By Jane Milton, QC
I am what is generally referred to as an “adventure traveller.” This means that when I take vacations I generally choose to go where none of my partners, friends and family have gone, or would ever voluntarily go. When I discuss my vacation plans with others, I get strange looks and guarded comments. Some of my friends and family have told me that I am crazy.
None of that really matters to me, and hopefully never will. I travel to learn about other cultures, politics, languages, food, and traditions and, above all, to get away from work. I find that the further one strays from the beaten path and away from the general tourist areas, the more genuine the travel, exploration, and relaxation experience becomes.
I have found that adventure travel is far more conducive to a real break from the practice of law than the more traditional forms of vacation. It is so simple to spend a few minutes (or hours) each day communicating with the office from Hawaii or Mexico or Palm Desert, finishing off those last few letters or taking part in one more conference call. It is relatively easy to let your mind slip back to the problems that you left behind while lying on a beach. In contrast, the more exotic forms of vacation tend to concentrate your mind on the immediate travel necessities. When you are negotiating the appropriate bribe with a Honduras border official (he took two dollars), climbing out of the window of your bus because you think the vehicle is going to plunge 11 stories into the Ganges (it didn’t), or wandering with a monk around the Potala Palace in Tibet, the office seems strangely irrelevant and unimportant. Recently, as I lay awake in the early hours listening to the morning call to prayer in Aswan, it struck me forcefully that the practice of law seemed very far away indeed.
It has become far more difficult to leave the office behind in recent years. When I first started in practice, the fax machine was the latest communication invention and computers were still programmed with punch cards. When you left on vacation, you placed a few written memos on your files, and that was it. In these days of BlackBerrys, iPhones, Skype and Twitter, instant and constant communication is both possible and, sadly, expected. I admit that I have checked emails while drifting down the Nile, driving through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, at a bazaar in Skardu, Pakistan and, most recently, sitting on top of the highest temple in Tikal, Guatemala. I am not proud of this. I suspect that in the years to come, it will take even greater strength of will for the younger generation of lawyers to put aside the communication equipment, relax, and revel in their travel experiences.
My next trip is in February 2011, when I will be spending three weeks in Libya. I hope that damn BlackBerry won’t work in the Sahara.
Photo: The travel photo was taken in 2007, during a three week trip through Egypt and Jordan.
This article was published in the October 2010 issue of BarTalk. © 2010 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.