Although on any given weekday I may be spotted around town without a stitch of make-up, my hair swept back in a stark Kelly McGillis / Witness twist, I assure you I like zippers, snaps and lip gloss as much as anyone. Nevertheless, I had one of my most significant a-ha travel moments in, of all places, Amish Country. (Those of you who commented on my “eyes on the scenery, not the screen-ery” 2010 resolution will especially appreciate this.)
You see, technology has been trying to travel with us since before my husband and I had children, well before. In a nutshell, he is by career one of those techno-computer types with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to help keep things running smoothly and securely for a whole ‘lotta people. It’s a great job and we’re very glad that he has it, though naturally it’s the kind where you can use a break once in a while. However, thanks to technology, what once was known as a “vacation” in the U.S. has for many been replaced by some sort of extended-leash reduced-hours work-from-afar scheme, seeming all the more reasonable because of expanded cellular coverage around the globe, and hotels and airports boasting wi-fi access wherever you turn. Going offline completely would now be, for many, irresponsible.
On our first trips out of the country as a couple, I secretly reveled in the fact that not only were we having a grand adventure—but one where his work life couldn’t reach us by cell phone. We were really on our own in the world. Do you remember the days when, if you needed directions, you would actually have to ask a local? But when his cell phone was eventually replaced with one that had international access, the only distance between us and a workplace crisis could be measured by changes in time zones. There, you could at least justify postponing return calls until some reasonable hour. My already inborn desire to travel far afield was only heightened by this.
Still, these are petty excuses to justify the expense—and need for travel. Even a “staycation” may prove more fulfilling if we could just power down, disconnect, and forget about Facebook for a while. We had a great opportunity to do just that about a year ago when a great storm swept through the Bay Area and knocked out our power for 17 hours straight. Happily, I could not even recharge my dead cell phone. We lit candles and made one of the first fires in our fireplace at this house. I read some of my favorite childhood poems to the kids. I cooked using only the gas burners on the stove. We had a blast. The kids wanted to do it again the next week and a part of me actually considered the possibility. It was with a twinge of sadness that I first logged in to check the email after our sacred and distraction-free time out.
While I’m not ready to part with my car, phone, or the tools that help me keep career-and-home (not any time soon anyway), I have taken some measures to limit the amount of time I let technology dictate my day. For example, a few months ago I subscribed to the weekend edition of the New York Times—in paper. At first my hubby was appalled and suggested I cancel immediately since I can simply read it online, and only the parts that interest me, as he does on his PDA. But when I explained that I didn’t need one more thing to do in front of a computer, he nodded with a little smile. I also try to turn off the computer—off completely—at least two hours in the middle of each day so that even the temptation to quickly check email as I pass by doesn’t get the best of me. And I’ve tried to make it apparent to friends and family to always call my home phone first—so when I’m home and don’t need to be reached by it I can shut my cell phone gloriously off.
When I leave home? I admit more electronics make it into the car than they used to. But let’s just say don’t expect to “find me on Facebook.”
Do you consider technology to be an enhancement or a distracter when you travel? Do you think it cuts into your sacred time together as a family? Will you unplug during an upcoming family vacation—at least for a little while?
This post is part of Photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com.
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