It is so easy these days to become addicted to technology. As much as I personally hate how people are glued to their screens, I too suffer from this addiction. If I’m waiting for anything, my phone comes out of my purse and I’m aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or emails. It is scary how easy it is to zone out of reality and be sucked into the latest memes, videos, and engagements of friends online. But what are we missing out on, while our eyes are glued to the screen?
These days, I mostly walk down the street with my head down, looking at my phone to text people. I never notice the people around me or any of the scenery. How sad is that? I’ve even walked into a phone poll or two along the way. It worries me how addicting it is. I’m not the only one either. I see children glued to their parent’s iPad at the doctor’s office or in the back seat of their car. I watch as friends at restaurants stare at their phones instead of their friends. In a world where we are supposedly more connected, it feels like we are really disconnected from reality and from nature. We forfeit real conversations for text messages and Facebook announcements. We’d rather stare at people’s pictures than go on adventures ourselves. And when we go on said adventures, we are more focused on how we will show the world how much fun we are having rather than just enjoying the experience.
It is all superficial, yet we are trapped by the imaginary handcuffs that attach us to our phones. How do we escape? Do we even want to? Can we at least strike a balance? Technology is the way of the future, so if you are a person who totally detaches yourself from it then you are left out and may feel isolated. Your friends won’t personally invite you to events, because it is easier to send an invite online. You won’t know about important life milestones for friends and family, if you don’t see their posts online or put in an effort to call them often.
At the same time, you may gain anxiety constantly comparing your life to those who post engagements, weddings, job promotions, and baby announcements on Facebook. It is easy to become depressed, when you feel like everyone else is living these amazing lives and having all these accomplishments and you aren’t. You also will miss out on all the beautiful things constantly happening around you, if you are glued to your phone. You won’t notice the flowers in bloom, or the beautiful man/woman walking by you on the street, because your busy scrolling. You will also miss out on the deep conversations to be had with close friends, instead of ignoring them to check text messages every few minutes.
So there are two sides to this coin. We want to remain connected to the internet world but also remain connected to reality and the simpler things in life. This past weekend, I camped in the woods with my partner and a group of his closest friends. We had no phone service for 5 days. That meant no text messages, no Facebook, no Email, and no Instagram or any other social media. Instead, we had campfires, singalongs, good ol’ fashioned games like softball, badminton, and croquet, as well as drinking games. We didn’t have showers or toilets. We washed our hands in the freezing cold Metolius river, and we relaxed. I left my phone in the tent half the time, so I didn’t even know what time of day it was. It was amazing.
Being completely unplugged for a few days, allowed my partner and me and his friends to connect with each other. We talked and laughed and cooked communally over the fire. The kids ran around the woods, played with all the games, and used their imaginations instead of their iPads. It felt so natural. My partner and I hiked along the Mackenzie River trail to Tamolitch Blue Pool and Koosah and Sahalie Falls. We felt the crunch of the earth beneath our feet, the breeze twisting against our skin, and the sunshine kissing our cheeks. We marveled at the enormous old grown trees, observing how those that had fallen were giving birth to new trees. Blue jays chirped and plodded on the ground with their black mohawk helmets and navy blue bodies. The river gushed by at top speeds racing to the next rock bend.
Tamolitch blue pool reflected a turquoise and teal color like no other waters. People tempted its freezing temperatures for a break from the heat. We stared down into its transparent blue waters and felt lost in its unique features. We wondered how it took on such a bright blue color. We sat on the rocks above the pool, eating our lunch and absorbing the moment into our memories. Pictures didn’t do it justice, so we gave up after snapping a few. Moments like these don’t need to be captured but rather appreciated and remembered.
We hiked back in silence, enjoying the soundtrack of the forest. All the sounds blended together into a sweet song of rushing waters, singing birds, and whistling winds within the leaves. A few miles up the road, we found the next trail. This one led 2 miles around the Waterfall Trail and Mackenzie River Trail to two waterfalls, Sahalie (Chinook for Sky) and Koosah (Chinook for Heaven). We weaved among the thick mossy trees and listened for the roaring waters of the Mackenzie river. The first waterfall gushed over the edge into three streams braiding down to the river in a swirl of white foam. This was Sahalie falls. We trekked through the dense forest to the second falls. Our path hugged the river as it thundered by at top speed, wearing a foaming head like a poorly tapped beer.
Wooden bridges stretched across the river giving a close glimpse of its fury. A staircase climbed over a fallen tree trunk along the path. Chipmunks scurried by stealing glances as they pressed nuts under their chins. This path, unlike Tamolitch pool, was secluded. We only saw another person every few miles. Our seclusion allowed us to pace ourselves and take moments to kiss in front of the heavy showers of a waterfall. Around the bend we met with a couple posing in front of the Koosah Falls, their bikes propped against a tree. We waited until they finished, to ask for one of ourselves. This waterfall streamed over the edge in one large curtain of white and had a small flow running next to it. Ethan pointed out a rainbow glistening in the mist next to the falls. We snapped pictures and stored memories of the moment. I gleamed from ear to ear. Waterfalls are my favorite natural wonder. I could stare at them for days.
My favorite pastime is hiking. I love disconnecting and immersing myself into nature. I love feeling the breeze in my hair, the sun on my skin, and the soft earth beneath my feet. We finished the hike by 6pm and took one last longing look at Sahalie falls before hitting the road. We both smiled at each other as we drove away, silently agreeing that it was totally worth it.
Back at the campsite, we rejoined our friends for fresh chili on the fire. We stayed up late laughing and playing kings cup by the fire. Despite our desire to stay up late, we actually found ourselves cozy in our tents each night by 10pm and up by sunrise, because it just felt natural. We followed the sun’s cue as it shimmied across the sky. Each morning, the sun stung my eyes as it cut through the tent walls and I was forced to obey its orders to rise early. The difference though was that I hate getting up to my alarm during the week at 7am, but I didn’t struggle to get up with the sun at 6am. The days felt fuller when we awoke early and enjoyed every minute outside.
We visited Scout Lake on our last two days, to escape the brutal heat. I forgot a bathing suit, so I only waded in the water. Despite the growing heat in the air, the water still felt frigid. The boys and kids enjoyed themselves splashing around and balancing on the fallen logs. I enjoyed relaxing on the black rocky beach. Life felt simple and easy. I didn’t stress about work or money or anything else that faced me in the outside world. I barely looked at my phone.
When we left on Monday afternoon, following our final beers and burning the last logs, I felt refreshed. I felt renewed. I dreaded reentering society. As soon as we hit phone service, my phone buzzed with missed calls and texts. I chose to ignore them until we reached home. At home, I found myself scrolling through Facebook again and texting my friends and families. I caught myself returning to my old habits. The best I can do is to unplug at least once a month, but best once a week. Go into nature. Turn off your phone. Hike to waterfalls. Lay by lakes. Swim in rivers. Get out. Put down your technology and live. I vowed to not forget this lesson. I encourage you to do the same. Give your eyes and brain a break and just enjoy the simple things in life. Reconnect with yourself and your friends and nature. I promise you won’t regret it!