Get offline! For at least a little while

Post in: German

I spent a month in Ireland, and during that month, I met a few Americans. Some of them asked me whether it was really, really possible to be disconnected from the office, from electronic communication, for the duration of a month. One American I met relayed a story about discovering on a recent trip that there was cell phone reception way up in the mountains that he likes to visit. He was wondering whether it would be a cool feeling to do business up there, to take a business call and solve something, or whether that would ruin the remote feeling. He hadn’t decided what to do.
I can say from the experience of answering my telephone one time while I was gone: don’t do it. If you want to keep that feeling of being away from it all and back to whatever it is that you went there to discover – about yourself, the planet, and your place in it, don’t do business on the mountaintop.
In my case, there I was, on a remote western Irish island on an overcast weekday morning two weeks into my trip, looking out over rocky landscapes and the Atlantic beyond, the gray clouds mirroring the cloudy ocean. The rocks revealed detail in shades of gray that usually goes unnoticed in the hurried rush of everyday life or in the bleached washout of a midsummer sun. I was in the vibe of timelessness that one hopes for when vacationing for a good stretch of time. Time boundaries had melted away and the angle of the shadows cast by daylight and the signals from the body were the only orientations for the passage of and placement of time. If you want to keep that feeling of being away from it all and back to whatever it is that you went there to discover – about yourself, the planet, and your place in it – don’t do business on the mountaintop.
And then the phone rang. And instinctively, I answered. It was an office somewhere, wanting to point out that I needed to submit forms X Y and Z before they could process application Q.
“Oh,” I said, “I am currently on vacation, can you please send me an Email about it and I will handle it when I get home?”
“Oh, yes, sorry, of course, have a nice vacation, sorry to have interrupted.”
(All this in German, not exactly my vacation language there in Ireland)
It was not her fault to have interrupted me, it was my fault for letting myself be interrupted. That phone call was an important lesson.
Another important lesson: what’s the worst that can happen when traveling and not being in communication? Some kind of message needs to reach you and can’t get to you. What to do?
My solution: I let my immediate family and trusted work contacts know exactly where I would be, when. My brother did, in fact, need to and did track me down via my innkeeper to deliver some important family news. The odds of necessary communication happening are small, a safeguard is a good idea, but staying in tune with all the little messages about this and that? – it’s fully unnecessary. Let it go. Ahh.
Oh, and that goes for keeping up with facebook, blogs, and twitter… What was life like before these things entered our toolkit of communication? What did we do with our time before dedicating a few minutes a day or week (or hour?) to these electronic goodies? Get back to that! Ironic to be blogging and tweeting this, isn’t it?

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