If you are reading this, you have access to the internet. How much time do you spend online? Being without the internet for a week on an island off the shore of the Belize has been a good lesson for me. How much more enjoyable and memorable is travel when you don’t have internet? What’s different? Here is what I have come up with so far.
1. People talk to each other. I talk to people more. In many places where you see strangers when travelling, every person is looking at a screen (smart phone, tablet). People are not interacting because they can sink into their online worlds. When no one has internet, you talk more. You meet people, you have real conversations. You also talk to your partner more. And you talk about real things — shared experiences, prior travels, people’s lives back home. You don’t talk about something you read online or what a friend posted on Facebook.
2. I realized that there is no such thing as boredom. And what you think is boredom, that you are “curing” by looking at a device, is your mind aching for some real stimulation. Clicking around online isn’t going to assuage that ache. It’s just a nervous habit to click online, check email, check social media. A nervous habit tht doesn’t provide much real substance. Reading, writing, doing, talking, really looking at things, thinking — these will get you to new experiences, to learning things, to learning more about yourself, to having insights.
3. I enjoy travel more without the internet. Sure, I can’t communicate with friends back home, can’t post pictures and see people’s comments, won’t know of any emergency, can’t check the weather or make a blog post. Those things are fun, but they take me away from the present moment. I can do them all at home when I am in my cozy house, looking out on the rain, in my routine. Why do them here, on a beautiful island? Or why did I do them in Italy during my birthday trip? Trips are short. I need to stop asking for the wifi password everywhere I go and spending time trying to connecting to the internet. Life is happening!! Connect to it.
4. Legitimate travel uses of the internet can serve as an excuse to waste time browsing. Getting directions to your next destination, checking in for your flight, making or cancelling a hotel reservation — all necessary things that the internet makes easier. But I find that when I say I need to log on to do one of those things, I often spend more time browsing (e.g., not pay attention to my travels, not thinking) than I did doing the online travel task.
5. I sleep better. I have read in past that “experts” say screen time interferes with sleep. I have slept better without internet and TV. Of course, being on a tropical island, hearing the surf all night, and swimming during the day might all contribute to a better night’s sleep.
I am curious whether others find the internet to be a necessity, a convenience, a distraction or an intrusion when they are travelling? It seems like there are fewer and fewer places in the world WITHOUT internet access, and that maybe there should be more.