I won’t have a computer, an iPod or even a cell phone on my nature trip. So don’t e-mail, voicemail, Facebook or even try to call me. Don’t even phone me on a landline. I can’t be reached. When I travel, I purposely sever all lines of communication with my everyday life. I think you should, too. Because when you don’t, I get annoyed.
People often chuckle at me when I’m on a trip, or at least give me that look as if I’m a bit odd. My pen and reporter’s spiral notebook — rather than a laptop — they think are “quaint.” Or inevitably there’s that awkward moment at dinner when a fellow traveler, who’s trying to make friendly conversation, asks how things are going back in Wisconsin or if my family misses me. I have to answer, “I don’t know.” The first time my family will hear from me after dropping me off at the airport is when they see me again at the airport when I’m returning home.
I suspect I may have gone a bit overboard as a reaction to those who travel into nature in full electronic communication with the world at large. Once on a bus ride into Alaska’s Denali National Park, I was aghast when a man pulled out his cell phone and attempted to talk to his Atlanta office, while just outside our windows the most spectacular, gargantuan mountains watched. And during a trip to Patagonia in 2007, I stood outside a lodge in Torres del Paine National Park before rock spires that reflected the creation of Earth itself and overheard two people discussing the up-to-the-minute coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death — relayed via cell phone calls back home. The news of her demise, I felt, could have waited until I returned to the U.S.
The author Ted Kerasote has a new book titled Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age. It’s the story of how he and a companion go on a canoe trip in the uninhabited, far northwestern corner of Canada. Kerasote’s friend, who brought along a satellite phone to use in case of an emergency, proceeds to check in with his law office, wife, kids, sisters, father and friends.
I’m not a true Luddite, an accusation my children have occasionally made. I do own a cell phone and an iPod, and I couldn’t do the work I do without the Internet. I just don’t want to know that the garbage disposal is backed up again or a bill arrived that is imminently due when I’m watching the migration of Canada geese at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge — the Midwest’s answer to the Great Migration of the Serengeti — or the fur seals sunbathe in New Zealand.
I want to “hear” the quiet; I want a place for reflection and consciousness. I want the mental space to absorb the culture and animals of a new location. What I don’t want is to “overhear” your one-sided conversations with the routine back home.
Would you take your cell phone on a nature trip? If not, are you bothered by those who do? Let me know how the presence of a cell phone has enhanced or harmed your nature experiences by posting your comments below.
Feature photo ©Candice Gaukel Andrews.