Unplugging in an Increasingly Connected World
Remember back in the day when we used to go knock on our friends’ doors to see if they could play? Or when people agreed on meeting at a certain place and time, and then actually did it without calling each other every 3 minutes? I do and I kinda miss it. There was a simple charm to it, back when we weren’t so “connected”.
As I sit here typing this post, I’m logged in my work email, on gchat, Facebook and Digg. Both my work phone and cell phone are sitting inches away from me. If I wanted to, I could go sit on a toilet and let the world know what I’m doing through a Tweet. Stop and think about that for a second. Realize how ridiculously connected we are these days?
Getting away from it all is one of the things I like about backpacking. Of course I’ll check my email and I’ll bring a phone for emergencies, but other than that, it’s back to the old way of life. People can’t call me at a moment’s notice, I’m not bombarded with news every second of the day, and instead of texting someone, you actually have to go over and talk to them.
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The biggest change, unsurprisingly, is not having a phone. When we have a phone, we all have a high degree of (real or perceived) control/information over a situation. If someone doesn’t show up, you call them and ask why. Don’t know where they are? Shoot them a text. Without a phone, you don’t have these luxuries. Although you may feel naked at first, soon you’ll get used to it. People have gone thousands of years without cell phones and yet the pyramids were still built and men have been to the moon. Not having a cell phone isn’t going to kill you.
Backpacking is all about learning to roll with it and dealing with uncomfortable situations. Without a phone, you simply adapt and find other ways to connect. Try leaving a note at the front desk or asking someone to keep an eye out for the person you’re looking for, you’d be surprised how well it works.
Even when things don’t work our way, it’s not the end of the world. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve gotten separated from my friends. But instead of panicking and frantically looking for them, I shrugged it off, went about my day and saw them back in the hostel that night. On Koh Phangan, I hung out with a group of people who were scattered around the island. None of us had phones but we still managed to meet up every night and have a great time. Point is, you don’t need a phone to contact other people. It may be a little harder but you’ll soon realize how refreshing it is to not have one.
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Same goes with news. We see it everywhere these days: on TV, the radio, on the web, even in elevators. Sometimes I feel as if receiving and processing news has become subconscious. When you’re suddenly cut off, it’s amazing how vibrant the “here and now” is. There’s suddenly no noise clouding your thoughts and emotions. This was especially true on my Southeast Asia trip back in early 2009. At that time, the financial world was falling apart and talking heads were predicting the next Great Depression. Being cut off from the news (no idea about the Hudson River landing until a week later), I didn’t hear about any of it and let me tell you, it was great. I was able to take in on where I was at the time, not something 5,000 miles away. I guess you could say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
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Next trip, try it. Don’t go frantically searching for SIM cards to load up your phone. Don’t spend hours each day trying to catch up on the news. Enjoy the moment for what it’s worth and let go of the shackles of modern technology.
Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting when you get home.