As I stood gazing at a stunning panorama of the Roman Colosseum, cobble-stoned streets and ancient ruins, I was thankful for one thing: I had no phone.
I just went on a trip to London and Italy, and was unable to procure international functionality on my phone, and neither was my wife. I also made the decision not to lug my laptop along on our vacation. So we found ourselves in a situation that we hadn’t been in for about 10 years or so — no cell phone and no Internet access for a (seemingly) really long time. And I was surprised at how it affected the trip and my enjoyment of it, in both good and bad ways.
The real shocker to me in regards to being phoneless and Internetless was how much I didn’t miss it. I had my watch to check the time, and that was really all I needed. Not receiving texts, not having something constantly vibrating and distracting me, and not having that check-your-email-every-two-seconds temptation was a relief, and it allowed me to focus on the here-and-now, and really make memories of my trip. Whether it was site-seeing or enjoying Easter dinner with my Italian relatives, I was truly there, in the moment.
But reality is reality, and there were some definite downsides to being cut off from both the Internet and communicating. Not having the convenience of connecting with others or finding quality info when it counted – from coordinating a visit with my aunt in Naples to getting a train schedule to trying to find a good, non-touristy restaurant – was frustratingly difficult. And I really had no idea what was going on in the news or, more importantly, with the Knicks and the Rangers. (Turns out I was better off not knowing. Jeepers creepers!)
Ultimately, as I think most of us realize, being connected 24/7 is a mixed blessing. We have information at our fingertips whenever we need it, and everyone we’re close to is the touch of a button away. But being able to get away from that and the distraction it sometimes represents was refreshing. Still, it’s not something I’d want to be without for too long a time. After all, if I’d had my phone in London, I could’ve shown off the PaRappa the Rapper vinyl 45 I found in a record shop much, much sooner.
(P.S. Photocred to Jennifer Brooks!)