The Week I Traveled Without My iPhone

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Aug 27, 2014 / 0 comments

The week I traveled without my iphone


Sounds awful already, doesn’t it? My generation has grown up using technology that gives us access to a majority of the things we need in the palm of our hand and only gets better every year. So how has this affected our view of everyday life and travels?

For one, if you take part in any form of social media, you know all about sharing your personal life with your friends. You might have already posted a status or picture today about something fun or cool that you’ve done. Or maybe you’re waiting until the perfect time of day when you know your picture will get more views from your followers, so you haven’t posted it yet. Or perhaps you’re still deciding on which filter makes it look best? (Side note: don’t go for anything too wild, because then it might look like you’re trying too hard.)

But wait, what about the fact that you’re standing amidst the Grand Canyon? Or witnessing your little brother or sister graduate from high school? Or on a date with your loved one? Meanwhile, you’re still looking down, trying to get that perfect picture to share for later… There’s a joke my friends and I like to make: “If you didn’t post it on Instagram, did it really even happen?”


Do you see where I’m going with this?


So one week, the rear camera of my iPhone broke and wouldn’t focus anymore. I was devastated! How was I going to take cute pictures of my new puppy and post them everywhere if my camera wouldn’t focus on anything? So we sent my phone in to be repaired. Meanwhile, I used one of our old phones: the palm pre. Although it does have some application capabilities, I didn’t know how to work it. Since I would only have it for a week, I didn’t feel like taking the time to really figure it out.
In a nutshell: I could call, text, e-mail, and occasionally look up something on the web if it decided to work. I didn’t have access to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (the main forms of social media that I typically use). It felt weird! I constantly grabbed my phone and slid it open expecting to do something on it, only to realize that a) no one had texted me and b) since no one texted me, there was nothing for me to do, so I’d put it back down.

A friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while came to visit me in Virginia/DC area that week! We planned to go to Arlington Cemetery, Old town Alexandria, and the Holocaust Museum. I had already been to the first two, but had not been to the Holocaust Museum yet, so I was excited, but also bummed that I wouldn’t be able to post any pictures in the meantime.


Not having my phone that week was a blessing in disguise, though.


First, I always second guess myself when it comes to directions because I have the ability to use my phone’s GPS and navigation apps in order to get me around by car, bus, metro, and heck, even walking! So that week, I was put to the test since I am still new to the area. We broke out the old-school paper maps and I actually had to do a little bit of research before we left in order to feel confident in where we were going. Not only did we physically get to every place we needed to go, we got there on time, with no issues, and I even learned a couple tricks along the way. By the time we were done, I felt more than confident with the metro system and honestly, I felt accomplished! I even drove to a few places without the GPS and overcame my fear of getting lost. I proved to myself that I know a lot more than I think I do and just need to trust that.


Second, I lived my life. Sounds weird right? But it’s true. While we were at the Holocaust museum, a place that I believe should be given the utmost respect and attention, I noticed so many people walking through, looking down at their phones. Most times, they were taking Snapchat videos or posting pictures on their webpages. It seemed like everyone was so focused on posting the best picture, finding the best caption, and so forth, that they weren’t able to absorb what they were physically doing at that moment. For once, instead of making sure all of my friends saw what I was doing, I was able to take the time to see what was right in front of me through my own eyes, rather than my camera lens or Instagram feed. Instead of being concerned about what everyone else was doing while I was there, I could be emotionally invested in what I was doing.


Third, I was able to enjoy my visit with a friend who spent the time and money to see me. Instead of silently sitting next to each other while scrolling through newsfeeds and texting friends in other places, we found lots of things to talk about with each other! My grandma always barks, “love the one you’re with!” when our family starts to be consumed by our electronics, and now I understand why it’s so important to do that. Can you imagine how insulted my friend would’ve felt if after all of the arrangements it took to see me, I worried more about texting other people or seeing what they were doing, instead of asking how she’s doing, or catching up with what’s new in her life? I realized I always try to be in too many places at the same time instead of living in the moment with the people in that moment. Not that week, though. Thank you, little palm pre.


Lastly, I noticed new things in familiar places. As I mentioned, I had already been to Arlington Cemetery and Old Town Alexandria before. However, in those previous times, I didn’t notice the smell of freshly made waffle cones as we passed two ice cream shops on either side (Yes, we had to stop in because of this). I didn’t notice some of the smaller shops in between streets off of the main road we shopped on. I didn’t comprehend just how many gravestones you pass on the way up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and how many people actually leave money and other small trinkets next to them. I didn’t take note of the effect that the changing of the guard has on the audience as a whole, not just the soldiers themselves who attend the ceremonies. I never saw these things because I was too busy taking that picture, too occupied telling my friends what I was doing, too busy living in my virtual world.


Next time you go somewhere, turn your phone on airplane mode. Take the pictures to capture a quick moment for later – trust me, I’m all about looking back on the good times. But, enjoy what you’re doing and enjoy whom you’re with. Notice not only what you see with your eyes, but also what you take in with the rest of your senses. Allow yourself the opportunity to be present both physically and mentally.




Alexis Donaldson is the Intercultural Editor for Wandering Educators


Photo courtesy flickr cc:  Sivesh Kumar, adapted by Wandering Educators


Living without an iphone for a week leads to some important life lessons

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