‘Travel without a phone’ and ‘travel without social praise’

This morning, I took a little time to catch up on the excellent blog of Derek Sivers, and came across two pieces that resonated with me: ‘Travel without a phone’ and ‘Travel without social praise’.

The first might be considered an extremist tactic, but he does make an interesting point:

Where you are is partially defined by where you are not. When you’re somewhere, you’re not somewhere else. But when you use your phone, you’re everywhere.

Smartphones have made travel easy, but they have also eroded that sense of travel, because when you carry a smartphone you carry your own collection of other places around with you – and it’s easy to slip away there if you get bored or anxious.

My own experiences have confirmed that travel does feel richer and more rewarding when I don’t have an internet portal in my pocket. Partly that’s because I have to be more intentional; partly it’s because I notice and experience more, and interact with more people. It’s been a long time since I travelled anywhere without taking photos, though. I’m not sure I’d go that far (although I do favour a real camera over a phone camera).

To carry no phone at all is an uncompromising, purist stance, and probably has more drawbacks than advantages. But, as someone who has found the experience of travelling with a basic dumbphone very positive, count me officially intrigued.

In ‘Travel without social praise’, the author wrote:

We go places we think would be impressive to other people. We take photos that will make our life look wonderful when we share them. We want that praise — that social reward.

Do we really want to do this thing, for its own sake? Or do we just want the praise?

This is something I thought about a lot in July-August 2019 when I hiked the Pyrenean Haute Route. Several times, I asked myself whether I would still do this big walk if I could never tell anyone about it or publish my experience in any form. I had assumed (hoped) that the answer would be an immediate ‘yes’, but to my surprise I found my honest response was more nuanced than that, and came with qualifiers and provisos. It took a week or two for my reply to become a firm ‘yes’ with no ifs or buts.

I actually asked one hiker I met a few times this exact question. His response: ‘Hell no. I do it for the ‘Gram. I’ve gained thousands more followers this week alone. What would be the point if nobody ever found out about this epic shit?’

I thought about that a lot too.

Weeks later, I thought about the words of Robert Frost in his poem Mowing:

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.

Author: Alex Roddie

Writer and editor.

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