I had a banged up, broken iPhone 6 with a cracked screen. It didn’t charge properly, and sometimes the home button wouldn’t work.
Still, I felt a lot safer with it in my pocket.
Through a series of events that I’ll leave for some other story time (because it will definitely make me sound stupid), I managed to part ways with it. Maybe lost, maybe stolen, maybe sitting at the bottom of the ocean for some diver to find. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s gone. Now shush your mouth, because I’m not going to tell you what happened.
Now having gone two weeks without it, I’m finding this whole situation might be a blessing in disguise. Obviously there are a lot of things that become easier when you have all the world’s information at your fingertips, but not if it becomes a crutch.
First the drawbacks, then the advantages:
Can’t take pictures- This might be the biggest one. I don’t typically travel with a camera, so I’ve been relying on my iPhone’s decent camera for documenting all the wacky adventures I’m having with all the fantastic people I meet. I’d like to be able to share all the amazing visuals with my friends, but I don’t have the option. I can (and do) ask people I meet to send me any pictures they take of us or where we are, but it’s not the same.
No maps- I wrote last year about my favorite travel apps, and how lost I’d be without my offline maps app. Well, now I’m pretty much screwed. I have a decent sense of direction, but doing things the old fashioned way is challenging, especially in unfamiliar lands.
Communication between travelers- Meeting new people is one of my favorite things about traveling, and using Facebook or WhatsApp to coordinate plans with my new friends is so much easier with a mobile device. I can still do this to an extent, because I have my laptop, but if it weren’t for that, it would be impossible. If you were really determined to make plans with someone, you’d have to set specific meeting times and locations and then make good on the plan. I’d probably just be hoping to bump into someone I know on the street or in the hostel lobby.
The added challenge of having to figure things out- Why is this a good thing? Because relying too hard on technology means that when you find yourself suddenly lacking access to it, you won’t just fold under the pressure. It requires some extra brainpower, for sure, but it’s important to flex those brain muscles once in a while to make sure they don’t atrophy.
I’ve said before that my main enemy– the final boss battle of my entire life– is my own comfort zone. What better way to become comfortable with discomfort than to be lost all the time and have to figure out your own way? It’ll teach you really quickly that what often seems like a difficult situation usually ends up being not only fine, but a great adventure.
Talking to locals- Without constant access to all the world’s information, it means you have to rely on other real human beings to give you the rundown of what’s cool about a certain city or location. You’ll need hotel/hostel employees, other travelers, bartenders, cab drivers, and anyone else who you can communicate with to complete your travel missions.
Also, not having access to maps means asking for directions pretty often. Us men could probably learn a thing or two about swallowing our pride.
The opportunity to be more present in the experience and not be one of “those people” on their phones all the damn time- I was in Phuket, Thailand recently, doing some writing and having a delicious beverage in a beautiful beachfront cafe. Out in the shallow lapping of the waves was a lovely woman with a selfie stick. I swear she spent an hour getting the perfect selfie.
I never want to be that person.
She was so intent on capturing the representation of herself having a good time that she wasn’t present enough in the moment to actually have a good time.
This is emblematic of our entire generation. When we’re bored or uncomfortable or just don’t want to look like we’re not doing anything, we stare at our phones. I’ve been guilty of it too, sometimes spending hours scrolling through Facebook or Twitter (by the way, you all should friend and follow haha).
Sometimes it takes a big change to break a habit. I’m hoping that the loss of my busted-ass phone will help condition me to spend less time staring blankly at a tiny screen and more time being present in the experiences I’m living.
Sometimes I have moments where I stop and look around and just take a minute to recognize how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful world, and that I have access to it’s far reaches. I wouldn’t be able to live that gratitude if I was refreshing Facebook every thirty seconds.
So I’m justifiably upset at my poor decision to leave my phone unattended on the beach while I drunkenly made out with an absurdly hot German girl in the tropical ocean (shit. I gave away the secret), but I’m hoping to make the best of an unfortunate circumstance.
It’s not all bad. It might even be better for me.