Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Take a Break from the Internet

He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.
                                                                                  ~Chinese Proverb

You've heard it all before...we're too connected all the time. We need a mental break. Stop checking Facebook, email, twitter, etc. Stop posting your status.

Of course, I agree this is a good idea for our mental health as well as our relationships. But when traveling, there is an additional benefit. Staying off the internet means you get to really be in the place you're visiting. Think about it. If you're constantly posting status updates, you're not really living in the same place as your body- you're somehow trapped back home-telling all of your friends what you're doing.

When I was an exchange student to the Philippines, email didn't exist. The only way I could communicate with my family and friends was through very expensive phone calls or through snail mail. And boy was it snail mail... letters took 10 days to get there. Packages took 3 months! Now I'm not extolling the virtues of the "good ole days" like some old geezer. But in some ways, I had it easier back then. I had to be present in the place where I was living because I had no choice. If I were a teen exchange student now, I don't know how well I'd do. I'd like to think I'd manage, but the draw of social media is strong. And a year is a long time.

But here's the thing. For most travelers, time away does not last nearly that long. Many of us are lucky if we get two weeks off a year. And all of it isn't usually spent traveling. So when you do get a break-whether your traveling to some far off destination or hanging around your home town relaxing, take a real break. Turn off the computer. Ignore Facebook. Set an "out of office message" on your email.

I'm as much a member of the digital world as the next person, but that's what I did when I was lucky enough to be in Italy for three weeks this past summer. I had scheduled my usual "Wordless Wednesday" posts, plus one guest post for my blog before I left, but other than that I was internet silent. No blogging. No Twitter. No Facebook or Pinterest. I checked email a few of times in the entire three weeks, just in case there was something urgent, but I didn't respond to one email until I returned.

And guess what happened? Nothing. And everything. The world continued on without me and I got to really live in the place my body occupied. I  got to experience all Salina, and Sicilia, and Roma had to offer me uninterrupted by the chatter of life back home. I got to play games with my kids, swim in the Mediterranean, and forge friendships with people I met. I had literally no idea what was happening in the the rest of the world for three full weeks. But my world was rich indeed.

He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.

But that can only happen if you really do leave it all behind when you go.

Take a break. Be there, not here. See what happens.

Have you tried disconnecting while traveling? Now did it go? What was the result?

Travel Tuesdays: Keep A Journal
Travel Tuesdays: The Philippines "Growing Up"
Travel Tuesdays: Exchange Students

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