Dear readers I have a confession to make – I am a fraud!
After writing recently about the need to look up from the smart devices and really see the world, I confess that the last few days in Cinque Terre without any internet access has left me feeling disoriented, disconnected and somewhat isolated.
Yes Virginia, there is a dark side to travelling as la singulare!
I still recall the days of travel before internet. Where a phone call meant finding a public phone that worked; having the correct coins (in Europe in those days, that meant a different currency for every country you visited); getting the timing right for calls to the other side of the world (this is still a challenge for me as my family will attest to); and standing in the confined space of a phone box as you made contact with loved ones.
Add to this the delay experienced as your words traversed the globe eventually finding their ear on the other side of the world and the challenges were enormous. You learned very quickly to blurt out your stories in rapid-fire, bullet point format as the coins were gobbled up hungrily by the phones. This was followed by a quick download of stories from home, often much shorter as the traveller had so much information to impart. Then there were the awkward moments where you knew time was just about up and you kept fitting in as many words as you could before being rudely and callously cut off with a long dialtone as the money eventually ran out.
This was not artful conversation. Moreover, it was like a Sit Rep – brief, concise and only the salient points to be conveyed.
I also recall the aerograms and confess to a certain nostalgia for those flimsy blue envelopes. When I took my first trip overseas, in the relative security of an organised tour and with my best friend, there was something special about those letters from home. To hold, feel and touch a piece of paper lovingly crafted gave one tangible evidence that home was still there; despite them often being illegible due to moisture, tearing and the writers’ dreadful script!
Ah I’m showing my age……..
Today the ability to stay connected is laughably easy with inexpensive data and phone cards readily available and as simple as punching a few buttons on a smart device. Gosh you can even see someone’s face when you speak to them, such is the miracle of modern day travel, thus allowing you to gaze indulgently on familiar surroundings whilst you proudly display the view from you window of the Ligurian Sea.
At least that’s what I would have done if I had internet access!
When you’re a long way from home, seeing those much-loved people, hearing their voices with such clarity they could be in the next room and looking fondly on those familiar places provides you with a little security net that you long for when travelling. Yes I’m far away but you’re still there and all is right with the world.
Thus it has been an interesting experience to be without that access and to feel truly alone despite being surrounded by hoardes of tourists. In theory, this was the perfect opportunity to “be” – spending some time alone with my thoughts and meditating on the journey I’ve taken thus far to be in this place. Yet all I could think of was how do I get some internet access so I can talk to home.
See – a fraud, albeit an honest one!