Ah, hello old friend. It feels like it’s been an eternity.
After spending a stressful three years in New York City, and currently in between major projects in London, I decided to take a long-awaited vacation to visit my family in South Africa. Where Internet connection runs at 1mbps at best, I haphazardly decided it would be best to switch off my devices entirely. Finally, an opportunity presented itself to me where it did not require me to be on Skype, Slack, Twitter, or LinkedIn for nine hours a day. To be honest, it was something that certainly appealed to me.
For my planned week of seclusion, I decided that my best form of entertainment would be my hotel television, which played CNN and SABC1, and my new book — Charles Wheelan’s ‘Naked Statistics’. For nine days, that’s what I did. With the exceptions of some early morning and late night Whatsapp checkins with family members and loved ones, I did not respond to a single email or write a single piece of work. So, did I come out of this feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle my next big project?
Not quite. The truth is, I have just logged on to my computer for the first time in over nine days. I am finally reading through my emails, checking my Slack channels, and updating myself on my friends’ whereabouts through their Snapchat shenanigans.
And thus, here returns my headache. Already I have started feeling the ‘FOMO’ of a good friend’s birthday party in New York which I missed, and can feel anxiety creeping back in as I plan my projects, including a busy July editorial calendar. And just like that, real life returns again.
But the week I spent away was what intrigued me. Family members asked me if I was feeling any withdrawals, or if I wanted to use their phone as a hotspot due to their sympathy for me. The truth is, I relished every moment of simultaneously proving their millennial prejudice wrong while at the same time pointing out their hypocrisy. After all, when you’re 24 and not on your phone, you realise all your aunts, uncles, and grandmothers still are.
So what did I take from this? I learnt that sitting in a coffeeshop or hotel lobby without Internet is not a bad thing, and that it can encourage you to talk to natives, embrace the local culture, and simply gain some mental rest. On the other hand, data addicts can certainly rejoice in the fact that the world is becoming so connected, you cannot escape the sad news of Orlando, updates on the UK referendum, and results of the Euro football matches. I was never deprived of information, I just never allowed superfluous or irreverent topics take up my energy.
Nine days away from my smartphone and laptop is only something I could have achieved by flying across the world to a country that simply couldn’t keep up with the New York minute. I had to leave, to experience a slower pace of life that makes sitting doing nothing one of the most important things to do.
And trust me, I haven’t done that in many years.