Do you remember the day that we had no internet phones or iPads? That there was no such thing as checking in, sharing, tagging, liking and unliking? I went back to those days during one of my recent trips to Austria.
During the last summer I suddenly got sick and tired of it all. “It” being tweeted, liked, shared and tagged all the time. When I didn’t check WhatsApp for a day, friends started to worry something was wrong. When I didn’t reply to my FB messages for a couple of days, people thought I was sick in bed. Or something …
So my trip to Austria seemed the perfect way to leave “it” behind for a couple of days. After arrival at the appartment and posting on FB I arrived safe and sound (I drove to Austria all by myself which was quite the challenge) I switched off my iPhone and put it far away in a drawer. That first night I slept like a baby. No iPhone lighting up, buzzing for every message coming in or waking me up with a terrifying alarm that normally tells me there’s a new working day ahead.
I had to think about my time as a backpacker in Australia a lot. Back then (2002) there was just an occasional phonecall to Martijn from a phonebooth down the street and once or twice a week I would email to home that all was fine. Other than that, nothing. No digital pictures, no Skyping, no “click and sharing” and definetely no checking in. Looking back at it, it was the purest trip I ever had, nobody but me really knew about the journey I was making, simply because sharing did (almost) not exist back then.
Back to the present time: I did have mixed up feelings about not being online for a week and these were my most important conclusions:
It was … scary!
A couple of years ago I was unavailable for a couple of days when hiking the W trek in Southern Chile and when I got back into cell phone reception land, I instantly got a message from my sister that I needed to call home straight away. Believe me, that’s not a message you want to receive when travelling. Ever! It turned out my dad had been in the I.C. of the hospital during my stay in the park. By the time I got back into the land of cellphones, he was out and home again, recovering from surgery. So this time, for emergencies only, I left the phonenumer of the appartment owners with my family. Just in case…
It was … quiet!
Hours that I normally spent on my iPhone or laptop passed by while reading. And sleeping. And reading even more. I finished 4 books in 6 days! When hiking through the mountains there were no beeps, zooms or rings and I could focus on photography and enjoying the natural surroundings.
It was … boring!
Sure, I’ll admit it. I like to share where I am and who I am with on Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram. During the first day I felt strange for not carrying a phone in my pocket that I could upload pictures with or keep my friends posted with. When Martijn was browsing the internet at night (he didn’t join me on this mission) I sometimes felt left out. So I just continued reading… or sleeping. (I slept A LOT during this vacation, at least 10 hrs each night.)
It was … liberating!
Not having to email, whatsapp, tweet, like, check in and tag felt great. There has not been a moment I felt the need to check what my friends were doing or that I had to show the world where I was.
Did I cheat?
Yes and no! Yes, I did switch my phone on one day, the day that we split up for seperate activities. Martijn went mountainbiking and I went hiking and we’d agreed to meet somewhere half way. We texted each other to inform about the arrival times at the mountain hut we decided to meet. It was very useful as it turned out I could climb an extra mountain before meeting up for lunch. And yes, when we got the news that our Dutch prince Friso passed away, I did look at the message on a digital news site. But just that site. No social media!
I love my iPhone and I love sharing where I am and what I’m doing. I like it when others do it, too. However, I now completely understand why people decide to switch off their phones for a week when on vacation. I learned that you can easily go without social media for a week and people (and the world) won’t forget about you. You won’t die if you don’t check in somewhere or post a picture. I actually was a better person than I normally am during this week. I might do it again in the future, being away from the www for a while when on the way. We’ll see…
Have you ever tried going without social media when traveling? Do you feel like sharing your traveling experiences or do you like to keep them private?