With a plane ticket and a smart phone, you can take the family and all of your friends along on pretty much any trip. Selfies and food photos, along with a wifi connection is all you need.
I struggle with this constant connection while traveling. Sure, it’s great fun to share a photo of a perfectly moisture-beaded glass holding an elixir of rum, with the sun setting in a background worthy of a painting. I can get caught up in being connected though, and lose sight of where I actually am in the world. Is it naive to think it’s possible to electronically disconnect completely while we travel?
I’ve done it both ways. When Brian and I traveled for more than a year in Europe and North Africa 25 years ago, I mailed long, hand-written letters (or typed on an old travel typewriter) and only phoned my folks once in that entire time. We set up mail drops months in advance so friends and family could write letters back to us and send the occasional care package.
That break between saying goodby and returning months later to say hello again to the people we loved was the perfect way of moving toward reinvention and independence. It could be isolating sometimes, but that also served to force myself to answer the big questions late at night. Who am I when I step away from the comforts of home and friends? What am I capable of?
These days, I’m often connected to the world at large through social media when I’m traveling. It’s encouraging to get a ‘like’ or a comment on a photograph I’ve uploaded or about a blog post written while on the road. Sometimes I wonder though, by maintaining this near-constant interdependence, am I missing out on new relationships? The sort I can make only through reaching out to the people I meet? And isn’t that one of the best reasons for traveling?
Travel makes us promises. If we are always connected electronically to what we left behind, we may not allow the delivery of those promises.
In a couple of days I will be heading out on a short trip of a few weeks to an island nation in the Caribbean and am completely disconnecting. I’m leaving my phone, tablet and computer at home on the writing table. Kicking it old-style with my travel journal and some drawing pens. Earlier this year, in a post about my old travel journals, I realized that I needed to up my journal game, so I’ve put a lot of thought into what those pages represent to me. The upshot is something I hope will be worth sharing in future posts. For now, I’ll leave you with page 1 of my newest travel journal: