Unplugging from the world might just put the value of social media in perspective.
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I’ve written before about how technological advances have made vacations and business travel easier, more efficient and fun.
The slimming down of devices such as laptops and cameras has, after all, considerably lightened the figurative road load. Smartphones, meanwhile, have made many of us wonder how we ever got around – or got anything done – before they came along.
But I’ve never really addressed the need to get away from technology and everything it enables. Taking a true vacation from the gadgetry and ubiquitous connectedness that fill our lives now might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget to do it when your nose is to the figurative grind every day.
I was lucky enough to spend the past week on vacation in Costa Rica, where I tried to unplug as much as possible. The only devices I brought with me were my phone, to take pictures, and my iPad, to watch movies on the plane. I didn’t do much advance research on wireless service, thinking it might be a blessing if I was forced to go without.
It turns out cellphone service in Costa Rica isn’t bad. I signed up for a $30 (U.S.) plan at the Liberia airport that gave me 3 gigabytes of data and all the talk and text I could use. (Side note: in a country where everything is relatively expensive, that’s still way cheaper than Canada.)
I didn’t get service to stay in touch with people back home, but rather so that my wife and I could access maps, hotel info and restaurant recommendations. Like I said, this is how technology enhances travel. It certainly did so again for us.
However, with the temptation of ubiquitous internet access at hand, it was up to me to stay offline as much as possible.
At first it was tough. The urge to jump onto Facebook or Twitter and join in on the outrage of the day was difficult to resist, but I forced myself. It helped that we started our vacation off by lying in hammocks on a beach. It’s easier to not care about anything when you’ve got the warm sun on your face and a Pina Colada in your hand.
Soon enough, the desire to engage and connect began to slip away. That feeling of presence – of being in the moment – eventually returned. I found myself thinking less about what was going on elsewhere.
After a day or two, I’d pop onto Twitter, quickly glance at what was going on, then shut it down. “Who cares?” I thought. The world can and does go on without me, so let’s not worry about it, right?
Eventually, I managed to achieve a sort of zen where things that might normally aggravate me became minor nuisances not worthy of a second thought. By the end of our trip, I found I greatly preferred this mental state, compared to the constant state of hyper-awareness and connectedness I’m normally in.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been on a relaxing vacation at some point in your life, I’m sure you recognize this frame of mind – that feeling where you want your zen to continue for as long as possible.
We know it’s not likely – that sooner rather than later our brains will fire back up into the agitated warp of modern life – but we try to fight it for as long as possible anyway.
I know I will. Vacations aren’t just for recharging, they’re for reassessing, re-evaluating and re-prioritizing. If I’ve come away with anything from my time off, I hope it’s a lasting ability to say “Who cares?” a little more to the never-ending din that is continually being piped into our eyes, ears and brains every day.
Technology might be easing the burdens we used to face while travelling, but it has also made the need to go somewhere to get away from it all the more vital.