Going unplugged: Beyond the iPhone and beyond your imagination

Next Post: The Story Begins
(This is the first post regarding this Grand Canyon expedition)

iPhone 4s is about to become irrelevant.

Imagine a world without email or text messages.  No spam or viruses or pop-up ads.  No steady stream of status updates from Facebook or Twitter.  No television with presidential debates and reality TV.  No “who-shot-who” on the six o’clock news.  Imagine a world without rush hour traffic or smog alerts.  No sirens screaming in the night and no alarm clocks screaming in the morning.  Imagine if you can, a world without cell phones or cable TV or Internet. A world where the only connections you have are made face-to-face with the people and environment around you.

Your evenings consist of hanging out on a secluded beach and maybe going for a hike to see amazingly beautiful natural formations of rock delicately sculpted by flowing water.  Then you return to your beach where several of your friends stayed behind to prepare a gourmet dinner in an outdoor kitchen.  After dinner, you sit around the campfire listening to someone play the guitar while others talk about the great things that happened that day.  Then they talk with excitement about the amazing things they plan to see tomorrow.  The air is mild and dry.   As the sun sets you see Billions of stars in the sky.  With nothing more than the light of the campfire and of the moon, you discover you really can see at night and in fact, bright lights would only blind you.  Everything looks soft, subdued, restful.

Now imagine in this world, that you spent every night sleeping on that exclusive, secluded beach in a remote location with amazing views in every direction and bright, clear skies day after day, night after night..  You go to bed with only a dome of stars overhead for shelter.  Yet that sky makes you feel much more safe, free, and secure than you had ever been before; when you slept indoors in a bed that was pushed up against a wall in a room with the door shut and the blinds closed.  That cage is gone.  Nothing more than the light of the stars in the night sky to capture your attention, focus your thoughts, and put everything into perspective before drifting off to sleep.  Perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night and, without moving a muscle save the lifting of your eyelids, watch shooting stars trace lines in the black sky.

In the morning you are awakened by the gentle glow of the pre-dawn sky and are acutely aware of the absence of all noise save the constant flush of the river beside your camp and the musical melodies of songbirds greeting the rising sun.  You pack up your bedding and load it into one of the  rafts; eat breakfast with your friends as you discuss what exciting rapids are coming up today.  The only stress in your world is the thrill as you blast through waves big enough to flip your 18′ raft end-over-end if you don’t run it just right.  A few moments of Adrenalin sandwiched between long stretches of lazy, calm flat water carrying you downstream; parading you before colorful canyon walls over a mile high to either side.  Those walls shield you, protect you like a citadel from the noise and chaos of the world beyond.  Even a satellite phone would only get a few moments of connection while the satellite is high overhead between the canyon walls.  As evening approaches, you find another beach, set up camp, and do it all over again.  21 days, 220 miles.

Welcome to the Grand Canyon.

My blog has been unusually quiet lately as I am busy planning and preparing to lead 16 of my friends on just such a trip for the second time .  We launch from Lees Ferry October 25th.  When we do, I will leave this wilderness behind and step into a far more civil and peaceful world.  In fact, the moment I pull out of my driveway and start the drive to Flagstaff, the chaos will begin to fade and let the harmony shine through like the setting sun yields the night sky to the stars.  Though it will last a fortnight, the trip will feel as fleeting as the night and returning as inevitable as the Sun will rise the next day.

iPhone 5 is about to become irrelevant for me anyway.

So what are YOU doing for the month of November?

Next Post: The Story Begins
(This is the first post regarding this Grand Canyon expedition)


Posted on October 4, 2011, in social media and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Mate, nice post.

    My Dad was sad in 1987 when the electricity company finally ran the cable to our small sea-side village. And annoyed when the telephone company laid the connections a couple of years later. A little while after that and a satellite dish appeared outside the house to carry television and internet. There’s still no Mobile (cellular) phone coverage. The last few kilometers of road was paved a couple of years ago meaning that tourists now drive back and forth past his house on most days, disturbing the tranquillity of this sea-side haven. Mum, at every stage, was happy with the ‘progress’.

    For me, the arrival of electricity meant I no longer had to collect bottles to take to the recycling depot to earn money to pay for fuel to power the generator so I could use my Amstrad CPC 464.

    Your post frames my Dad’s sentiments beautifully. Technology is an amazing thing, and I have dedicated my life to working with and promoting it’s use, but even I understand exactly how my Dad felt as each stage of ‘progress’.

    There’s nothing like standing at the sea-side. Watching the rollers come into the harbour. Listening to the crash as they launch themselves from the Southern Ocean onto the shore. While the sun settles on the horizon and casts a golden hue across the sky.

    That’s my peaceful place. Great to read how much you are looking forward to getting to yours.

    Enjoy yourself, we’ll still be here when you get back 🙂

  2. Not everyone gets it, but you sure do. I think I know where my next vacation will be.

  3. David
    I know I’m joining you for this trip but I’m a little worried about what the withdrawal symptoms from technology are like?
    and how long does it take to get over BlackBerry addiction?

  4. Withdrawals? You will be so engrossed in the moment of where you are that you won’t even be thinking about technology or the rest of the world. But at some unexpected moment, maybe a few days into the trip or maybe a week into it, you will suddenly realize that you haven’t thought about things like email since you got on the river. The real trauma will come when you plunge back into the noise and chaos when you return. Expect that to take at least a week and possibly much longer. Ultimately, you will never view technology in the same way afterwards. You may leave The Canyon, but its impact on you will last for years. This is why they describe it as “life altering”.

  5. Mary Beth Raven

    Gary – I agree w/Dave, having done a trip this summer – I am a total BB/crackberry addict and 2 minutes into the trip, I was (temporarily) cured. My txt-happy kids also loved the trip.

    Mat – great story, which makes me want to come down under even more, and rue the fact that I voluntarily passed up AUSLUG in August…

    My kids, husband, sister and brother in law had a wonderful (tho shorter) trip in the grand canyon earlier this year. I highly recommend it. (well, except for the getting bitten by fire ants part, which Dave left out, maybe because by the time he does the trip in November, maybe those pesky ants will be gone). It’s also the best view you’ll ever get while sittin on “the can”…. 🙂

    Here in New England.. we don’t have scenery quite like that… (tho my drive from Burlington Vermont thru all the fall foliage back home to New Hampshire was pretty sweet today)… but when it comes to getting unplugged – the closest thing we have here is… a snowstorm.. when we lose power. And I can relate to the main “connect” concept – we are close to each other and to nature. My husband has resisted getting a generator for such times, maintaining that we can rought it with a wood stove, melt snow for water, play board games, , etc when that kind of thing happens.

    Have a great trip Dave!! and I hope that the old rocks of the canyon enjoy the music from your daughter’s cello! 🙂
    Mary Beth Raven

  1. Pingback: Just returned from an amazing place where Social Media is totally irrelevant. The story begins… « The Notes Guy in Seattle

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