Tuesday, September 29, 2009


When I went to London a few years ago, I surprised myself by deciding not to bring my laptop. I figured that if I brought my laptop, I would linger in front of it in the mornings instead of getting out of my hotel room bright and early each day.

It was the best decision I could have made for that trip, and since then, not only do I always refrain from bringing my laptop with me when I travel, but I find myself looking forward to the prospect of 'unconnected' days. Without my laptop, I've taken a cruise on the Siene at night, seen 'Wicked' in San Francisco, spent 2 glorious days hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, and spent days and nights relaxing to the sound and smell of the sea. I started my days in London with a cup of hot cocoa, and then a brisk, early walk or rush hour ride on the Underground, and spent hours walking and roaming, lingering and watching.

Last night, as I was preparing for my trip (I leave tomorrow night for 7 weeks in Los Angeles, Sydney, New Zealand's South Island, a visit with a cousin in Florida, and a Caribbean cruise), my laptop crashed. Totally, absolutely, hard-drive-erased-crashed. After a few minutes of choice words, with brow sweating, and mind in overdrive trying to figure out how the heck to fix it, I suddenly stopped and thought, "Hey, this may not be such a bad thing, afterall."

OK, so sure, first thing this morning, I dragged out an old laptop and managed to get it up and running and online, but the connection is fairly slow, and instead of being able to sit at my kitchen table and surf, surf, surf, the only place I could set it up was up in our office, which is one of those rooms we rarely step foot in anymore, mostly because it's poorly insulated, and pretty much cut off from the heart of our home.

With this set up, I have to make an effort to access the computer, instead of having it at hand in the place I spend most of my time. I have to go upstairs, and sit in a place with no distractions. No sound of the neighbors, no watching the birds and butterflies at the window, no stepping outside for a second to see if there's a sign of fall in the air.

It didn't take long for me to start feeling like I didn't really need to be online all the time. No need to be signed into Skype, just in case someone wanted to reach me. No need to check Twitter every couple of hours, or any of the blogs I sort of follow; not even a need to check the news regularly.

It was almost like being on one of my trips.

I had plenty to do today, what with packing and all, but while I was keeping busy, I couldn't help noticing that I didn't have that compulsion to sit in front of the computer for 'just a few minutes'. There were even a few hours somewhere during the day when I didn't go upstairs to sit down even once.

What a relief! Truth be told, every now and then I've gotten the feeling that I spend way too much time in front of my laptop. I'd wonder if I was kinda isolated. Or maybe insulated? In any case, I certainly wasn't interacting face to face with all that many people (unless you consider video Skyping a face to face interacion). I don't think my social skills were necessarily suffering, but then again, I'm pretty comfortable being by myself, so I'm not sure if I'd actually know if I was lacking or awkward in multi-person settings.

(I also have to admit that I've had an occasional nagging worry that if I continued spending so much time online, that one day I might find that I had turned into some sort of old, dried up, spinsterish old lady, whose social life consisted of 'talking' with her internet 'friends'.)

A long while ago, a friend of mine told me that he purposefully did not sit down at his computer for a couple of days at a time. I thought this was really odd, especially since he made a good part of his living designing programs. His words have pretty much always been with me, and I often would find myself reflecting on them, and scratching my head. But, every now and then...

Every now and then I'd get a tiny glimmer of an understanding nanosecond, where I thought that maybe I got what he meant. But, I'd always brush it aside, not scoffing at his words, but certainly thinking 'no way' for me.

Today, I heard his words echoing again. This time, though, I lingered on them. Being unconnected didn't seem so bad. I got a heck of a lot done today. What I noticed most of all, was that while my body was working, my mind was really, really active. [Note to close friends and family who just choked on their food, while laughing so hard they fell on the floor: My mind was even more active than usual. Hard to imagine, I know. But- really!] This was different- instead of deep, concerned, philosophical thoughts, or mind-racing to what I'll be doing over the next five years thoughts, my mind amused itself with calm, peaceful wanderings. My muscles are aching right now, but my mind feels relaxed, unharried, and unhurried.

I think I could get used to being unplugged. Maybe... Well, we'll see how it all plays out when I get back from this round of travel.

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