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6 Things I Learned Traveling Internationally Without my Cellphone

At it's core, this trip was about being intentional about adventure (One of Micah's life mantras). So I wondered how to increase the adventure aspect of it. And it hit me! For as vocal as I've been about not using technology, this would be the perfect time to put my money where my mouth is: leave my phone at home and do this trip sans cellular.
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I spend so much time on the Internet...I feel like I'm a million pages into the worst book ever, and I can't put it down. -- Aziz Ansari

I put it down.

I'm a 25 year old, card-carrying millennial, and I've had a cellphone in my pocket since I was in the 7th grade. I've IMed, MySpaced, Twittered, Instagrammed and Snapchatted away my free time since before I hit puberty, and I hate myself for it! The number of hours I've laid in bed aimlessly checking my phone hoping to be entertained or validated probably rests at a number that if discovered would make me throw up in my mouth. I don't think there's a single entity outside of the T-mobiles and Verizons of the world clamoring for me to use my phone more, but still, I devour anything that the little glowing screen in my pocket provides me.

Which leads me to the Mexico trip, the entirety of which was orchestrated by my good friend Micah, an avid traveler himself. After making the leap into fatherhood he needed to spend more time with his baby daughter than he did backpacking in unknown villages. So, he saw an opportunity to live vicariously through me with his unused flight passes. He asked if I'd be willing to make a video in exchange for a free flight to an unknown destination. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. We put a weekend on the calendar where he'd drop me off at the airport with nothing more than some camera gear and a passport.

At it's core, this trip was about being intentional about adventure (One of Micah's life mantras). So I wondered how to increase the adventure aspect of it. And it hit me! For as vocal as I've been about not using technology, this would be the perfect time to put my money where my mouth is: leave my phone at home and do this trip sans cellular.

What I learned

  • My spanish speaking skills are incredibly mediocre and everyone I met was incredibly gracious and accommodating to my bumbling spanglish. As a life long people pleaser, my stuttering incoherent spanish undoubtedly inconvenienced countless bus drivers and store clerks which caused a great amount of anxiety and lo siento's on my part.
  • I was perfectly fine with out being connected to the thousand-ish people I subscribe to on various mediums. I didn't miss hearing people's reaction to the happenings of every day life.
  • What did suck was having absolutely no access to the incredible amount of information typically at my fingertips. I was flying blind for the first 24 hours. The summation of all my knowledge was a sight-seeing pamphlet I picked up at the airport, and unless I was going zip-lining or booze cruising, it gave me no real information about the city I was in.
  • Traveling in general creates the kind of connection and experiences that phones poorly try to recreate.
  • Any possible FOMO went away completely. I was so interested in figuring out my own world, and other people's lives were so far away and low priority that they didn't enter into my thought process or internal monologue, which was a refreshing change.
  • For a few weeks after I got back from my trip, I would leave my phone at home when grocery shopping, or in the car when hanging with friends. Going cold turkey had broken through the barrier of resistance I faced when thinking about being without my phone. And truthfully, it was really nice. When I was without my phone I felt much more present, and connected with the people around me.

When summarizing this trip, I tell people: With no phone, no laptop, only some camera gear, and the clothes on my back, I was handed a ticket to a mystery destination, and over the next four days I met great people, ate tasty food, and I was fine.

Mentioning that I was fine is the most important part, because most people come at me with a cavalcade of worst case scenarios and what-if's. And the bottom line is that the instantaneous world that we're often sold is incredibly over rated for the most part. Everyone survived for a long time without instantaneous being a possibility, and it really isn't that hard to switch back.

As someone who is in the business of using, knowing and pitching technology I'm continually interested in our relationship with it.

I remember when I received my first cell phone as a rascally teenager, I was told that it was for emergencies only "Just in case, Woody!" And, yes, if things go wrong, you get separated from your friends at a concert, it's a great tool to re-connect you. But as a whole, who are we really kidding!? I can't remember the last time my phone solved some sort of crisis that couldn't wait an hour or two.

Bottom line

Would I do it again? I would. The difficulty and uncertainty at the beginning of the trip was more than equaled by the triumph of how great everything was when things started going my way later in the trip, which seems to be a dichotomy I'm constantly faced with: short term discomfort, for future benefit.

As a whole, I find that I'm rarely upset when I write checks that I don't yet know how to cash, leap before I look, and put myself in situations where the only option is to rise to the occasion.

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