Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What do we need?

I recently traveled to New Zealand from my home of fabulous Minnesota, U.S.A. People told me before I left that this was "the trip of a lifetime" and that I would come back "a changed man." I hate to admit that they were right, but they really were. It was an amazing trip. I did come back a changed man in many ways, so the people were right.

After my beautiful fiance and I landed over there, I relearned a few things that I had forgotten. I was exposed to ideas that I hadn't considered for many years. My eyes were closed when I left, but upon departure from that lovely little island, I felt like my eyes were open for the first time in years. It was a good feeling. It was grand.

I decided to write about one of the quirky things I realized whilst on said adventure.

Being without a mobile phone is scary, but liberating. To be completely honest with you, I haven't been without a mobile device of some sort for years and years. I would guess that I have had one with me since they were first available in my area of Minnesota. I suppose it was the early 1990's. I never really knew what life would be like without it. I have been a long time defender of my many reasons for having it near me at all times. I think we all have reasons, don't we? My reasons were things like that I want my daughter to always be able to reach me. Also, I am self employed, so what if something happens at work? What if they need to ask me a question? What if they have an emergency? I think these are not outlandish reasons to carry a phone, by any means. Aside from that, in the last few months I had upgraded to a "smart" phone not realizing that this one "smart" step would slide me further into mobile phone reliance than any step prior. I think it may have made me more reliant on mobile service than all other steps in that direction I had taken up until this point. It is am amazing little device. It has fast internet. It has GPS with phone numbers for your destination built right in. It has the ability to play music, stream live internet music, and text at the same time. It is, in a word, incredible. It is a curse. I think it is a very bad evil.

This reliance on mobile service has it's very own drawbacks. Before I left on my adventure, I called my mobile provider and I asked them about service options internationally. I was assured that my phone would work as normal, but that it was much more expensive to use it in a foreign land. Fine. I thought that was okay as long as it worked as it did here in the U.S. When we landed in Christchuch, New Zealand, I wanted to call my daughter and tell her that we were okay. I tried, but I couldn't call out. I had service bars, but no luck. What the heck? So, I went back into the airport again to ask the good people at the help counter for advice or tips. They told me to buy an international SIM card and then my phone should work as good as normal. I though about it and remembered that the customer service representative I spoke to with my mobile provider had said something similar to that, too. So, I bought one, I went outside, and I tried to install it. I didn't realize that my new phone doesn't use a SIM card like my old one did. It wouldn't work. There was no place to put it. Crap. My bad. I went back in and asked the help counter people for a different idea since the SIM card plan was a loser. They told me to try an international calling card. It seemed logical, so I bought one. I went outside to try to call home, but still was unable to. Now, instead of it being a parts problem, it was a service provider problem. At this point, I spent about $100 trying to call home and hadn't been able to. My fiance was supremely patient with me as I melted down. I didn't curse, swear, or rant. But, I am sure by this point my face was flushed and my blood pressure was about 300/200. What was I going to do? There was no going home. What if there was an emergency? What if something happens? How will anybody reach me? How will I reach them? I panicked. I was scared. I felt naked.

This was the beginning. It was a blessed thing.

As time passed on our trip, I accepted that I didn't need to check my email each and every day as I had become accustomed to on my mobile phone. I had no need for Facebook and I kept living even if I didn't see what so and so's latest status update was. I realized that I didn't need to talk to people at home on and off over the course of the day to survive. I realized that I didn't always need to be reached for questions. I mean, I was on vacation, right? Sure, I missed my family and child, but I knew that they missed me too and that was comfort enough. Realization is a good thing, right?

My realization was followed with a strong bout of self loathing. I was fully disgusted with myself. I had the full range of emotions. I validated my phone use to myself. I tried to sell it to myself and portray the idea that MY life was SO important. Doing this, I was justified and smug. Soon after, I was sad for losing the freedom to be just "gone." I felt weak that I relied on a nameless, faceless service in my every day life. Even later, I became angry with myself. What had I become? Seriously. Do I really need that? Do I need mobile service?

I hate the idea that the mobile phone company owns me for about $90 per month. I hate the idea that I might walk down the street with my eyes on a electronic device and miss something beautiful in nature. I hate the idea that not only can I be reached everywhere, but the mobile service provider ALWAYS knows where I am and I have given them that ability of my own free will. I wonder how valuable a skill such as mobile device operation ability would be without electricity? How about without functioning mobile service towers? What good is that gizmo, then? It there an "app" that lights a campfire so I can cook my food? Can I survive in the woods with my phone and nothing else? Does it really have anything to teach me that's valuable? Is there an "app" that has any value without the service? Sorry, but I don't think so.

My fiance bought maps of New Zealand before we left from the States. I thought they were great to look at and plan our drives and adventures, but when it came to the actual travel, I was sure I would use the GPS built into my phone to navigate us safely and quickly. Boy, was I ever wrong? Bless her and her maps for reminding me that just because something can be done a certain way, doesn't mean that it can ONLY be done that way.

I had also assumed that I would be able to listen to internet radio the whole time when we drove in our rental car. I was wrong again, and thank heavens for it. My fiance and I played a name game in the car off and on for a couple days. We told stories of our pasts. We talked about deep, interesting things that I think most people are too scared or too detached to talk about. We spoke of our hopes and our dreams. We spoke about our future and what it might hold. Sometimes we spoke. Sometimes we drove in silence and took in the full view of the scenery. Either way, it was absolutely liberating and wonderful.

As it all turned out in the end, I was able to text my friends and family in America now and then and they could call me, but I couldn't call them. That's simple enough. After a few days, I began to not really care at all about the grocery list of voicemails I had that I couldn't hear or respond to. I was able to speak to my daughter for a few minutes here and there to tell that I was having fun and missing her. I spoke to my parents for a little while to check on the rest of my family. I was relieved a little. I lived. I survived. I was fine. I was healthy without mobile service convenient and at my fingertips. Without my cell phone, the world still turned and our lives continued. It was a great revelation. Who would have thought?

1 comment:

  1. I love maps, and I take pride in my ability to read them. I have no GPS device, and don't foresee getting one anytime soon. I have seen people who have become too dependent on them. When it comes to survival in the mountains, I am not going to rely on anything that has a battery, let alone requires a signal.

    Anyway, great post!