3 Lessons about Disconnecting from Sailing across the Atlantic for 1 Month

Offline Is The New Black

Rodolphe Dutel
Oct 6, 2015 · 6 min read

In 2015, I completed my second transatlantic sailing trip.

I’m a city person and a startup guy currently working full time at Buffer and running a 10,000 subscribers newsletter.

Making time to go offline is never easy!

There’s almost never a “right time” to do it; you might lose business and opportunities while disconnecting.

Jon, Trude, Arthur and I sailed across the North Atlantic ocean for 21 days from St Martin (Caribbean) to Horta (Azores Island)

I would love to share what I learned through going offline.

1) Can Entrepreneurs Disconnect?

My friend Arthur, a fellow crew member for this sailing trip, was on sabbatical, a great way to disconnect too.

In terms of business, going offline felt like “firing myself” for a month.

And it was great!

It’s a brilliant exercise to step back and reflect on what I do. Here are the questions I asked myself when I went offline:

What activities do I enjoy the most?

What impact does my involvement have on my business — i.e. can I delegate?

If I stop showing up tomorrow, what impact does it have for the team and for users?

Steering — picture by Thur

Asking those questions can be scary, but it’s all about finding out where your efforts will be the most valuable, both for you and your company.

If someone else can do that task better than you, then awesome! If you particularly like doing this other task, then it’s probably a good idea to keep doing it!

Being honest with yourself when answering will help you focus on what’s most important upon your return, and help finding what you are most passionate about.

It’s all about learning to make yourself redundant.

When I got back, I made sure to start focusing on tasks that I enjoyed more, and on which I had the most impact.

Going offline was also great for my creativity, on most mornings, around 5am, we would use our headlamps to write thoughts and ideas on paper — it helped me come up with new thoughts and business ideas.

2) Going offline needs commitment

At home or on the road, I’m almost always connected

I find connectivity invaluable, especially as a frequent traveler doing business online, and you can connect anywhere!

I’m grateful for this, and still wish to be able to sometimes step away from it all to cultivate my own learnings and discoveries — as well as serendipity:

We’re now able to fly to any country and stay plugged into the global grid, most places we visit have WiFi / 4G; we’re connected at all times.

The internet is so ubiquitous that going offline can be tricky. I chose to be on the boat — it could also have been on a mountain or in a jungle…

I found that it’s key to be intentional about going offline. If you don’t actively look for ways to disconnect, it’s not very likely to happen by itself.

If my environment did not have me fully, physically disconnected, I would probably have “checked on things” online after a few days.

When the internet is one tap/App away, it’s tricky not to default to it!

The meaning of the word “Exotic” is now “Offline”

Offline is the New Black!

I met an 8-year old who said that going offline for weeks was more extreme than the sailing adventure itself; it made me think a little more about disconnecting.

Disengaging with your current mindset and existing habits (such as checking our phones) takes time — it took me 3 to 5 days to start feeling disconnected from my day-to-day activities, even with the sailing keeping us crazy busy.

Picking up a new skill or practicing an activity helps me being fully present. For instance, Outsite.co offers camps to get away and disconnect in California.

Calm Ocean — Picture by Thur

3) Taking my learnings back Online

A few hours later, a familiar sound woke me up — rain-drops were falling on my Velux window.

Before I opened my eyes, a few thoughts crossed my mind:

“Rain… it’s too bad that the cockpit is going to be wet during my watch… I wonder if they have changed the sails just yet?..”.

Moments later, I opened my eyes and realized that I wasn’t on a boat anymore — I was back in Paris, in the safety of my flat…

It’s amazing to see how fast we adapt to both hardship and convenience, and how our behavior changes accordingly - our environment influences our actions.

On the following day, I was fully back to the city life and I started thinking about my attention span:

When I wake up in the morning, how long before I grab my phone?

79% of Smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every morning.” — Nir Eyal

Going offline trains your attention by only reacting to the information you currently have — with no addition from the external world.

It’s the opposite of getting notifications.

Herbert A. Simon, a Nobel laureate.

It seems like I am not alone in feeling a need to disconnect: Jason Fried’s recent announcement of the ability to snooze notifications outside business hours in Basecamp has been immensely popular!

Our own attention is a scarce commodity. Where we focus our attention is how we feed our minds.

Going offline helps to clear things up a bit more for me.

My last trip reminded me of the importance of managing my energy, and how much I enjoy practicing creativity and how having a clear mind enables all that.

As a result, I’m now trying to nap or meditate every day and I have started writing a book, journaling more and play with coloring books.

We have all accepted that eating better and exercising more are important to be in great physical shape. We’re now starting to take better care of our minds by managing our attention.

Going back to work after a month-long disconnected trip is something I’m very grateful for: It felt amazing and was refreshing.

Going offline helped me have a gut-check of how everything felt to me and identify what projects and activities excites me most.

Picture by Thur

As I finish writing this article, I’m sitting on a Paris-New York flight and I just had a look outside of the window:

Looking at the Atlantic Ocean brought back many memories!

Then, cabin crew announced that we’ll be one hour behind schedule

I can’t help but smile at the thought that it’s a good 20 days faster than our last Atlantic crossing!

If you enjoyed this article, it would mean a lot to me if you felt like recommending it ☺

Published in #SWLH (Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking)


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Thanks to Alfred Lua, Philippe Masset, Ilia Markov, and Katie Womersley

Rodolphe Dutel

Written by

Founder at @remotiveio | Prev. Director of Operations at @Buffer

The Startup

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