If you really want to be free then you’re going to have to sacrifice your most precious possession. So what is your most valuable possession, a device that was supposed to make us free but instead imprisoned us. Something that we look at on average 262 times a day, that’s probably more often than you look at your spouse!
An item that if we forget to take it with us we feel lost and uneasy. You’ve probably already guessed by now; in fact, you’ve probably already glanced down at it whilst reading these first few sentences. Your mobile phone.
I’ve just come back from an unforgettable month-long trip across the Old Continent. We visited some drop-dead gorgeous places, saw historic sites from Oxford to Verona, went over and under the Alps (twice) and were fortunate enough to see some of the most iconic sights Europe has to offer, and there are a lot. It was a battery recharger like never before. And what made the trip even more enjoyable and stress-free was the fact that we pretty much ignored our phones.
I have to be honest I’m not a fan of personal social media, I can’t even remember the last time I published something on Facebook. I really can’t see the point, but horses for courses. I’m also not a voyeur, so scrolling through countless photos of cats, food and motivational messages is again a pointless act.
I am however an addict to news and sports. So my “go to” apps are the BBC, CNN and the Guardian and I guess I open these countless times in a day, although probably not 262 times.
So as soon as we left the airspace and the phone antennas of Croatia we got that recognisable message. “Welcome to Italy you can continue to be connected by using…” We got that message a lot of times. And we ignored it a lot of times too. This was going to be a month in a mobile phone black hole. Be honest with me, could you go a month without your phones?
Apparently use of our phones is the seventh most addictive thing in our lives today, right between chocolate and gambling, with smoking being the most addictive. So being without them for a month was going to be a challenge. I was in a news vacuum.
We travelled from country to country and the only hint I got of what was happening in the world was glimpsed flashes of news stations on TV sets in cafés whilst we drank our morning coffee. Nobody could phone me. My SMS inbox was empty. My email was probably gradually filling. In fact, my mobile phone had transformed itself into a watch!
I didn’t even take many photos. Which probably seems strange, but just being able to soak up sights and create memories together was priceless. Instead of looking down we looked up. And what did I miss? Nothing!
Instead of checking our phones every 5.5 minutes (that’s how often most of us actually do) we talked to people, read guide books and followed our noses. The black hole month was as refreshing as a dip in the Adriatic in mid-winter. Instead of being controlled by that black box glued to our palms we controlled the black box, only using it when it was really necessary.
Someone once said, “As long as you have a mobile phone in your hand you are never alone.” The truth is the exact opposite. I’ve never felt more connected with my surroundings, more inquisitive and more in touch with nature as I did without my phone. If we use it as we were supposed to, as a tool, then that’s fine, but it passed that level a long time ago.
Try it. Turn off your phone for a day and see what you miss. All you’ll miss is the flotsam and jetsam of life that is about as useful as a chocolate teapot!
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to