Since my career began, I’ve forced myself to disconnect on every vacation I take. No email. No phone calls. Minimal text messaging. Minimal social media. How can I resist posting an Instagram photo from time to time? Other than that – I try to completely check out. But I’ve always given everyone a fair warning, usually starting weeks in advance. Usually I say something like, ‘When I’m out, I will not be checking email. So don’t try and find me. Let me know what you need this week.’ It feels like a very un-American thing to do. Completely disconnecting. But it’s a lesson I learned early in my career – to embrace the 10 days of vacation I get each year and truly unplug and recharge. Work hard play hard.
I’ve never been faced with what has happened the past 9 days. For the past 9 days, I have been without a cell phone. Completely 100% unreachable via cell phone or text message. I left my phone in Chicago from a fabulous wedding weekend, and couldn’t get it back until tomorrow morning. I wish I could tell you that like my vacations, I loved it. I wish I could tell you that I loved being disconnected. I’ve learned three things these past few days 1) I am still awful with directions 2) I keep in touch with many of my friends and family spread throughout the entire country with frequent texting and calling 3) I love phone calls.
I’ve busted out my old cell phone, which is basically a glorified iPod. I use it for my alarm, and when I’m on WiFi (God bless Wifi), I can surf the web, check email, and send iMessages via my iCloud. Oh, but if someone doesn’t have their iCloud setup, they won’t receive my text or I might not receive there’s.
I traveled a few places I had never been before this week. What do I usually do for directions? I use the amazing Google Maps. When you have a glorified iPod that can only access Wifi, you’re screwed once you’re out on the open road. It felt like the 1990’s. Even though I couldn’t drive in the ‘90’s. I relied solely on looking at maps ahead of time. I even got lost one time and busted out my 2010 Garmin. It hadn’t been turned on in so long that the maps wouldn't load. Great. I got crafty and started taking screen shots of the directions ahead of time.
Three friends told me, ‘I thought you were mad at me since you didn’t respond to my text.’ And I’ve never sworn so much at a phone in my entire life. Words have come out of my mouth that I didn’t know I’d ever say at a device for it being purely ignorant.
I traveled to Atlanta today. A city I’ve never been to, and a hotel I’ve never visited. No cell phone the entire time. God bless my cab driver for knowing exactly where I was staying and a flat rate with square for my credit card. Even with my job, which is in marketing, I have a desire to stay connected with our franchisees and all of our social media channels. Facebook has been my sole friends via a desktop device or when my glorified iPod is on Wifi. When making plans, I’ve desperately muttered a few times, ‘Email me!’. It felt like AOL days with, ‘You’ve got mail!.
Why didn’t I crack sooner and break down and get an interim cell phone until mine arrived in the mail? Purely frugality and stubbornness. And you know what? I survived. Barely. I wish I could type right now how refreshing and liberating the experience was. But I missed things like calling my husband on my way home from work. I missed sending encouraging text messages to my friends. I missed calling my father on my own cell phone on Father’s Day. I had to redirect friends to call my husband for a party we hosted on Saturday in case they got lost. And damnit, I missed Google Maps and Instagram.
I’m curious how many texts, phone calls, and WhatsApp messages I’ll have tomorrow when my cell phone arrives in the mail. More than that though, I’ve learned that I truly am a part of a culture where technology allows me to feel connected to those I love. I live hundreds or thousands of miles away from so many friends and family members I love. And I use my cell phone to stay connected. It’s part of the reason I love living in Dallas. I feel connected even while being far apart from so many people. I love to see the smiling faces of my nieces and nephews from my phone. I use WhatsApp to text my best friends things that inspire or frustrate me.
I still want to turn off my cell phone for the weekly date nights with my husband. Or not look at my cell phone when catching up with a dear friend for drinks. Gosh, I really do love disconnecting from technology. But on my own terms. I’ll be making a lot of phone calls this week, and text messages to repair my radio silence. And life will go on. Cheers.