7 Things That Happened When I Ditched My Phone for a Week

If you know me at all you’ll know that my track record with cell phones would probably be comparable to a 2 year old constantly losing one shoe. To put it NOT lightly, I suck at holding on to them. But in the last year I’ve “got my shit together” as you’d say and managed to keep the same cell for almost exactly a year. That morning as I’m heading to see the whale sharks with my boyfriend, I’m chatting away about how I was almost at the 1 year mark and so proud of myself. Flash forward to that afternoon when I put it on the back of a toilet seat and then proceeded to walk out the door. Oops! Something I did in Vietnam 4 years before, a mistake I’d already made, and we’re sitting in the van heading back to Playa del Carmen and I realized I didn’t have it on me. I instantly dropped my head and knew exactly where I’d left it- on the back of the damn toilet seat! Women, if you’re reading this, we aren’t dudes, we face the toilet seat once, turn around and pee and then walk out, so stop making this a habit! I know from experience.

Thank buddha I do have insurance on my phone and happened to be heading to the states a week later, so instead of stressing about it I ordered it to be sent to Florida so I could pick it up from the Air BNB I’ve been staying at while skydiving here. It’s pretty obvious that I’m a huge social media buff, although I resisted smart phones for years I finally got one 3 years ago after everyone told me “it’ll change your life”… which it definitely has and although some changes as a traveler are extremely positive and make my life way easier, others are mostly negative and it’s so easy to become addicted to our phones. I’ve tried to find a balance with my smart phone use but I still find myself pulling it out while talking to people or scrolling pointlessly when there’s nothing to be looking at. Habits I’m aware of now and am working on breaking. I read a quote that said, “hang out with people that make you not want to look at your phone” and I’ve realized that my friends and my partner deserve my undivided attention when I’m with them.

I could have gotten a cheap throwaway for the week but I decided to go without and it was honestly such a refreshing reset. There were way more ups than downs and I noticed a few things in particular.

  1. I smiled at people more. Way more. When I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or pulling it out to avoid contact with people I found myself smiling at strangers and actually provoked interesting conversation with people. On the bus, at work, on my flight, everywhere. And you know what happened, people smiled back and it made me happier and more in touch the rest of my day.
  2. I had to become a planner. Gone were the days where I could change or adjust my plans last minute. Without a phone, I didn’t have that option. My mom used to always say how nice it was that people made plans and showed up instead of cancelling, and there’s something to be said about that. It forced me into make commitments and sticking to it, and now I realize how important that is. Not that I didn’t before but because everyone else always got away with it, I became a slacker myself. It made me realize I didn’t want to do that anymore.
  3. I read all the time. I’ve always been a reader, I go nowhere without my kindle and in most situations would rate it over my phone in terms of necessity. But instead of mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, I’d whip the kindle out instead and get 5 minutes of reading done while I waited. Hell, sometimes I’d just sit there and watch the world around me instead.
  4. I felt happier. No shit, seriously! I’m sure it was a combination effect of the above but I honestly felt more grounded and connected to myself, others and the world around me and I can only assume it came from being more present. Because I was less connected to social media I wasn’t absorbing everyone else’s energies all day. This allowed me to fully sit in my body and be aware of how I was feeling.
  5. I was less anxious. Maybe that’s because I didn’t feel the need to check my phone or think I’d missed something. And if someone tried to get ahold of me and I did miss it I had an excuse because I literally couldn’t have answered if I’d wanted. Something about that felt really freeing. I was only obligated to the people I was around and if I needed to sit down in front of the computer for a few hours to get some work done, I actually got work done instead of brainlessly using social media.
  6. I used my computer time wisely.┬áBecause I wasn’t constantly connected I had to schedule time in to respond to emails and maintain my own social media accounts. But because I was only checking in and logging off, I was able to keep the rest of my day separate. I made phone calls on Skype (which felt like going back in time) and paid my bills over Skype phone calls as well. It was actually good to schedule that time in instead of being reminded all day of emails and other various things I needed to respond to. I checked it all at once, and was done with it just as quickly.
  7. I didn’t miss it. I really thought it was going to have the opposite effect on me but I was relieved to find myself settling into it with ease and finding that it didn’t stress me out at all. Quite the opposite! Even when I did get my phone back I was hanging at the dropzone and spending all my time jumping and meeting new friends and it took me almost 2 days to get it configured anyways. I was bummed I slacked on photos but I actually don’t regret being fully present at all.

Conclusions? If you do have the opportunity to put your cell phone away, whether it’s on holiday for a few days or a weekend, you name it… take advantage of the opportunity! If you want to use your phone for photos, fine, just turn your data settings off so you won’t be tempted to use it for anything else. Trust me, no one will die if you aren’t Snapchat-ing the awesome weekend you’re having or sending out Instagram posts INSTANTLY, just hashtag #latergram and call it good! Or don’t hashtag at all, who fucking cares ­čśë

Because of that experience I still find myself rarely checking my phone and if I’m brainlessly scrolling I realize it pretty quickly. It changed the way I view social media and this “instant response” culture we live in. Now, I realize that I don’t need to stop what I’m doing to respond to a message when I can respond later. We need to stop harping people for not responding in “due time” and instead allow everyone else to live their lives presently and call or return our messages when they want.

I’d encourage everyone to be a bit more mindful when it comes to their phone. Try leaving it at home sometimes while you run errands, try charging it at night outside your room or out of reach and set an alarm the old school way. If you’re hanging with friends don’t reach for it unless it’s to take a photo, but then put it away. There are things we can all do differently and I can promise you it’ll make you feel better. This all coming from a girl that is definitely a social media addict! If I can have the awareness and start making small changes and it’s affecting me in such a huge way, I promise it’ll do you some good as well. Try some of these things and let me know what you’ve noticed! I’d like to hear your comments so please post below and let’s chat about it!

 

Sailing the Caribbean

I clip my safety harness onto the line and step into Mira’s cockpit, waiting a second as my eyes adjust to the full moon overhead before grabbing the line and wobbling my way to the AIS chart plotter to check for boat traffic, as I do every 20 minutes while I’m on watch. Spotting a cruise ship 4 miles away I hone in the screen to get the information about the vessel- 850 feet long, 6.1 knots, closest point of approach is 1.4 nautical miles, destination is Great Stirrup Cay in the Barry Islands, same as us. He will pass us at some point in roughly an hour. “Maybe he can toss us some ice”, Patricia jokes as we begin our watch. It’s 1 AM and I just woke up for our 2nd to last watch on Mira’s last leg before Fort Lauderdale. Mira is a 49 foot catamaran I have lovingly called home as of late.

I lay on my back next to Otto, our trusty autopilot and put my headphones on low so I can still hear the gentle hum of the waves that are nudging us along and stare up at the stars reflecting on the last 5 weeks.

We spent 6 days in the essentially uninhabited harbor of Royal Island in the Bahamas. Besides a day of diving where we got picked up from the catamaran and a small workload getting Mira ready for our last stretch we didn’t bring the dinghy down once. We relaxed, read, snorkeled, swam at sunset, got up early to watch the sunrise, wrote and talked. I laid in the sun, meditated, studied Spanish and put my headphones in every night after dinner to watch the sun go down. The days drifted by seamlessly as I watched tropical storms approach and fizzle out to be replaced with humidity, sun and a new batch of house flies, or in our case boat flies. It was slowly becoming time to get Mira back to Florida before hurricane season officially starts.

In 5 weeks I have yet to feel ansy or bored. I wake with the sun and sleep with the moon. Life is simple and my days are governed by the wind and weather. I have been so lucky to make two new friends and am blessed I can gain some experience on Mira. I snorkeled one day to discover a small Bar Jack had followed me off the reef. He kept swimming between my fingers, under and around me and didn’t seem to go anywhere else. I would free dive down and he would follow me, uninhibited. He came out into deeper water and back to the catamaran with me a half an hour later. I tried to bring him back to the reef but he insisted on returning to the boat a second time. I decided to name him Jasper. The next day I climbed back in the water in my snorkeling gear and there was Jasper, hanging out and waiting. We said hi to him every day and threw flies overboard laughing and calling his name whenever we did. As we pulled out of the harbor we all yelled our goodbyes and wished our new friend a good life.

I have read 12 books so far on this trip, greatly improved my Spanish skills, started a new journal and finished an old one, reconnected with my meditation practice, swam every day, gawked at the clouds, stars and the moon, and laughed a lot. My skin is tanned from the sun and my sea legs are fully established; I think I even look calmer. I love being on the ocean and as our time gets closer to the end and we get closer to Port Everglades I can feel myself starting to get anxious about it being over. I love the sound of the wind when the motors are off and we are under sail rushing along at 7 knots. I’ve learned to love the hum of the motor on overnight passages when I collapse into my cabin at 5 AM, exhausted after watch as the waves rock me to sleep. I can already tell this experience has changed me and I worry about forgetting the simplicity and being sucked back in to the real world again. I keep reminding myself about balance.

I’m going to miss cooking, inside jokes, drinking sundowners on the nets, popcorn and movie nights where we discovered you can put Frank’s Hot Sauce on literally everything, and eat it with a side of canned beets, just because. Laughing until I cry when I find Patricia a little tipsy in the galley singing “let the beets rock” and giggling to herself. I’ll miss our mangrove children that we named Glippy, Stormy, Herby and Manny who have been zip tied to the flag pole in a retired Fiji water bottle since the BVI. I will miss the fact that Vic probably loves olives and feta cheese more than anyone I have ever met and how it somehow got worked into every meal. I will miss the abundance of wildlife we have encountered along the way- from swimming pigs, to nurse sharks, remoras, eagle rays and sting rays, flying fish landing on the nets under way and dolphins playing alongside the bow of the boat, bioluminescence lighting up our way some nights. But as it comes to a close its still not over, we are having T-shirts made that encompass all our inside jokes and quirks and we are all jumping out of a perfectly good airplane on Tuesday, you know, just because.

Oh yea, it’s been 20 minutes, back to watch.