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Work, Life, Vacation. When worlds collide.

The online connection has changed vacation, for better and for worse. Amy Tiemann reports from the woods of Northern Michigan.

The (parent.thesis) blog is coming to you this week from the lakeside woods of Northern Michigan. Family vacations used to mean getting away to what felt like an alternate universe, a place that seemed to materialize only in the summer, and disappeared from consciousness the rest of the year. We used to feel cut off from the rest of the world up here. There was no TV, and if we didn't get the newspaper we could miss out on a whole week of news.

But now the online world has bridged these two universes. I checked the upcoming week's vacation weather from home, before we left. Using the Microsoft Virtual Earth map on, I zoomed in down to the level where I could see my family's house. I know we've probably all done search on own houses at some point, but to see the vacation house from home gave me a true though-the-looking-glass-feeling.

We're still not exactly high tech up here. We don't have an internet connection in the house, but we are allowed to connect to the house next door's network. So I am sitting in the woods, on a plastic chair, blogging on my laptop. This experience crystallizes the best and worst of remote connection for me.

Theres lots of good news. Being able to work remotely allows many of us take vacations we might not have had otherwise. I am glad that I can seamlessly manage my web site?s ordering and keep blogging.

But we have lost a little something special about vacation now that we are never truly away. I miss the luxury in losing myself to the point where I forget what day it is. I know that I really need a week or so each year to declutter my mind from the sensory overload of news and information that I take in each day. When I find myself "blogging" in my head as I try to fall asleep at night, I know it's time for a break.

The benefits of staying connected definitely outweigh the disadvantages, though. I just need to discipline myself in letting non-essential emails go, and surfing only as much as I need to. Having to sit in the woods on a beautiful day to get online might not be such a bad thing after all. It gets me outside, and makes me aware of what I am missing when I hole myself up with my computer. Sitting among the trees, I want to finish up so that I can get back to the "important work of vacation play.

My workstation