For the first time since being connected was possible, we were not. For two days. On purpose.
Being without electronic devices may not sound like a big accomplishment and, quite frankly, being without electronic calendar reminders and beeping notifications when a friend says something socially scintillating left an initially unpleasant void in the day. I paced a lot, adapted, talked with words produced by my mouth, not my thumbs and came away from the experience a bit more appreciative of some things.
To think that I lived in a time where there were no electronic devices, the sorts of which we have today to keep us connected, seems unreal. I remember being into citizens band radio decades ago as the only way to be in contact with other humans when away from home or the office. Cellular telephone devices had not become widespread yet, were bulky, expensive and could do nothing the smart phones of today can. But that was a different time.
Seeing someone off at the airport was a big deal. I remember asking my mother once after my brother flew off to college, when we would see him again. “Hard to say”, was the accurate and unpleasant answer. Time would pass and maybe a hand-written letter would come, catching us up from time to time. To check in and let us know he had arrived somewhere, Michael would make a normally-expensive long distance phone call, collect, asking for some fictitious person who was not there; that was the codespeak for “I made it ok”. We might have heard his voice as the telephone operator advised Michael that we were not going to accept the charges.
Today, I can talk to Sydney on the west coast while we are on the east coast (or almost anywhere else in the world) with any one of a number of apps for that smartphone. When we travel, as regular readers know (fear?) we will send along photos as we go from place to place, electronically using one of our smartphones. Sending photos, filing reports and doing business electronically has become so easy that it really no longer matters where I live; I can do this anywhere on the planet.
So why disconnect? Why, after we have reached a place in time where all this marvelous communication is possible, would we want to leave it all behind for a trip?
Interestingly, when we travel, I am working. I actually work more when I am on the road than I do at home. Technology is great but not the same as being in the office, which requires more attention to performing basic tasks like reading mail or looking into something online. Add that when we travel it is usually to cover some cruise-related event and days get very long. To people who do what I do, being disconnected is the stuff that secret dreams are made of. Ask a travel writer who specializes in cruising the last time they went on a vacation, odds are that will be at a time before they started writing about them.
So off to the Florida Keys we went, to take a break from everything on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2014. It was a glorious. I asked a friend for recommendations before hand with the criteria being “a lousy internet connection, if any, and a place where I can just sit and stare at the ocean. I won’t be writing about it, I don’t want to meet the PR people or have a tour of the property.”
We ended up at Hawks Cay, a resort on the way to Key West that was a very nice fit. It probably would have been a good fit for people who wanted to do something too as plenty of activities are also offered. My only request to Hawks Cay was for a water-view room, not wanting to be located somewhere looking at the side of a building or a pool. We got the view of the pool and the ocean in the background. Not exactly what I wanted and in another situation I might have complained about it or asked to be moved.
But on second thought, it occurred to me “this is not a cruise where most balcony views bring an unobstructed view of the ocean”. This was a resort with people and pools and those sort of things; the things that are more affected by weather at the destination. So we stayed put, in the room assigned and talked to each other. Interestingly, without the distraction of electronic devices, we talked about subjects we never touched on in the previous 33 years that we have been together. That was the gold.
Storms moved in and out, as they do in Caribbean. We watched, ordered room service and emptied our cooler; in heaven.
As a first time away from smartphones and electronics, the experience went well. Do we plan on doing that again anytime soon? Probably not. Christmas Eve and Day were pretty safe bets for disconnecting; odds are that no business matters would suffer. Also, we really like bringing you information about cruise vacations and related services. That we are fortunate enough to live at a time when doing so is possible, in no small part due to connectivity, we embrace it.
Still, it was nice to disconnect, if only for a while.