scrolling through their news feeds. As for us – we felt free. We could really BREATHE.

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The overwhelming memory I have of our amazing Tuscan honeymoon is how much laughter surrounded us. We are happy people generally, and laugh a great deal – but on this break the freedom and joy was totally intoxicating. Not least because it was our first real break in years – and our honeymoon to boot – but also because we were really connected. To each other, to our surroundings, and to the amazing Italian people around us. It was a truly incredible experience.

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And do you know what? When we returned, the world hadn't collapsed around us. Yes, there were a huge stack of emails to deal with on my first day back in the office. Yes, there was a crazy list of social media things to deal with for my clients, but it didn't matter. All my clients were happy and everything was okay. Better than okay!

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My husband, who is a professional songwriter and musician, has since written a fantastic, uplifting song about the entire experience called 'Under The Radar'. His band, The Jo Burt Experience, performed it for the first time two weeks ago and the crowd went wild. And to top it all, some of the amazing local people we met over in Italy have invited us back to perform a short series of concerts this August. And yes, before you ask – we are going!

So if you're thinking of going offline on your next break – DO IT! Don't just think about it – be brave and take the plunge! It was the best decision we could have made and I fully intend to do it every time I take a break from now on.

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