Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What!? No Internet!?

“Housing is basic, cell phone reception is limited, and it does not have internet.”

What!?  No internet!

For three months, I’ve lived with no wifi at home and limited phone service.  There is slow McDonald’s wifi 45 minutes away.  And… Life has been amazing without regular, constant acess to the internet.
One of the few times I went into town for internet, it took two hours to upload two blog posts.  Not a good use of time.
Without internet, there is so much time.  Time for the world outside my door.  Time for the people I interact with face to face.

There were initial frustrations, of course.  I ran out of podcast episodes.   I failed to download my library book on tape in time—after I finally got it after three months of waiting on hold, so now I’ll have to wait another round.  I miss being able to keep up with photos from my friend’s hiking adventures. 

But I’ve found huge benefits of the no internet life.  Amazing things happen to your brain.  The clarity of mind and peacefulness remind me of the mental state that happens when going backpacking.  I notice more around me.  I can dive into reading book after book, and that can open up whole new ways of thinking.  Every sunrise and sunset is a whole new event to be enjoyed. It feels like I get to live more.  That moments are overflowing with intentionality and appreciation. 

I realize how I used to reach for my phone as a way to distract myself from momentary discomfort.  Maybe I’d be trying to write an article, and I’d get stuck.  Instead of just sitting with it, I impulsively open up instagram to escape.

I’ve enjoyed slow ways to get information.  When I have questions that I would normally google answers for, instead I ask the people around me, or search for answers in books.  Slower, but when I actually have to work for the answers, I end up learning more.
Not as fast as google.  But you'll find a fascinating world here.
News comes, but not via the usual channels.  It’s direct observations and word of mouth here.  We take out the ruler and measure how much snow fell in the last 24 hours.  The peregrine falcons are nesting, and we know because a visitor brought in a photo. Instead of traffic reports on the radio, we find out how the roads are by asking our coworkers or the visitors.
"It snowed last night."
It’s not entirely true that I’m completely cut off.  Via my smartphone, I can do email if I wave my phone around and wait… and wait…  If I try pressing upload for a few hours, sometimes I can get a post through to instagram, if the weather is right.  Because the internet is not instantaneous, I have to consider WHY time should be invested in whatever I’m doing.  Is it just wanting to be “liked”? Most of the time I can’t download comments and once I can actually read them, comments have lost their immediacy.  Posting becomes less about wanting responses, and more about the desire to share something with the universe that has nothing to do with any sort of return.  It makes you think about sharing in this whole other time scale.  That is the opposite of clicking and clicking and the super fast way that the wifi can make your brain not able to focus at all. 
What!? No facebook!?  Yes, I gave up it was just too slow.
Reading blog posts takes a while.  In the time they take to load, I ask, “Does reading this article help me learn something new, does it inspire me, or provoke creativity?” I have discovered that there are maybe five blogs that are worth the time to download.  It makes me wonder why I used to waste so much time reading things that didn’t make a positive impact on my life.

In reading less online, I value personal interactions more.  My mind doesn’t wander to some fb post I’ve been meaning to write.  The people in front of me are the ones that matter.  Their stories are my reality. 

As I prepare to head back to the land of internet and 4G, I wonder if I will just instantly revert back to my old ways.  I hope I can take some of what I learned back with me, and be more present and less distracted.  I want to remember to use the internet as a tool, and with thought, not as a means of distraction.


  1. interesting experience. i do think the digital age swamps us and scatters us. we can become prisoners to the screen. and yes our discomfort as you say persuades us that instant solutions are what we need when a longer term view perhaps a change in behaviour or just sitting with the silence is what we should try instead.

    1. It really does scatter us. One thing I really liked about my internet free life was how much I just sat and thought. I'm still wondering if I will have the self-control to carry that practice with me.

  2. Over Easter weekend we went camping in the Hill Country and cell service was very sporadic. Mostly we wanted to check the weather but of course I felt the IG tug a few times. It was kind of nice being really cut off for awhile. It made me miss my dumb phone (I only got an iphone last summer!).

    As for blogs, I definitely find myself reading fewer of them as time goes on. I still hesitate to delete some from my feed because I do like to keep a tab on some of them.

    good luck with heading back into the real world. I bet you will figure out a way to adapt your new less-internet ways into it.

    1. Haha- so many times I've been out backpacking and done the "I'm just gonna turn this on to check the weather" and then ended up checking everythign else online. :) Wish there was a setting on the iphone that ONLY let you check weather and location.

      Sadly, I've been binging on internet today... so many trail to research, plants to look up, etc. I'm sure I'll find balance... once I get 3 months of backpacking and botany backlog cleared off my extensive todo list.

  3. I have been wondering whether to keep blogging if your thoughts and some of the comments are the universal experience these days. Maybe it's better to save it for paid work. As for me, I like having Internet at home, but I need to for work. I can't stand it when I visit someone and they're looking at their phone all the time. Definitely do not take it camping with the possible exception of half mile app if I can't figure something out from paper maps.

    1. I do wonder about that. But some of this stuff that we write, I don't think is the universal experience, so that keeps me going because I don't think some of these sentiments are that common.

      I couldn't believe how long it took for my background checks to go through so I could use the work internet- sheesh!

      Agreed about halfmile app. And weather reports. And Jan had this awesome flower app. Plus a friend had the peakfinder app. Oh my...

  4. I read this last night and it really got under my skin because I too have experienced just a tad of this loss. I haven't truly disconnected but just having a few days without signal makes me uncomfortable. I realize this dependence is not healthy and although my balance is better when on the road I need to consider further withdrawals so I can get to the point of preference. I love all the ideas I've gathered, the people I've met, the opportunities by being a part of this online community, but your post made me realize that maybe I need to work harder on the real life relationships instead.

    Thanks for making me squirm and consider new challenges :)

    1. But if you don't keep up on the internets and stay in touch with all the hiker-gossips, you won't be able to update me!!! I mean, it was SUCH an important service when you ran through all the latest hiker news on our last trip-- it totally spared me having to sort through backlogs of posts-- you summarized three months in something like one hour-- which is like... totally the best. :)

      But seriously, it is hard at first. It feels like being cut off, or like you just got dumped-- a dark emptyness. For a traveler, it's hard ot have the face to face when everyone is so far away. It was easier when there is a community around, or when you are on a long trail during hiker season to be present.

      I do wonder if there is some better balance though. Maybe I will try internetting every other day, or only for a certain time period every day?

  5. So interesting...I haven't gotten back to blogging yet this year about my trips (I've only been out backpacking once as it is!) and I've been contemplating if I want to resume. My habit is to write at night in my tent, and while that's not going to change - is what I've experienced "worthy" of public dissemination? As you said, a universal level. Ultimately, I keep coming back to the fact I never know who I may inspire. I read so many blogs in my "dreaming" stage, but felt too shy to comment.

    1. I was so glad to read your first blog post in a long time. I feel like you are able to inspire a particular group of people that may not otherwise have vocal role models.

      It's tough to find that balance of how much to time to spend writing vs. doing. In the end, I find that I get more out of my hiking when I write about it. I just want to make sure that the writing about it doesn't take away from my time to be outdoors.