For the last several years, right about this time I’ve hopped online and secured a splendid spot in Sonoma to retreat over the July 4th holiday. It is my personal mile marker on the road towards summer. Beyond the spectacular things one might expect to come with such a trip (hikes in the hills, picnics in the starchy heat of day capped by cool sunset wine tastings, splashing in the creek and the most splendid fireworks display I’ve ever seen), there’s one central characteristic of this trip that makes it truly magical.
It’s completely and utterly technology free.
Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration. The cottage where I stay has electricity, running water and a splendid stereo system. It also sports a beautiful flat screen and broadband Internet; but the little green power lights on these last two amenities remain dark for the duration of the trip.
That’s right. Every year over July 4th I declare myself independent from my usual heavy diet of social technology. No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube. No Internet. No television. No radio. I even eschew my normal daily addiction to The New York Times. The cell phone remains largely off, though used sporadically for texting or calling friends with whom fun and frolic is to ensue over the holiday. In other words, I step away from the information fire hose.
Okay, for the first 24 hours I twitch a bit, but after that a most remarkable thing happens.
For now, I’ll refrain from ranting about technology addiction and posit that as the sun angles higher in the sky, rather than keeping our eyes cast downward to any one of the myriad screens – mobile or otherwise – captivating our lives, we ditch the technology just for a bit and look up.
Maintaining a healthy balance between one’s on-line and off-line existence is critical no matter what time of year. While I may be more digitally saturated than your average bear, as I saw clearly during a trip to New York, even on the most glorious of warm spring/summer nights, people charge up and down the sidewalks noses buried deeply into their Blackberries and iPhones.
So I say, stop the madness folks. The technology is intended to enhance and augment your life, not replace good, old-fashioned, real world experience. Especially not in the summer!
Though we may hate to admit it, the world will keep rotating on its axis while we’re gone. Whether you take a full on, go away trip or opt for a simple staycation, carve out tech free time. Barring your being a doctor on call, or having an emergent personal issue that might require your being reachable, for most of us, going off the grid for a few days isn’t all that big a deal.
This summer, step away from the data flow and dip your toes into a stream – a real one.