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For nearly 20 years my friends and I have retreated to a small camp-site in the black mountains at Llanthony for a weekend in the summer. There’s not much there except for a ruined priory, an old toilet block (new for 2011… a soap dispenser!), drinking water tap and a pub…. not forgetting the epic scenery of course.
When I get away to Llanthony I like to switch off as much as possible from the world to recharge my batteries, reminisce on times gone by and reflect on life’s mysteries with old friends.
This year, I decided to try and switch off entirely – no mobile or internet for the bank holiday weekend.
How did I get on?
It was hard. I mean really hard… I live so much of my life online.
To switch off the phone (and by extension the internet) seemed so unnatural. I found myself removing it from my pocket to see if I had any @ replies, Facebook & txt messages or emails… I resisted.
The first real urge I fought was checking in to the camp-site on Foursquare. I’m not obsessed with the service as bad as some that I know, in fact I only really use it to share my location if I have time to kill while out on the road (often resulting in unplanned meetups) and as a physical bookmark for places I want to remember. I almost had a full blown argument with myself! The urge to check in and share with friends who couldn’t be there was huge (for the record, I succeed in resisting this one).
The largest problem I faced though was that being in beautiful surroundings I wanted to take photographs but my camera was part of my phone… so this meant an absurd process of switching my phone on, taking a photo and then having an internal struggle every time over whether to “just check….” – next year, I think I’ll take a separate camera to avoid this.
After the first day, this got easier but at times I felt a slight disconnection with my usual world… what was going on in Libya? How was my friends new pub going on it’s first bank holiday? Had that urgent client meeting been confirmed for Wednesday…? It was impossible not to peek a little, but this was limited to email and sms which downloaded themselves by virtue of switching my phone on.
By the end of day 2 I’d stopped obsessively checking my switched off phone and had wound down.
On the Saturday we went into Abergavenny as Fergus (one of the canine members of our group) had a scary looking tick in what can only be described as his beard that was causing him some distress.
They didn’t have any so straight back onto google maps for a second one… only whilst waiting for said tick to be (successfully) removed did it occur to me I could of just asked a passer by.
It hadn’t even crossed my mind, I just instinctively reached for google to answer my question.
And this was for me the biggest thing about a mere 4 days “offline”, technology has changed how I interact with the world – it’s my first response in most situations: take a photo or video, update twitter, check in on Foursquare, google the answer to a question… you know what, I think I’m okay with that.
So what about the next time I go on holiday?
Well… my next holiday is a week in Vegas and I’m going to allow myself to be online for that one… I mean, how else will my friends know that Elvis married me to some, as yet unknown, “lucky” lady at 3am in the little white chapel…?
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