After years of never-ending electronic connectedness, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mayra, and I decided to do a single night away from it all. The rules were simple, no computers, no phones, no television, no tablets, no e-readers. We would wander around to find what we wanted, rather than using the maps on our phones. We would listen to a CD, rather than our iPods or Pandora. We would talk instead of text, laugh instead of LOL and we would loudly exclaim things and demonstrate our feelings through facial expressions, rather than emoticons. Part of our plan was also to disconnect from work. Both of us hold jobs that are demanding and often require significantly more than 40 hours per week and the ability to let go of work for even a day is an infrequent treat. We appropriately named our getaway “Mayra and Kim – Unplugged.” With no agenda and limitless possibility, we set out on our adventure.
We selected a seaside hotel in one of our favorite little towns along the coast of central California. Upon our arrival in the quaint little town we struggled a bit without the use of our phones and Yelp for a dinner place and ended up breaking down and using them to choose a restaurant; we were extra hungry and couldn’t just meander around to find a place with gluten free options, or at least that’s what we told ourselves. Luckily, we gained some confidence after our setback and, with full bellies, we commenced our wandering. As the sun set in a cotton candy sky, we walked through the tree-lined streets of downtown Santa Cruz with no destination, no purpose, no agenda. We wandered in and out of shops and just thoroughly enjoyed each other. We finished our evening with a nightcap and laughter on a balcony overlooking the Pacific. We reminisced about younger days, fears, friendships, and times gone by, then retired peacefully.
The next day dawned into a foggy and drizzly fall day that left the town and the beaches deserted. A delicious breakfast and a walk on the empty beach in the rain were the perfect start to our morning. As we thought about what to do for the remainder of our day, we happily reminded ourselves that it didn’t matter, we were not in a hurry and had nowhere to be. This reminder brought peace to my mind, that is so often occupied by deadlines and to-do lists and appointments. Nowhere to be. Not in a hurry. These two simple sentences seemed too impossibly good to be true! Even my vacations are usually chock full of sightseeing, shows, reservations, and lists. I couldn’t remember the last time I just did whatever I felt like doing. I wondered to myself, ” Is this something that goes by the wayside of all other childhood glories? Imagination, honesty, confidence, lack of self-awareness, unconditional acceptance, curiosity, making friends easily, and doing whatever you feel like doing, when you feel like doing it. Are these things that adults can really just gain back with a little effort? Are the playthings of adults, television, smart phones, computers, killing the child-like beauty that lies within our amazing brains?” I snapped out of my thoughts and we decided to go to the most laid back of all museums – The Surfing Museum.
Some more wandering led us into another shop that sold some eclectic wares. Mayra picked up a book that touted 365 days unplugged. This book seemed eerily appropriate for our little weekend getaway. Our interest piqued, we opened the cover and began to explore the ideas within. Suggestion after suggestion of life’s simplicities that seemed so obvious and were clearly a part of everyday life not so long ago. Take a walk. Call a friend. I stopped reading and got lost in my head once again. Here is a book that is telling us to talk to people we care about, rather than text them or email them or like their posts on Facebook. A sadness swept over me as I realized that I too was not doing the simple things that bring me joy and strengthen the connections with the people I hold dear.
I was brought back to reality when Mayra excitedly said the most amazing thing. “I wonder if they have an e-version of this book?” And there it was, a hilarious statement that summed up everything that is wrong with us. The simple book, the age old information sharing medium is now not good enough. We need our devices! As we laughed about what just happened, Mayra found something in the little book that she wanted to try – writing one line a day. This was to be an exercise Mayra and I shared in order to connect more deeply and feel a sense of fulfillment, being that we both love to write to express ourselves. I didn’t think things could go downhill from the e-version comment, but they did. We discussed how we would write one line a day and share it with each other and since Mayra didn’t want to forget the idea, she decided to “write it down” on her phone. After much discussion of how to share our daily writings, we now use text and Google Docs to complete our daily “unplugged” exercise. I know I am not the only one that sees something wrong with this picture as I sit here writing from my laptop.
This trip was truly about the journey and not the destination, and though I have heard that so many times, experiencing a mere 24 hours without the technology of today reminded me that this saying still holds true, even if we do slip up a few times.
At the end of our day of disconnect, what did we gain? A renewed sense of appreciation of the beauty around us. That special feeling of knowing that the memories made were ours and ours alone. No sharing on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Ello, Linkein, Foursquare, or any other of the numerous social media sites. A rediscovered interest in the importance of a single person in our lives and the impact a true friendship can have on them. A few new ideas and a new-found belief in self. The realization that the world has changed, but the basic needs of human beings have not and no amount of technology is going to make us evolve out of needing the human component to life.