The simple life, sans technology

April 28, 2010 in Life,Philosophy

My room!

As I sit staring out my window at the hills rising above the old yellow buildings with faded turquoise shutters, I realize that this perhaps the same view that inspired the paintings of Picasso and Cezanne. I glance down at the tiny café at street level and wonder who has passed through its door throughout the years. Je ne sais pas.

However, what strikes me more than anything is that while I could be staring at the same view that inspired these famous artists, how differently we take it in. While he soaked it up with all his senses, I snap a photo with my giant SLR camera and perhaps another with my tiny point-and-shoot. Instead of listening to the bustling world as it passes below, my iPod earpuds are firmly tucked in my ears.

While I still try to soak up my surroundings with all my senses, I am shocked by how much technology has changed the way people travel, and in turn, view the world. Just 10 years ago, I had never heard of the technology that now infiltrates my life: WiFi, smartphones, iPods. Now my carry-on is packed full with gadgets, wires and headphones—indicating that these are the things I value the most, the things I won’t trust to anyone else.

While technology unquestionably has some benefits for travelers, I wonder about its impact on how we experience our destinations. I think John Mayer sums up my feelings best in 3×5:

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world through both my eyes

I don’t think you can truly experience the world constantly behind the viewfinder or with headphones in. It’s not any fun if you Yelp every possible lunch choice, or make sure you stay on course using GPS. How can you enjoy yourself if your Blackberry is alerting you each time a work email comes through? The best stories come from taking chances, from leaving your day-to-day world behind.

I’m secretly grateful that my homestay doesn’t have WiFi. For the first time in years, I won’t be spending my evenings Facebook-stalking or checking Tweetdeck as I eat my breakfast. When I sit down to eat, I’ll be able to focus my entire self on enjoying the flavors of my preservative-free meals fresh from market.

My challenge to you: a technology-free day. Set aside one day of your travels (or your life at home) to simply enjoy the culture. Breathe deeply. Eavesdrop. Don’t track calories. Smell the roses. Watch the sunset. Get lost. Eat something with your fingers.

Note: I wrote this before I discovered WiFi in my apartment and spent last night on Tweetdeck. My computer must have sensed my guilt over spending my evening in front of the computer, and decided to not turn on this morning. Seeking out an Apple store tonight, so we shall see–I might truly be living sans technology soon!

  • I love your confession at the end – hilarious! Keep up the good effort.

  • thalia

    love this post- i definitely need to try that! i find that our culture makes living without technology really difficult, though. we've always got to be connected! i think with traveling it's always nice and refreshing to step back from technology and escape!

  • travelingsavage

    This is a topic that I often think about it. See this post: http://bit.ly/d0HsGk. As bloggers, we want to capture all the nuances and document our travels. My approach will be good old fashioned pen and paper and using the computer only at certain points. This will limit my internet time. Cameras are another story.

  • suzyguese

    Agreed with Keith. I love carrying around a pen and paper when I travel. I definitely know the feeling of not having Internet though. I used to try and join any signal I possibly could while living in Italy. As much as I complained, it was nice to spend more time with my host family or getting out of the apartment rather than sitting around the computer.

  • Andrew

    Travel is my time to disconnect. I have not a choice about technology at work, so just having a notebook and camera is refreshing. I admit to also having my iPod always around, there are some things in travel I'd actually rather blend out. Snoring neighbors and drunk teenagers being top of the list.

  • jerrigirl

    3×5 is one of my all time favorite travel songs and I totally agree with the idea of avoiding technology as much as possible while traveling. I'm going to take you up on your challenge…um, on Saturday.

  • This reminds me of my unplugged weekend! I am already craving another one. 😉

  • camorose

    So true–I like the word “escape.” We're trying to escape reality a bit when we travel, and if we're always plugged in, we can't really do that. Thanks for commenting!

  • camorose

    Great post! Now that my MacBook is broken, my computer time is severely limited :( However, I have been trying to limit my Internet time if not my actual “screen” time in front of the computer. It's hard, but I think it's worth it to get the most of your travels. Thanks for weighing in–I'm glad that I'm not the only one that struggles with this!

  • camorose

    It's definitely a tough thing to balance–as much as I want to be online, it's nice to disconnect once in a while. I just hate not having the choice, although it's probably better for me. Once I start tweeting or Facebook stalking, it's hard to turn it off!

  • camorose

    iPods are key on trains/planes/while you're actually in transit! I'm not too good with my notebook, although I should get better about writing not on a computer. All these comments are inspiring me to pick up a notebook and try to write there while my computer is in the shop!

  • camorose

    iPods are key on trains/planes/while you're actually in transit! I'm not too good with my notebook, although I should get better about writing not on a computer. All these comments are inspiring me to pick up a notebook and try to write there while my computer is in the shop!

  • camorose

    Glad you'll be taking the challenge–I need to figure out a day to try it myself!

  • camorose

    It's so nice sometimes, to not be bothered with email, Facebook, etc. Although, like you said, the one thing I do miss–GPS!!!

  • I was secretly reading through the paragraphs uber quickly so I could get down here and recommend the lyrics of John Mayer's “3×5.” Of course, you're as cool as I know you to be so you mentioned it in graf 4. I like him, I like you, and I like technology. So I'm glad you found WiFi to update us on your Nice-esque life.

  • camorose

    I'm glad we think alike! It's one of my favorite songs to listen to when I'm soaking up a new and beautiful place since it expresses exactly what I'm feeling. And I'm stoked about the WiFi–despite everything I said in this post :)

  • Oops, sorry I shared that WiFi password with you!

  • camorose

    I'm definitely having a love/hate relationship with FreeWifi…

  • My dearest Christine, I'll admit that every once in a while I can't bring myself to read your posts–out of pure JEALOUSY. But let's be honest, I can't stay away for that long… I'm an avid eavesdropper/people watcher and it's a shameless habit, I just wish I'd take the time to go out and indulge in those hobbies a little more often. Nothing really beats sitting outside on a beautiful day soaking in everything the world has to offer.

    Glad you're back up and running …wifi AND computer. Miss your face around here…

  • camorose

    Once you move to San Francisco, think of all the great people watching/sun soaking moments you'll be able to enjoy! I admit that Sunnyvale isn't really the place to unplug…miss you tons!

  • Such a great article! I definitely strive to spend my weekends gadget free while I'm at home because I obviously can't while I'm working during the week. This post makes me want to try harder. While I was traveling around Europe I didn't have a computer and only my iPod and a phone and I didn't miss the rest of the stuff we usually lag around with us.

  • camorose

    Thanks! This is my first time bringing my computer to Europe, and it's a mixed bag–it's great to stay in touch, but I also hate how much time I spend on it! I'm really loving not having my iPhone, though–it's great to be disconnected whenever I'm out and about.

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