An interesting feeling sets in when you lose your phone just days before you are set to leave on a mini family vacation and road trip. It’s a cacophony of emotions; fear and panic, loss and separation anxiety, anger and paranoia. At first, I was angry at the loss of my main form of communication, then upset with the loss of social media access which much of my life is a part of for personal and professional reasons.
I quickly became relegated to the fact my phone was likely gone forever despite the technology at my disposal with which I could find it. Whoever found my phone was smart enough to turn it off which destroyed my hopes of reconnecting with a phone I have grown to hate. Then I became more upset at the loss of the SD card in the phone where pictures and memories were stored and not all were uploaded to cloud drives. Some pictures of my wife and son, our vacations and memories that I will never get back which in reality was my biggest concern. Phones are replicable but once in a lifetime moments are not. It’s my own fault for leaving the phone on the top of my father in laws car when he came and picked up my wife and son for the first leg of the family vacation to northern Michigan.
After working the final 30 hours of my work week in two days it was my turn to join them at one of our sanctuaries from life near Traverse City Michigan for part of the week. The drive up from Grand Rapids was at first exciting as I began heading north up M37. Then it became boring and I quickly found myself missing my phone, missing FB, Instagram, and Snapchat even more. Once I passed out of range of good radio stations I began to panic. All I had was a Kindle Fire and no Internet connection; what was I going to do?
Sometime after passing through a town called White Cloud, my feelings changed about the loss of my phone. I began noticing the freedom I had from it. I began realizing the over attachment I had to it (despite knowing how much I needed it) while I made my way up what I consider to be the best path to northern Michigan. I began to be less worried about status updates and cheeky videos. I began to enjoy the moment I was in instead of the necessity to share the moment I was in with the world. It reminded me of when I moved to Oregon in 2002 with only my friend Ken Rau and my dog Harley along for the ride.
That trip started much like this one did, on the same road with no phone except this time I was alone. On that massive road trip/move, we went from Grand Rapids north to Michigans upper peninsula. Once there we got on highway 2 and stayed on that road all the way to Idaho. Yes, cell phones existed in 2002 and so did GPS but at that time mine was a prepaid phone that cost me a dollar a minute to use and service was sparse. Despite not having those modern conveniences like GPS and social media…we made it to Oregon. We had a hell of a lot of fun doing it as well.
Now jump back to 2017 and my current situation. I passed several places along the way that had free WIFI and briefly thought about stopping to reconnect with the world via social media since I was a whole hour and a half away from “civilization”; but I didn’t. I didn’t because I was feeling free and unburdened and a layer of stress was gone. I was on vacation and amazingly enough was completely okay with not worrying about my “brand.” More than that though my wife and son who I had not seen in 2 ½ days (a record for us) were waiting for me and I’m not sure who missed who more.
Once to my destination on the shores of Duck Lake, surrounded by family and nature I wasn’t concerned with social media, technology and the lack thereof. It’s not like I was totally without it either or at least the ability to get it. A very nice coffee shop called Buds with the internet is a mile down the road, my wife’s phone was there for me to use and my father in laws phone could be turned into a hotspot for my tablet or laptop. Despite those options, I only used my wife’s phone two times to check Facebook (and of course take pictures) and those two times amounted to less than 5 minutes; which might be a record for me. I was disconnected now by choice and not by circumstance.
Around midnight on my first night in Interlochen, I walked outside while everyone was asleep. My intention was to have a cigarette and read a book on my Kindle. I ended up using the Kindle only briefly as a flashlight and spent an hour laying on the back of my car looking up at the stars and listening to the sounds of the northern Michigan woods at night. Living in on the edge of the city I have grown used to seeing limited amounts of stars and that night I was reminded at how dizzy you can get as you get lost in innumerable stars and possibilities in the sky above. Once again, I was reminded of how much I love northern Michigan.
During our two days, there I spent my time playing with my son, going for walks with my wife and son, swimming, picking up rocks at Point Betsey Lighthouse, sitting by fires and talking with other relatives who were there like my father in law. The only real time that I spent on what might be considered “work” was when I allowed myself half an hour to start writing this post while my wife and son went for a walk. I did so at a picnic table, enjoying a great cup of coffee, surrounded by trees, in the fresh air and still denying myself access to the internet.
As all this was going on I began enjoying being disconnected from the “world”. I was enjoying my time away from my schedules and demands. I was enjoying not having a phone in my hand for much of the day and I realized that everything was going to be okay.
As we made our way to and then spent a few days at Silver Lake, a small lake separated from Lake Michigan only by sand dunes and a place I basically grew up at; things didn’t change much. The Internet (on a cell phone at least) is virtually nonexistent and cell network signals are spotty no matter who you are with. Moving 20 feet in one direction could mean a difference between 1 or 2 bars of 4g service and no service at all. So, I didn’t even bother trying. If you drive and walk around town you see a lot fewer people walking around with their faces buried in phones than at other places.
My wife and I swam, walked on the beach, took our son for his first dune scooter ride at Mac Woods and sat by the fire. Silver lake has almost no light pollution at night so the view of the late-night sky is immense. I took this opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet at night when everyone else had gone in. On one particular evening, I had the chance to show my niece the Milky Way which is something she had never seen before but on a clear night up at the lake, it’s a normal and always wonderful sight; at least for me. In Silver Lake, as in Interlochen the need for internet access and cell network connection wasn’t a concern. Once again, I was enjoying the moment and moments just for the sake of enjoying them. My modern need to share them with the world could wait until after they were over and once I was home. I remember a time, not long ago being in both Interlochen/Traverse City as well as Silver Lake before cell phones existed, before laptop computers and before satellite TV.
Now, after being home for a week I am attempting to continue this trend in my normal life. This new ability that I have found. Is it really a new ability though? Or is it rather me returning to the parts of myself that existed before the internet, cell phones, and the social media revolution. For full-time (or part time travel bloggers like me) sharing my experiences about my travels is part of the job; it is the job really. However, enjoying my travels and being away from social media is just as necessary to my own humanity and enjoyment as a person and a father. Yes, eventually the modern world and all that it is (both good and bad) will invade and take up residence in these semi secluded nooks of Northern Michigan. It’s only progress and change. When it comes to the places I go to “get away from it all” I will enjoy them the way they are now so when they are not that way I can remember back to another time and be grateful for the opportunity I once had and continue to try and find balance.