I think we’ve all been guilty of it, you’re heading to a place you’ve never been, it might be an event in a new venue, a restaurant or even a new continent. The inner planner ignites and we enter that habitual urge to research and prepare, gaze over the restaurants reviews, menus and websites, in search for your perfect supper, or we might star a gig venue on google maps or find that perfect blog on Zimbabwean off-road cycling routes, for a very specific example! Technology has allowed us all to experience the event before we’ve enjoyed the actual moment of being there. I am as guilty as anyone for using the internet to embrace and certify my idiosyncrasies, be it the history of the Caucasus to discovering the track Giles Peterson’s played on 6music, a 1980s Jayne Cortez spoken word poem with the Firespitters if your interested. Truly, the internet can be incredible but i’m worried it pushes me to live in the past or the future, when really, I should be living in the moment.
Seeking the best
The realisation that technology can influence your experiences is evident in travel. It’s far too easy to arrive at a destination with a detailed itinerary, knowing everything from timings, pricing, local customs, best accommodation, best visitor sites, even the best time and routes to enjoy the top sites with. It’s bewildering to think that you could know your entire trip back to front before you leave the sofa. Planning to this extent means the mind is always preoccupied on “what’s next” and the numbing details of getting from A to B. I know, i’ve been there, watching the sunset on a beautiful mountain but thinking about the route down and the bus home. An unnecessary worry that I couldn’t control, neither change, a thought process brazenly developed from forward-thinking, which, ultimately, has been worsened by the internets ability to know and teach me everything.
My phone the sage
So what can we do? Well, I’m happy to report that over the last 8 months I have started to disconnect, although running a blog can suck one back in. My phone sits eternally on airplane mode like an ancient sage, I can only get online in hostels and most of the time the connection sucks, which is a good thing. It means I’ve become better adjusted to reacting to life as it happens. Absorbed less by technology and more by the bustling places around me; the children drumming on railings outside the window or watching the sun rays radiate across a valley. What I’ve learnt is the ability to just enjoy what’s happening around me, even if it’s nothing.
This change in mindset has helped me reflect on my pre-travel behaviour. Checking the phone in every dull moment, knowing minute by minute bus times and every enquiry becoming answerable within seconds. Life on the road is not like this. I might only access WiFi every other day and bus times are pretty non-existent out of Europe. Sometimes if you want to get somewhere you just have to wait. The amount of discussion Ali and I entertain on topics and questions surrounding the places we visit makes for some interesting debates that wouldn't have happened with a connected smartphone. Technology would have stopped all these examples, and countless more, from happening.
So does technology stop us living in moment? I think it’s very easy to let it. The devil makes work for idle hands they say, well if that's true then surely the devil had some input on the addictiveness of the smartphone? Knowing everything comes with some downers. One I have been considering is if you know everything about a place before you arrive then do you set yourself up for disappointment? When we visited the Terracotta army in Xi’an I knew the whole story from reading blogs and the (stolen/ borrowed) guidebook. It was not the epic Indiana Jones discovery moment I had expected because I knew the whole story already. My pre-planning mindset had spoilt it. The same can be said for art, food or any experience where the outcome, meaning or review has been laid out for you. The opinions of others can shape yours.
If your agreeing or mildly complicit of these traits you’re probably thinking, “what can I do to change this?”. Well I’ve had some thoughts you could try. Why not stop booking up all of your free time. Perhaps you could keep a weekend free and contact your friends or family on-the-fly. Imagine not knowing what your weekend might look like? Kind of exciting when you think about it. How about going off-grid? Spend an afternoon with your tech on airplane mode and see which discussions come up without readily available answers, no arguments though please! Equally, if you jump on a train and your phone tells you it will take 25 minutes but in reality it takes 40 you've really just set yourself up for disappointment. Perhaps knowledge isn't always power. Choices, options and information go a long way to causing disappointments, well illustrated in this TED talk by Dan Gilbert, which I think is spot on.
Out of thin air
Many of the best memories seem to happen out of thin air. The ad-hoc gathering or the impromptu bbq. The pre party before you head out is often the pinnacle of night, normally better than the night you’ve planned, right? The afternoon in the park where you invented that game with a stick and a hacky-sack!? You get the point. It’s ok not to have plans in the diary because it creates potential for the unknown, the random and the, hopefully, memorable and fun. I’m going to try this new mindset when I return home. Starting with a £5 a month contract with 500mb of data, which means no data in the modern world. I see it as a return to my teens when the world was unknown and less planned. Travel has helped me recapture my thirst for living in the moment and the first step is a detox from technology, perhaps some of you might join me...but remember a little bit of technology is fine, just for checking our blog :-)
Has technology turned you into a mega planner?
Do you like to know all the information before heading out somewhere?
Have people always been as plan-minded and organised as we are now? Or do you think this a growing phenomenon?
I am interested to know you thoughts so please continue the discussion below in the comments box... thanks for reading.
(To find it later)
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