Over 4th of July weekend, my friend Jimelle and I took off on a bit of an adventure. Or maybe it was more of anti-adventure. We hopped in her car and drove 10 hours up to the tippy top of Maine on a mission: to detox our internet/phone addictions. A real vacation.
We had 3 criteria for our vacation and set 2 rules for once we got there:
- It had to be a cabin
- It had to be on a lake
- It had to be in Maine (we still don’t know how we ended up making Maine a requirement, but it worked out!)
- No computers, phones, or any electronic devices that would connect us to the outside world
- Hide any forms of time-keeping (clocks, watches, iPad clocks, etc)
For anyone who knows me, the idea of going for any period of time without my phone within arm’s reach and without any sort of internet connection is basically laughable. But I was determined. I knew I needed a bit of a detox. And detox I did.
We spent 6 days and 5 nights at the cabin and it was glorious. There really wasn’t anyone in sight, except for the fish, birds and other creatures that lurked around the cabin. It was quiet. Peaceful. Relaxing. And not plopping in front of the TV in your PJs on a Saturday morning relaxing. REAL relaxing. The kind where you’re so de-stressed that you mind literally goes blank for periods of time and you’re perfectly content just staring out at the water. I didn’t realize this kind of calm even existed.
I read books. Ok not REAL paper books, but I managed to finish 1.5 books on my Kindle and a few magazines that I brought along. I stared at the water. I stared at the trees. We did a lot of talking – about high school, about work, about college, about what we were going to eat for dinner, about how peaceful this whole thing was. To someone who uses a computer to mediate nearly every form of communication, communicating exclusively in-person, face-to-face for 6 days was actually a bit strange but also strangely refreshing! I didn’t have to juggle 3 conversations and reading my Twitter stream all at once.
Sure there were some points that drove me NUTS. I really just wanted to send a text message. JUST ONE. Or sometimes the quiet would drive me up a wall. There were times where Jimelle was sleeping in or taking a nap or something and I would run out ways to keep myself entertained and would contemplate sneaking a peek at my iPad, but I was determined to actually make it the whole time.
And I did! Over 100 hours, in fact!
The trip really made me realize a few things. Mostly that I’m far too dependent upon having constant internet access. There were times where Jimelle and I would be talking about something and a certain fact slipped our minds or we were curious about the answer to something and normally I would have hopped on my phone right in the middle of that conversation and would have found out the answer once and for all. With our self-imposed rules, we had to accept not knowing the answer and look it up in a few days. Not easy for 2 pretty smart gals who have to know the answer to everything.
It also highlighted how many grammar school-level facts I’d forgotten now that I have Google on my phone as a crutch. Things as simple as the capital of New Hampshire. It also got us curious about how parents handled questions from their kids back in the day when they couldn’t simply look up the answer without going to a library or having a set of encyclopedias in their house. Did they just make it up? On the one hand I’m glad not to have to rely on a library to answer simple questions, but on the flip side I’ve really got to fill in the potholes in my memory!
One of the more valuable side effects of this whole experience, though, has been resetting my minimum daily internet usage and giving me that reality check that I so needed. Since I’ve gotten back I actually take more time to read books and do offline things. I rarely check Twitter and when I do I check maybe the last hour’s worth. I don’t feel as anxious when I get behind on the feed. I find myself wanting to reconnect with some of the things that used to make me love the internet – the real people aspect and the infinite amounts of information there for the learning. I realize I’ve gotten far too caught up in the whole internet as an industry and I’ve lost sight of the fact that REAL PEOPLE use the internet, not just web geeks like myself. I used to love being a part of blogging networks or just reading about everyday people’s lives. I used to love using the web as a learning tool instead of just as an information receiving platform. Outside of school I used to spend hours online teaching myself new things from web development to random facts about linguistics, to childhood diseases (I really wanted to be a doctor when I was younger). I don’t do any of that anymore.
Needless to say this whole trip and disconnect was a necessary evil that I would recommend to anyone who feels like their patience level nearly at capacity all the time or who is painfully attached to their phone or the constant information influx of being connected 24/7. It’s probably one of the best things you can do for yourself, for your sanity, and for your inevitable carpal tunnel.
At the end of the day it’s about what makes you happy. And I needed to disconnect to remind me of that. Now that I’ve had time to think and relax, though, I’ve found can more easily deal frustration that comes with stress or annoyances, and the freedom from the that frustration has opened up my brain space to go back to basics and to take the steps that I think will make me happiest.
Step one of that will be a combination of the blogging and learning that I mentioned above. Then it’s time to fry the bigger fish. Baby steps first. I’d like to keep at least some level of calm in my life!