November’s issue of The Atlantic has an article called Being There. It’s about how being disconnected from our email, smartphones, and other distractions are an important and even necessary part of fully experiencing a place. The author laments landing in a foreign place and immediately being bombarded with emails from work demanding his attention, which requires him to sit and be absorbed in the world he just left instead of the one he’s just entered.
Sometimes I think it would be exciting to be in that kind of world, where I’m important enough to a company for people to find it necessary to contact me no matter where I am and what I’m doing. I know that’s a romantic idea, and that the reality of it isn’t that exciting. How people in that world talk to me or write articles that I read makes it sound like they expect everyone to jump onto this upward trajectory of ladder climbing, that if you’re not in a place where every moment of your time is demanded by clients or bosses then you are or should be on your way to it.
I don’t even have a smartphone. I’m a freelancer in a small town. Some months are busy and others aren’t, so I’m not sure if I’ll have an extra $80 in a given month to pay for a data plan (that’s how much they are now right?). Is the idea that a data plan might not be affordable be an insane concept to someone locked into that other world? I have no idea. Sometimes I think it would be great to be able to respond to clients as soon as they contact me. Most of the time though I’m pretty sure I could cut myself off completely from the world of freedom that freelancing allows me by always being connected to my phone or clients or email.
For the time being, I think I’m okay with my cheap flip phone and laptop. I encourage everyone to go travel, go to the woods, go on a hike, and turn your phone off. Better yet, leave your phone at home.