Someone asked me the other day if I’ve gone “off the grid” whilst away. Apart from a few days here and there we’ve had some sort of internet connection wherever we’ve been.
I sometimes think that I should feel bad about this. There is a view of going travelling that is about escape; casting off the shackles of modernity and returning to some perceived primal state – like Reginald Perrin leaving a pile iPods, kindles, and laptops alongside clothes on the beach.
However I’ve never really seen it in this way. Going travelling was a way to gain more – to have time for things that I like doing. Things I enjoy are taking photos, reading, learning, sharing and connecting. I did all of this before but in a much more narrow way.
I learnt lots through work, however, this was mostly within an education/social media context and had a disproportionate focus on learning about the problems of running a small business, how to sell things, crisis management and HR. Similarly with reading. I read lots. But mostly funding documents, education news and technical emails. And so with connecting and sharing.
Now, I have the luxury to read, learn, connect and share much more broadly. And what better tool for this than the web?
In the last week or so I’ve found out about bumble bee life cycles, read letters from soldiers in the First World War, watched a film about the early years of AIDS , followed the story of the bitcoin inventor unfold like a Thomas Pynchon novel and learnt all about the history of Crimea. At the same time I’ve swam in the sea, trekked through jungle, heard about winemaking in Argentina, learnt how to choose the best mango and seen over 30,000 pieces of gold artworks. For me, being connected hasn’t detracted from anything but given me even more to explore.
There is another aspect of being online that I value. Being able to share and connect. I really appreciate that I am very lucky to be able to go travelling at all. It’s nice then to share the inspiring or amusing things I find with friends ,family and the wider world. I’ve had some really lovely feedback from people that means a great deal and enriches my travels greatly. And I remember it was others photos and stories that inspired me in the first instance. Similarly, being online allows me to follow and share in meaningful events back in the UK – whether it’s weddings, births, operations, reunions or pancake feasts.
On a less personal level I have had lots more time to find more inspiring and informative connections through twitter and similar networks. All of which greatly broadens my own world and increases opportunities to learn and share.
Perhaps I am simply justifying my addiction but should anyone need to justify why they read or why they meet new people. It’s what we do. And, for now, I’m in a very fortunate position to do it without limits – and that feels like the real essence of travel to me.