My family and I went on vacation last week. We decided ahead of time that we wouldn't bring our computers with us. No tablets either. I had a concern before we left -- I wondered what would happen if my creativity started surging through me, and I couldn't write a story, song, or blog post. But I realized, and I know this sounds obvious, but hey -- I realized I could actually write in a notebook. So I brought my notebook with me, and tucked the laptop away at home until my return.
We brought our phones so we could stay in touch if we were separated or we had to call a hotel or rental car place -- but my wife and I decided we would only check emails on our phones twice a day for business reasons, once in the morning and once at night, and only for a few minutes.
The first thing I noticed is that my stepson didn't even bother keeping his phone charged during the trip. He's 15, so that's saying something.
The next thing I noticed is that I felt more relaxed than usual. My attention couldn't go to a device, and I wasn't looking at my phone nearly as often during the day. We went out hiking and there we were together -- with trees, lakes, and mountains. That's where my attention went: on us and on nature. It was wonderful because I didn't feel split. I normally would have felt that the nature was nice, but simultaneously I would feel the pull of my computer. Instead, I felt present with people who mattered to me, and I could really connect with the ground, the trees, the deer, the flowers, the birds, the sunshine, the creeks, the fresh air, the mountains, the delicious food, and the interesting people around us.
At night, we couldn't hike, so we played. We played a ridiculously doomed game of charades (for example, my wife tried to act out Moby Dick in a clean way and failed). We played Chinese checkers. My wife and I tried to beat my stepson at chess, and he still won. We went out to dinner and talked with one another. We got comfortable again in our skins and in our relationships. We felt closer than we'd felt before.
Two nights before we came back, I discovered I could watch TV on my phone. I invited my wife to watch a brief funny video. We both laughed, but we decided to turn it off. It felt like it dispelled our connection.
I guess what I'm saying is that we were doing a temporary clutter bust. I often write in this blog about how to permanently let go of things that don't serve us, but I rarely mention the idea that we can give things up temporarily as an experiment to see what happens. On this vacation, we gave up technology that is a regular part of our lives to enhance another part of our lives. Did this work? Yes, absolutely. We felt closer, more present, and we didn't feel like we'd lost anything at all.
[Blog post written with commentary from my wife, Julia Mossbridge]