It happened at the worst possible time: One week before a long-anticipated weekend trip to Madrid, my phone — which is also my camera, my iPod, my means of connection, my lifeline — broke. With no way to fix it here in Perugia, Italy, I have to tough out not only through this last month of the semester, but I had to survive without it on my solo trip to Spain.
Sure, there was life before we all became dependent on these convenient, life-simplifying, handheld devices, which means I knew I could survive…if I had to. But I take a thousand photos of everything. I am always listening to music. I talk to my friends and family on WhatsApp. So, how easy would surviving be?
I have gone almost two weeks without my smartphone and I am pleased to say that the experience has been more positive than negative so far. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned living smartphone-less abroad.
Camera-less, but focused
I have to admit this part is the toughest of all. I have begged my friends in Italy and Spain to use their cameras a few times, but it’s not the same. Not at all. … Sigh.
But being camera-less in Madrid wasn’t all bad.
I found myself more perceptive and appreciative about what was presently happening around me. Instead of taking my phone out, snapping a thousand photos, and experiencing the moment via the screen, I am now more absorbed in the moment, focusing on the now instead of shooting everything in sight..
Being camera-less forced me to take in more details of my surroundings, which makes them more vivid in my memory. And because I can’t instantly share a photo, I had to learn to actually describe the moments to my friends and family.
Music-less, but tuned in
Since my headphones are always in my ears, I didn’t know how I was going to survive my 6-hour journey to Madrid without my music ( 2 flights and hours of waiting in airports). Was I ready to handle the long, dreadful hours of silence that awaited me?
Well, yes, I was, because there was no silence. With no headphones in to block out the world, I tuned in to tons of interesting conversations happening around me. Since I was traveling internationally, I was able to practice my listening skills trying to understand the different languages I was hearing, which was such a cool experience for me. (Yea, globalization!)
Internet-less, but connected
Now, to be Internet-less in a time when we are so used to being connected 24-7 seems like the toughest one of all. Yes, it is pretty darn tough, especially while traveling. But I did learn some of the more valuable lessons because of this situation.
Since I didn’t have the luxury of scrolling aimlessly through social media or playing silly games on apps, I had to find other pastimes to occupy my time during my voyage. So I packed the coloring book my best friend bought me and some colored pencils, and while at the airport, I picked up a yoga magazine in Italian. And that was more than enough to occupy my time. It was so satisfying to do something that was actually productive (reading in a foreign language). Once my phone is fixed, I know this is definitely a new habit I will keep.
Being without Internet also forced me to be more prepared and aware while traveling. Since I knew I couldn’t just log onto my e-mail to find the plane tickets or bus schedules, I had to research and prepare for my trip ahead of time, which actually saved me a lot of stress. And I had to get creative with my communication. I texted all my friends on my little Italian flip phone, and gave my mother specific times to call me if and when she wanted to communicate with me.
Another important and refreshing Internet-less lesson is to be aware and attentive of my surroundings. I noticed many people who were so engrossed in their smartphones that they would bump into others, wouldn’t have conversations with each other, and were most definitely not very conscious of what was around them. To me, that’s not a way to enjoy life, so I am grateful to have had this experience.
I actually appreciate these new lessons, and though I still miss the convenience of my smartphone, I can say with confidence that once it’s fixed, I will put it down or turn it off more often. Because now, connected has a whole new meaning for me.