Bored On The Fourth Of July?

Beach

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

Not really. I actually wrote this a few summers ago while I was on holiday and pretty much disconnected from the internet, something that many people can’t deal with anymore, as evidenced by people I see leaving shops or the Royal Mail parcel collection point and immediately reaching for their smartphones.

Instead I was using an energy efficient, wireless information transmission media to give me something to do when not watching ships go by, fishermen fishing or birds swooping around – reading books and magazines. It was great, relaxing, not feeling that I should be doing anything else. I did even less in the afternoon after arriving – simply sitting in the sun watching the occasional boat go by and listening to the waves and birds. Me and my folks had walked into the nearby town, eaten fish and chips by the sea and done some shopping.

I wasn’t completely electronics-free, I had access to a digital TV to watch Antiques Roadtrip and thousands of songs stored on my phone to listen to but mostly I was only doing these things later in the evening, after Cider-O’Clock, when the sun was setting and, to paraphrase the cricket, bad light stops reading. If I’d relied on internet streaming services I’d have no music or TV.

If I stood in the right place I could get a faint 4G signal and my phone beeped a few urgent notifications at me but I didn’t feel the need to leap on them like my life depended on them, like they were some kind of life-sustaining manna from the cloud. For many today though the lack of connection would be unbearable – no way to know what everyone else is doing, no way of telling anyone what they’re doing – OMG people will think I’ve disappeared, or that I’m upset with them, I’ll lose their interest, or worst of all, I’ll fall off their news feeds, arghh. Some people would even worry that they’d miss something important from their work, that they should be available, just in case.

People who spend too much time online call this a digital detox but for me it wasn’t too different from being at home really, though it was refreshing to be away from the lure of Ebay – bargain hunter that I am it’s easy to just sit looking for stuff I don’t really need or in the end never actually buy. As it was the holiday was timed perfectly as at home I was still sorting out and reducing unnecessary stuff following my house move so if I’d been at home I’d have spent every spare moment digitising paperwork to then recycle.

So as the Americans celebrated their independence day (no comment) I celebrated my independence from their digital monoliths with a cider by the sea and sunset.

Tech Camp

English: Gordale Scar Camp Site near Gordale S...

English: Gordale Scar Camp Site near Gordale Scar in the Yorkshire Dales (North Yorkshire), United Kingdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Ray Mears camping would be a tarp tied between a few trees somewhere in the outback but in this country many campers have moved on from simple pleasures of the outdoors.  A campsite once consisted of a field devoid of cowshit, then came toilet blocks and shower rooms to de-grime yourself after a satisfying slog across the moors or up a mountain and back.  Even then you’d retire to your tent, fire up the camping stove for some simple tinned beans and sausage or a dehydrated meal in a foil bag, maybe even sit around a campfire if it was allowed and drink a few beers or mugs of tea, look up at the stars and contemplate life, or tell a few stories or jokes.

Now though campsites are all teched up and I’m not in any way against that.  If you can’t bear to be completely off-grid there are some that have electrical hook-ups for tents as well as caravans and motorhomes, if you don’t have that then you can always get a solar charger for your phone and tablet, in the future kinetic chargers will make use of your daily hikes to juice your kit.  Many sites have good wireless broadband internet so you’ll never miss your favourite tv, can check your emails and continue to update the world on how your holiday’s going via Twitter and Facebook.  I recently visited Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales and on the campsite there I was able to read the news via my AP news app on my Nexus 7, write notes for this blog on my tablet and netbook (yes, I’m the one who still uses one, because it’s portable and cheap) and send my envious friends at home a picture of the beautiful weather and scenery.  My clever little tablet even added my exact GPS coordinates to the notes I added in Evernote.

If you can bear to take with you only your personal tech life and leave the work with an Out of Office notification then it’s the best of both worlds – the great outdoors when the weather’s nice combined with the comforting glow of the internet, or Angry Birds when it’s raining, or when you’re sat sipping a beer, listening to streamed music while reading articles as the sun sets.  As I was for that all too brief week.