When was the last time you went somewhere without your phone? For me, it was a few months ago, and only by accident.
During an early morning solo hike up to Saddle Rock, I reached for my phone to dial 911 upon spotting what I now know was a cluster of grayish rocks, but which, at the time, I believed with great certainty to be a wolf. Fortunately for me, and for the 911 operators working that morning, I’d left my phone back in the car. So I hiked on, trying very hard to maintain an air of casual alertness (Be cool, Kelli!) and to not smell like fear. With the wolf rocks safely behind me, I relaxed a bit and then immediately felt remorse when I realized I wouldn’t be able to use my phone to take pictures from the top of the ridge. I was even more disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to text those pictures to family and friends with some humble-brag comment like, “Sunrise over the Columbia. Gotta get up and hike pretty early to see this … like I did … today. P.S. I saw a wolf.” Like a true outdoorswoman.
Most of us won’t think twice about bringing our phones, computers or tablets along on our adventures this summer, and taking and posting frequent photos of our vacations has become just another part of the travel experience. On Facebook this time of the year, newsfeeds overflow with mountaintop vista selfies, check-ins from airport terminals, and that social media vacation standard: a set of anonymous, tanned toes in the foreground, with beach and waves beyond.
But is all of this snapping and sharing and documenting of our experiences taking something away from the simple pleasures of exploring, or relaxing by a lake, or quietly watching the sun rise over the Columbia River from a perch high above Wenatchee?
It is for me, and so I am going to leave my phone at home the next time I take a hike. Maybe you will try this, too, when you embark on your next summer adventure. Maybe this will be liberating. Maybe it will force us to connect with our friends and families and surroundings in deeper, more authentic ways. Maybe we will find ourselves being truly present with one another, instead of preoccupied by the self-indulgent distractions of our modern world. When it rains, we will head inside and play Scrabble, instead of checking emails. We will not make our poor children stop whatever fun summertime thing they are doing and say “cheese” 200 times a day so that our Facebook friends know we are good parents. We will pay attention, notice details. We will look up. This will be good for us.
But if you do bring your phone along on your summer adventures — because of course you will — take some pictures and post them to social media with the hashtag #WenWorld, and we may share them on The World’s website and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.
Go. Take some pictures. Share them with us. But mostly, just go.