For the past six years, when I’ve traveled to New England for the summer, I’ve spent the lion’s share of that time on a tiny island in a lake in New Hampshire. It sounds grand that my family owns an island with a camp on it, but think very small with mostly unusable waterfront and a camp that’s little more than a wooden tent, no heat, no running water, no hot showers, an outhouse for facilities and no connection to the outside world in the form of phone, internet or television. The only amenity we do have is electricity, so we do have a stove to cook on, but we also have to heat water on it to do the dishes. Most of us now have cell phones, but this lake is surrounded by hills and God only knows where the closest cell tower is. We get very weak and spotty reception. So, for the most part, we don’t have any connection with the outside world.
Every summer before this, I’ve taken the time and spent the money to visit the good people at Verizon and to activate a tiny device that creates a WiFi zone. Even that gadget has its limits and operates with the speed and reliability of the old dial-up connections, but I still got to check all my regular sites and stay in touch with people I was used to seeing online every day. But this year, considering I was only going to be here for two weeks, I didn’t bring the MiFi, and here I am, alone on the island, unable to check my email, visit facebook or access the internet. It’s only day one and already I am in withdrawal. The day after I first arrived my cell phone managed to bring in a signal strong enough to post a notice on FB letting folk know where I was and why they might see much of me for the next couple weeks. The day I wrote this, I didn’t even have that. Occasionally I drive down to visit my dad or do laundry and I get to log onto my sister's WiFi which is how this got posted.
I have a book to finish, two blog posts that I’ll have to go off island to post and a newsletter to put together for the end of the month, so I keep telling myself it’s a good thing to be unplugged. I’ll get more done. I won’t have the time-suck that FB and Twitter are to distract me. But I keep picking up my phone to see if I can check in anyway. The answer hasn’t changed in three hours, but I keep trying.
It might not feel quite so isolating if we shared this island with other people – then I’d have neighbors to at least say hello to now and then. But it’s just us – me and Duffy, and he doesn’t say much. Gives me a whole new appreciation for the character Tom Hanks played in Castaway. At least I have a roof over my head and my dog for company. But I still feel antsy to know what’s going on in the world and with my friends and acquaintances. I want to check my email to make sure I’m not missing something important. Perhaps I’ve grown too reliant on having an electronic connection to my world?
Please feel free to comment on this post. It might be a few days before I can approve the reply and it appears on the blog, but I would love to know how you feel about going off the grid. Is it a blessing or not?