Traveling Without a Phone

I’m a phone addict. There’s no doubt about it. My laptop and my phone are extensions of my being and my fingers. My work life is entwined with them. My teaching is entwined with them. My home life is entwined with them. I write on them, communicate on them, blog on them, post on them, use my phone for navigation, family threads, recipes, to-do lists, and thousands of other things, far too numerous to mention.

My spouse, Karyn, not so much. She sees technology more as a necessary evil but wishes it was less present in her life. But she, too, teaches on Zoom, sends out email newsletters, checks her email and uses her phone and computer in many ways. But she always wishes it could be less.

Ten days before we set out on this trip, Karyn’s three-year-old MacBook Air suddenly died. Days before we flew to Italy, she bought a replacement computer, which is waiting to be set up upon her return. On this trip, the only technology she brought with her was her iPhone—a dinosaur, an iPhone SE5.

This morning, while I was out getting an Italian SIM card for my phone so I could use it more, Karyn decided to set up a new passcode for her phone to keep it safe while she was traveling. So, she did. But she did it when she didn’t have a piece of paper handy to jot down the numbers and promptly forgot the new code she’d just devised. She locked herself out of the only tech she had with her on this trip. And although she tried to remember the code, she couldn’t. She got all the way up until the last possible attempt Apple gave her (before locking her out of phone) without recalling the right combination.

After our afternoon siesta, I did some research on my laptop and we realized that since her phone wasn’t backed up to the cloud, her only recourse was to put it away for the duration of the trip, in the hopes that three weeks from now, someone at the Genius Bar might be able to help her reset it once she gets back to California.

If this had happened to me, I would be devastated. I’d feel like I’d lost a necessary limb. But not Karyn. She is actually pretty philosophical about the whole situation. Here’s what she just said:

“I traveled all over Europe without a cell phone for years before there were cellphones. I used a map. I talked to people. I didn’t rely on my phone because it didn’t exist.

“I don’t like being on my phone all the time. I don’t like to take pictures when I travel. I’ve never understood why people spend all their time on vacation taking pictures so that in the future they can remember what did in the past—but the whole time, they’re so focused on taking pictures, they’re missing the present.

“I remember this one time, about fifteen years ago, when I was backpacking alone in the eastern Sierras, I came upon this mountain valley that was filled with spring blossoms. I was alone. There was no one to talk to about how beautiful it was. I just stood there and took it in. I let that scene imprint on my heart and mind. And now, when I’m feeling distraught—or whenever I want—I can pull up that image in my mind’s eye and see it and feel it all over again. That’s happened to me lots of times over the years.”

So, Karyn tucked her unusable iPhone into the bottom of her suitcase and picked up a novel to while away the time before we meet Graseilah and her sister and brother-in-law for dinner.

“Yes, Laura,” she said. “You can write a post about this, because that way my sisters and the kids and anyone expecting to hear from me will know why I’m not responding. Just tell them I’m enjoying my vacation.”


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