#Sharethelove “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” by Sara Chare, freelance travel writer.Read Now
Sara Chare is a freelance travel writer. She has written and updated travel guides for Footprint Travel Guides, Rough Guide and Dorling Kindersley, and her work has appeared in publications such as Australia and New Zealand magazine, TNT Down Under, National Geographic Traveller (UK), easyJet Traveller and The Independent. She is happiest in a campervan, exploring the lesser-known parts of Australia. Failing that, some sunshine, a cup of tea and a piece of cake can make her day. To view Sara's website or follow Sara on Twitter, just use the links!
Sitting in a sunbeam, looking through the window at the ducks gliding slowly around the lake, and listening to the wind rustling the leaves I should have been as relaxed as can be as I sipped my morning coffee. Instead, I had my body pressed up against the glass, holding my mobile phone above my head trying to get enough signal to pick up text messages and emails.
I was spending a long weekend in Sweden, in the countryside just north of Gothenburg. It was peaceful, beautiful and surprisingly stressful. The house was off-grid. It was only minutes from the nearest town by car but there was no telephone, no television, no internet and very little mobile phone signal. In the silence I became convinced that dozens of people were desperately trying to reach me. I drove into town daily to visit the library and use the free Wi-Fi. If I went sightseeing, I roamed for network at every opportunity. The truth is though, I’m not that popular. There were no missed calls, only a handful of missed texts and a few work emails that needed attention. The world keeps on turning, even when you can’t keep track of it on Twitter.
After a few days, the tension eased. I left my phone in the dark folds of my bag and forgot about it for hours on end. My computer stayed on the dining table and was replaced by a good book. Just as I was getting used to this new way of living though, it was time to head back home.
So why am I writing about this? Because it was a good reminder just how connected we all are in our every day and how stressful it is when we first try and disconnect. A few years ago, whilst camping in the Australian Outback without access to mobile phone reception, I was convinced something terrible would happen whilst I was away and I would only find out a few days or weeks later when I made it back to the nearest town. A fear that Tomorrow, When the War Began taps into. It’s the Aussie one with the kids who go camping and, whilst they’re out there having fun, Australia is invaded and their town is overrun.
This isn’t to say that I’ve suddenly decided to ditch technology and go and live in the woods. I’m tempted some days but I can’t see it being very practical. As a travel writer I use technology an awful lot, and I’ve come to rely on it. My iPhone has become one of my must-pack accessories.
To illustrate this, I thought I’d take you on a little tour of my trusty phone. It’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise!
Email – Three email accounts at my fingertips. I can manage my everyday work emails whilst I’m on public transport, make plans with friends whilst I’m still in bed and half asleep, and during ad breaks can delete all the spam from the account I use when I buy anything online. This is what a smartphone is all about for me. Texts are phonecalls are also pretty useful too though!
Camera and photos – Amid the pictures of my niece and snaps of plates of food there are images of the Alps for use in a blog post, photos of menus and restaurant opening times for a guidebook update and some action shots of houseboating for a magazine article. When I don’t have my SLR to hand, or just want to take a photo whilst on the move my phone is awesome. Oh, and it really came in handy when I went off to Sri Lanka for work for three weeks and forgot to pack my camera charger…
Maps – Sooo useful, what more can I say. Same goes for the weather, passbook (hello, online boarding passes, I love you!) and the currency conversion apps.
Twitter – My go-to news source in the morning. If someone isn’t tweeting about it when you wake up, it can’t have been that bad. It’s also where I follow a lot of other people in my industry to see what they’re talking about, tourist information people and locals who love where they live. And I have a daily dose of cute kittens who show up in my feed to perk me up on a bad day.
Mahjong/Solitaire/music – All have provided essential entertainment at one point or another during research trips when bored or jetlagged.
Hipstamatic – Who doesn’t need atmospheric photos of beers in Talinn or elephants in Thailand?
Clock – It goes without saying that nearly all of us use the alarm clock on our phones. But I am a regular user of the world clock too. When I’m at home I check what time it is before messaging friends and family in Canada and Australia to try and avoid waking them up at 5am. When I’m away, it’s reassuring sometimes to know what time it is at home.
Notes – I still travel with a paper notebook and a biro but sometimes typing things into your phone is much more practical. For example, noting bird names whilst in a national park, riding in the back of a very bumpy jeep on safari. My phone is filled with little notes like ‘Milano, 180-1000, noodles, devilled dishes, chicken with cashew. No booze. Chop suey. Friendly. Locals and tourists.’ Or ‘Train to Hatton, group of men travelling in carriage, drumming and singing’. Needless to say, I need to type them up every evening otherwise they soon don’t mean much.
Voice recording – Great for interviews when you can slide it onto the table to record people’s answers but I also have some recordings of cicadas, the ocean and jungle night sounds on there.
WhatsApp – What can I say? You’ve replaced phone calls, texts and even Skype. I don’t know if I love you or hate you.
So, despite those times when Twitter depresses me – how do these people achieve all they achieve when I’m just proud of getting myself up, dressed and outside on some days – and I’m frustrated with work and I want to throw my computer against the wall and hide my phone under the duvet, I won’t be doing that any time soon. What I can recommend though is putting the tech down every once in a while. When you next see a beautiful sunset, or you have the chance to watch gorillas in Rwanda, don’t think about taking a selfie or messaging your friends to tell them about the experience. Just look around and appreciate it. As Ferris Bueller said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.
When do you use your smart device - and when don't you? Do you capture life whizzing past you or do you sometimes leave tech in the classroom or work? We'd love to hear why your me-machine is your "must-pack accessory" at home or in school.
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