Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Going Off Grid

The nice thing about starting out at a new company is being able to reinvent yourself a bit and leave some of the old stuff behind. For instance if I had gone back to my old job after my training with General Assembly I know that people would have still contacted me about issues they were having putting content up on the website and I would have felt obliged to help. At least in my new job I am only expected to do UX stuff.

There is also the re-telling of old stories to new ears and this is the point of todays post. I was telling one of my new colleagues about my honeymoon to New Zealand and was amused and slightly worried by his extreme reaction.

My husband and I had got married in the summer of 2014. It was a great day and we had a lot of fun, but as my husband is self employed and always very busy over the summer we had decided to leave our honeymoon until December, allowing us to enjoy a second summer in New Zealand. So far so good, it was when I started to describe our trip that my colleagues horror started.

sketched map
A map of our trip

We went out to New Zealand for about 4 weeks, staying for a couple of nights, at both ends of the trip, in a hotel in Auckland but spending the rest of it in a camper van as we made our way down one side of the North Island, crossed to the South Island, drove down one side and up the other, then made our way back up to Auckland. It was a fabulous trip. We saw many natural wonders and did not use the internet once (once we were in the van).

"But what did you do?" He asked me. Well we did a lot of driving and walking and looked at stuff that was right in front of us. We watched birds and seals and penguins and exclaimed at how beautiful everything was. We sat in the sun and walked in the rain and tried to work out which bird/animal was making that noise. We ate cherries bought off the side of the road fresh from the tree and fudge home made that morning. We read books and did puzzles and sometimes even chatted to each other.

As we were not staying at official stops every night, we were not plugged into the mains all the time so we were careful with our resources. We got up with the light and went to bed when it was gone. We did not watch TV as the van was not set up for it and we did not have any DVDs. (We did however watch the last Hobbit movie in the cinema on our last night.)

We had a shower in the van, but kept it for emergencies (it used power and a lot of water!), not having a shower every day won't kill you.

photo of the camper van with mountain backdrop
Under the mountain

We did have an iPad with us. It had some books on it, to extend our library a bit. And it had an app on it which showed us where we could camp every night. This helped us plan each day a bit and supplemented the map the van hire people gave us which did not go into much detail. But it did not have any access to the internet. I mean what would we want that for anyway? The stay-at-homes had been sent emails from Auckland so knew we had arrived ok, and when you are somewhere as beautiful as New Zealand what do you need cat videos for?

We did not really want the news, I mean I hardly look at it at home anyway (it is so negative, is that really anyway to start your day?) and when I have been away before and asked 'what's happened while I've been away?' no one can tell you a thing that has happened.

Social media has its place but if you review the stuff that comes up, living without it for 4 weeks really is not an issue, I mean I do not think I have seen anything on Facebook recently that made me think 'Wow I'm glad I didn't miss that!'

And so a trip away with no access to this stuff was a bit of a relief really. If we had needed to contact the stay-at-homes there were plenty of internet cafes about and I did not find myself missing it at all.

We had a guide book to give us an idea of things to do, but who wants to explore a brand new world and feel like everyone's been there before you. Walking through the rainforest to some massive waterfall and not seeing a single other person - that makes you feel like a proper explorer, even if the path is neatly maintained and tells you how long it will take at the start.

photos of a path through the rainforest
No chance of getting lost in this forest

Walking along with your nose pressed to your iPhone means you miss the bit when a fantail starts to dance for you, or that amazing view from between some trees.

Now I am not saying get rid of technology. I took my digital camera and took hundreds of photos, and the map on the iPad was invaluable. But sometimes the world around us is better than the world conjured up by the internet. I mean just look at this mornings sunrise. Much better to experience it with my own eyes than via a photo someone else has taken.

Everytime my phone is demanding my attention I try to remember that the real world is more important and anything online can wait.

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