Should You Bring Your Cell Phone on My Nature Trip?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | November 18th, 2009 | 19 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living

Phone-Talk-14Fin-cropped

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.

Overboard.

I’m not a true Luddite, but paper and pen are preferred on the road. ©John T. Andrews.

I’m not a true Luddite, but paper and pen are preferred on the road. ©John T. Andrews

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.

“In the midst of a stunning wilderness of grizzly bears, caribou and migrating birds,” touts the book’s dust jacket, “they struggle with the meaning of solitude in an increasingly wired world.”

Unplugged.

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.

The Midwest’s answer to the Great Migration of the Serengeti. ©John T. Andrews.

The Midwest’s answer to the Great Migration of the Serengeti. ©John T. Andrews

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.

Happy trails,

Candy

Feature photo ©Candice Gaukel Andrews.

Comments

  1. Hi Candy: I surely agree with you on the “over”use of cell phones. Why would you want to be interupted while you are watching a bird or even just a pleasant natural place by the rude ringing of a cell phone! I think some people have gotten so attached to their phones that they want to have them along at all times. It can be a distraction to other people in all sorts of situations. Phew, it felt good to say that!
    Hi to all. Kit

    Kit | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Thought I did this, but maybe it did not get sent. I just wanted to say that I totally agree with you about people having a cell phone turned on when others are along and trying to enjoy nature. I don’t want to feel connected to a cell phone if I am watching for birds or animals, thats for sure!!

    Hi to John too. Kit

    Kit | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. Here, here! I second your desire to be away from electronic devices that tether/tie us to another world that we’re purposely getting away from, at least for awhile. Once, on a trip to Timbuktu, I called my boyfriend to tell him I was finally there — the goal of my travels. It could have waited. He was busy and in a hurry and he knew I would get there. I felt I’d wasted precious time (not to mention battery where juice to recharge the battery was iffy) on an unnecessary gesture. Next time I’m in Timbuktu (yeah, right), I’m going naked, electronically speaking.

    Marg | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. Candy – I couldn’t agree with you more. I may pack a cell phone on my trip, but it is used solely en route, to untangle airline problems and the like. Part of the essential core of a nature trip is to be IN the environment one has traveled to experience. Otherwise, why bother to go? It’s tough to focus attentively on new surroundings if we refuse to disconnect from our usual surroundings and preoccupations.
    And yes, I am bothered by people who use cell phones on nature trips for anything other than emergencies because to me their phone represents an inappropriate intrusion of the mundane on my experience. Then again, I cringe when I see people yapping on their phones while they push a grocery cart or drive a car. I think it’s unhealthy never to be in the moment or always to feel a compulsion to multitask.
    It’s not just cell phones: I was on a 2-week nature trip during which one man kept his iPod earbuds firmly plugged in his ears during each shore excursion, so he could listen to his own sound track instead of any “boring” naturalist’s commentary.
    Yes, I’m closely in touch with my inner curmudgeon!

    Joan Campbell | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  5. I agree….to a point. If a person can get out in nature ONLY if they can bring their cell phone with them to stay connected with work, I say OK. We need MORE people to be interested in wildlife and nature and to bring their kids along. If I can take a day off of work and bring my child on a trip through Crex, but need to be connected in case of a “work emergency”, then I would bring the phone and hope for the best. Now, I actually don’t have a cell phone, don’t need one, but I would if I still had my “professional job” in the Twin Cities, I would be bringing a phone if that meant I could go to Crex! I am a Natural Resources Educator at Crex Meadows now, and appreciate ALL the people who can come, even if they have to bring their cell phones and laptops.

    Kim Dauer | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  6. I would bring a cell phone just for safety. My friend was camping in the everglades and got a bad spider bite. Luckily he had a signal and the ambulance was able to meet him half way to the hospital. Prob saved his life

    Detox Dave | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  7. I’d like to think I wouldn’t…

    Travis John | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  8. I’d be the guy on the headset.

    Jack | November 18th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  9. I think it’s not a bad idea to have an emergency line of communication to someone in case things go wrong. But using a cell phone or computer to casually chat on a nature trip seems to defeat the purpose of going into the wild in the first place.

    Nine Quiet Lessons | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  10. I agree with you but then I find it irritating to hear conversations on cell phones that are personal in a public setting. Why is that cell users talk so loud?They make it hard to get out of range. It is air pollution that I do not want on a trip.

    Marilyn Bronner | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  11. I’m with you, Candy!

    N.D. | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  12. Dear Candy:
    I totally agree with you. I can’t stand people screaming and yelling into their cell phones at the airport!!!
    Muriel

    muriel shiff | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  13. In this instance I recommend that they bring the cell phone only if it has a camera feature and remember that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

    Joel F. Andrews | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  14. Isn’t it ironic that you are bothered by people with cell phones and computers while you are walking in the woods, and here I am spending time responding to this article (by a perfect stranger), rather than doing the job I am paid to do. Hmmmm….pretty interesting. FYI, I totally agree with you about not allowing cell phones/computers out on the trail. I would also go so far as to say they should not come with you anytime you are on vacation or spending time with the family. I do not own a cell phone or ipod and refuse to become part of the facebook and twitter era. Pretty much on principle now.

    No-name, Cable Natural History Museum | November 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  15. I would be very upset if I paid for a outdoor adventure, or photo shoot and while with someone, or a group , we quietly approached are subject and a phone rings . Or after sitting in a uncomfortable place for quite sometime and our subject is just getting close enough for a good photo and a phone rings . I think when you arrive at your destination you should call your loved ones and tell them you arrived safe. I think it ’s wise to take a phone with you on a outdoor adventure in case of a emergence , but turn the power off till needed . I understand that after a exciting day of maybe seeing a wolf and your on a emotional high you want to share your excitement with someone. Just do it when your back at camp and can call in private. Who wants to hear a one-sided conversation? As far as a pen and a small note book v.s. a laptop, I use the pen and note book. It ’s easier to carry, you can make a quick note about a photo ,draw a sketch or a map of a location to later refresh your memory . A little hint – along with a extra battery and c f cards for your camera take a extra pen and note book just in case you run out of ink or paper. You never known you may get lost and the paper may come in handy to light a fire or what ever other business turns up.

    John H Gaukel | November 20th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  16. Technology isn’t the enemy of a nature experience and it can often enhance an outdoor adventure or make it safer. Early man navigated the wilds using the sun, stars and landmarks until maps came along. GPS devices worked much better. Cell phones have some of the same features, so there is certainly a spot for one in my backpack. As with most technology, problems exist not with its use, but the overuse or the use at inappropriate times.

    Art Hardy | November 21st, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  17. Cell phiones in general need to be banned, from national parks, wildlife preserves and stores in general.

    Do you really need to talk about gossip while ur shopping for onions?

    Tommy Ecology | November 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  18. Candy, I totally agree with you. NO CELL PHONES in nature. I want to hear the birds, the water, and the wind. Please be considerate of others. I hate cell phones and only have one for emergencies – never turned on when it might disturbe others. In fact, no cell phones while you drive, at work, in the airport, or anywhere else where I can hear your conversation! It’s just plain rude.

    Cindy | November 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  19. A little hint – along with a extra battery and c f cards for your camera take a extra pen and note book just in case you run out of ink or paper. You never known you may get lost and the paper may come in handy to light a fire or what ever other business turns up.I would also go so far as to say they should not come with you anytime you are on vacation or spending time with the family. I do not own a cell phone or ipod and refuse to become part of the facebook and twitter era. Pretty much on principle now.

    Anonymous | November 23rd, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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