Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

Reader challenge #3: Unplug from the virtual world

September 13, 2010 by Rolf Potts

As I stated in my introduction post, the No Baggage Challenge isn’t just about traveling around the world without luggage — it’s also an inquiry into simplifying material concerns and seeking rich life-experiences. This in mind, I’m inviting readers to join the journey by participating in a weekly series of challenges, most of which can be applied at home. My sponsors will give out weekly swag to honor the most compelling reader submissions (see below for details), but ideally this should be seen less as a competitive undertaking than a way to set personal goals and consider new ideas.

This week’s challenge, “unplug from the virtual world,” is about managing your online and electronic-communication habits in such a way that you can make the most of your real-world surroundings. This idea — to waste less time in the virtual world and seek a life that is less mediated — ties into the “Be Where You Are Now” theme of my Do Lecture in Wales last year.

I realize that there is no lack of irony in this new challenge: You are, after all, reading this online, and my no-baggage journey has been arranged in such a way that I can keep this content updated on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, this initiative isn’t about becoming a Luddite; it’s about lightening your electronic baggage — that is, managing your “wired” life in such a way that it better enhances your real life (instead of distracting you from it).

A phrase that has come into common use in recent years is “continuous partial attention” — the 21st century compulsion to electronically multitask our lives, to skim through each day and never be completely invested in one single activity. If there’s one endeavor that can help jar you out of that partial-attention haze, it’s travel. Would you want to idly check your Facebook feed while wandering the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru? Would you want to search YouTube for wacky cat videos while sipping cold white wine on a quiet beach in the Greek Cyclades? Of course not: Travel is a heightened experience that demands your full attention, and the lessons it teaches you can apply at home.

I say this not as someone riding a high-horse, but as a guy who himself struggles with “continuous partial attention” in the wired world. There are days when I get online to check a few emails, and wind up frittering away an hour or two on amusing-but-pointless online diversions. Those wasted hours are pleasant enough, but they make my life less efficient and less memorable. Travel, which offers a greater density of life experience, helps remind me how awesome unwired days can be.

At heart this initiative isn’t about the pitfalls of electronic technology so much as it is about balance. On one hand, new communication technologies can expand our information and life-options; on the other hand these technologies can rule our lives in such a way that they erode connections to our immediate surroundings and mediate the experience of being alive.

This question of balance is nothing new. More than 2000 years ago, in a Platonic dialogue called Phaedrus, Socrates worried that the written word would erode the intuitive associations and memory powers that characterized oral storytelling. Over the past 100 years, this concern has taken an increasingly heightened pitch, as a string of new technologies has affected our lives: novelist George Orwell, for example, lamented that the sound of the radio had become more “normal” in daily life than the sound of birds; social critic Susan Sontag wondered if — given the ubiquity of point-and-shoot cameras in the mid-late 20th century — “having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it”; media theorist Marshall McLuhan noted that electronic media (and television in particular) “has a way of arranging the world in such a way that nobody needs to go to the trouble of experiencing it.”

How can one balance utilizing the resources of the virtual world with better experiencing the real one? Actually, that’s what I’m asking readers to explore in this challenge. Starting this week, I’d like you to come up with a plan to lighten your electronic baggage and make your “wired” life more efficient. This could mean doing no work-related electronic tasks while you’re at home; it could mean checking your email inbox or Facebook news-feed just once a day; it could mean getting outside and going for a walk (or spending some actual face-time with a friend or family member) during the 45 minutes you usually spend surfing around for silly online amusements each morning. It could even mean going “cold turkey” from all online activities and virtual-world interactions for a full week — though, again, the point isn’t to reject technology entirely so much as test out a balance-strategy.

As you seek virtual-world/real-world balance, you may well spend less time clicking around on this blog in the coming week — and that’s fine (though certainly not required). The timing of this initiative is tied to the fact that I’ll be headed off on South African safari in coming days — which means I’ll be offline myself for a week. I’m sure I’ll go through slight electronic withdrawal the first day or two on safari, but — if past experience holds true — an unwired week in the African wilderness should be akin to a rush of experiential oxygen. I’ll elaborate on that in a future field report (and do note that — thanks to advance scheduling and a slight time-lag — the day-to-day content on this blog shouldn’t be affected much when I’m off on safari.)

Since this week’s challenge is a tad unorthodox, it will be a two-week, three-step process: First, post your unplugging strategy in the comments below; second, spend a week putting your plan into action; and third, after a week, reply to your own comment with a brief (less than 500 words) summary of what you learned and experienced. Was is difficult? Easy? What did you do with the time you saved being less “wired” from day to day? What, if anything, did you miss? I’m not looking for a rote affirmation of the unplugged life so much as an honest personal inquiry into (and hard-won advice for) “being where you are now” and finding online/offline balance.

Please post your initial strategy in the comment below this week; the deadline for self-replying to your initial post is Monday, September 27th, at midnight. The good folks at BootsnAll will then convene to choose the most intriguing unplugging experiment/strategy — and the winner will receive a Moleskine notebook, a copy of my book Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, and a set of ScotteVest travel clothing similar to the gear I’m wearing on my no-baggage journey (Tropical Jacket/Vest, Q-Zip pullover, and travel pants).

[FYI: Reader Challenge #4 will also have a two-week deadline, so you can still participate in that initiative, even if you aren’t online next Monday, when that post debuts. Image above by flickr user onetreehillstudios. Licensed under Creative Commons.]

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  • Jessica

    What opportune timing! My husband and I bike to work (a new challenge) and often it is our chance to touch base. Today we were lamenting our hectic lives. This morning we raced to get the kids up, dressed, and fed, made our own breakfasts and lunches, packed the kids lunches, got ourselves ready, got the bikes set up, walk one kid to the bus stop and put the other in the trailer for the short ride to school. We were out of breath before we even got on the bikes!

    As we headed into work we began the oft-repeated discussion, “How do we fit more in? How can we be more productive? How can we have more time?” And I realized that I don’t want to fit more in. I don’t want to feel so stuffed. It is uncomfortable.

    So instead of working over the weekend I am going to unplug. Facebook and Google Reader are the places that I spend most of my time online. For the next week, I will check my blog feeds in the morning only (if that means there are too many feeds to read, I will pare down to the most important). I will check Facebook only at lunch (if that means there are too many status updates to read, I will think about which friends I want to spend time keeping in touch with). I will not check either at home. Hulu will be for entertainment while I’m on the elliptical trainer.

    It place of my virtual time killers I will work on work while at work. I will be with my family, really be with them, while at home.

    • Jessica

      Day 1: Feeling all virtuous and productive. Telling my husband he should do this too. Had a better day at work because I was more productive and focused. I felt less scattered.
      Day 2: Already changing the rules. Decided that I can do my check-in from home. The good news is that I was able to get up early and get through my check-in so it distracted me even less. It also meant that the time was more constrained because I had to stop once it was time to get everyone ready for school.
      Day 3: Realized I need a better to do list. I need to be able to identify some “mindless” tasks that I can do when my energy is low. I found things like bill paying were good for those down times. Still going strong and I enjoy having more time at work.
      Day 4: The biggest impact has been at home. It isn’t just that I am more present. It is that I’m spending more uninterrupted time on whatever task is at hand because I am not constantly taking a quick break to check Facebook or Google Reader.
      Day 5: I have reclaimed evening time! Now, even after taking the 30 minutes or less to check in, I know I’m done and can get into something else. I have this plan for an extended family trip to Argentina so I’ve been using that time to learn Spanish. A week ago I wouldn’t have said I had thirty minutes to do this.
      Day 6: My check-ins have gotten even quicker. Not because I have fewer feeds or friends but because I recognize what I am trying to get out of it. I get that and get out.
      Day 7: Will I keep it up? Most definitely! I am going to continue with three check-ins a day: one in the AM, one while I have lunch, and one in the evening. I wouldn’t be surprised if I drop the evening one. I still like Facebook to connect with friends. I still like my Google Reader feeds to learn about topics that interest me. But I’m really enjoying the uninterrupted time with my family. I’m reading even more. I’m learning Spanish and daydreaming about Argentina.

      • Robb

        I have mastered my iPhone and it serves me well. I use it to keep tract of my finances, maintain a daily schedule, document my activities, read and send email, write a blog and read my subscriptions, work through a ToDoList each day and stay connected with family and friends with several social media platforms.

        In obtaining my iPhone education I have picked up a habit I have worked to eliminate this week. I find myself reaching for the device every few minutes to just check to see if any new post or emails have arrived.

        My plan has been to keep the device in my shirt pocket (thanks to Scotte Vest for the perfect pocket for this) instead of my pants pocket. This has provided a few moments of terror when reaching for my device and finding it not there. This has given me a moment to ask the question…. do I really need to check in? As I had expected, the answer to this question most of the time is not now.

        This was a very easy step to take. By just moving the device gave me a chance to pause. This proved to be very effective. I have found that using the device to perform the tasks listed above when needed allows plenty of opportunities to stay connected. I think I will continue the excersise for a few weeks more to inforce the new habit of being more present.

        I have spent the time saved being present in the moment. It is amazing how we move through life not being conscience of just what we are doing or what is going on around us. I believe being present in the moment is the way to live. This excersise has given me an opportunity to eleminate a habit that interfered with being present.

        In looking over the last week, I have not miss a thing except those facial expressions on those around me when I would pull out that iPhone and check in. It was very rude and I'm glad to lose those looks.

  • Robb

    I developed a habit (while trying to learn how to use my new iPhone) of checking email and my social media feeds whenever I had a spare moment. I would reach into my right trouser pocket for my device, pull it out and begin to browse. This routine was a very good instructor. My plan to develop balance is to move my device to another pocket. When my habit calls me to reach for the device, I will be reminded by it's absents to think about the nescesity of using it.

    • Robb

      I have mastered my iPhone and it serves me well. I use it to keep tract of my finances, maintain a daily schedule, document my activities, read and send email, write a blog and read my subscriptions, work through a ToDoList each day and stay connected with family and friends with several social media platforms.

      In obtaining my iPhone education I have picked up a habit I have worked to eliminate this week. I find myself reaching for the device every few minutes to just check to see if any new post or emails have arrived.

      My plan has been to keep the device in my shirt pocket (thanks to Scotte Vest for the perfect pocket for this) instead of my pants pocket. This has provided a few moments of terror when reaching for my device and finding it not there. This has given me a moment to ask the question…. do I really need to check in? As I had expected, the answer to this question most of the time is not now.

      This was a very easy step to take. By just moving the device gave me a chance to pause. This proved to be very effective. I have found that using the device to perform the tasks listed above when needed allows plenty of opportunities to stay connected. I think I will continue the excersise for a few weeks more to inforce the new habit of being more present.

      I have spent the time saved being present in the moment. It is amazing how we move through life not being conscience of just what we are doing or what is going on around us. I believe being present in the moment is the way to live. This excersise has given me an opportunity to eleminate a habit that interfered with being present.

      In looking over the last week, I have not miss a thing except those facial expressions on those around me when I would pull out that iPhone and check in. It was very rude and I'm glad to lose those looks.

  • This is a hard challenge for most I think. But also something to think about. I often try to get offline as long as possible but than I don't. I spent days and nights online just surfing, procrastinating and doing basically nothing (most of the time I even create more 'need' thoughts through the surfing, eg. I need a new Lens for my Camera because I just saw it cheap — 1000$ not really cheap).

    And through the devices like iPhone and such that got even worse, always on, always checking email and twitter or RSS.

    I am up for the challenge. I am going to not check twitter, RSS and Email at my phone any longer and just read RSS on friday afternoon or saturday morning.

    The one thing that is not possible to get away from is to go online for work and for school. I am in the middle of a tearm paper so there I need the net. And also I am working for a company to do the Social-Networking where I need to manage their Twitter and Facebook so those I have to check.

    Lets do this! Enjoy the moments offline! Good luck to all the others!

  • This is a hard challenge for most I think. But also something to think about. I often try to get offline as long as possible but than I don't. I spent days and nights online just surfing, procrastinating and doing basically nothing (most of the time I even create more 'need' thoughts through the surfing, eg. I need a new Lens for my Camera because I just saw it cheap — 1000$ not really cheap).

    And through the devices like iPhone and such that got even worse, always on, always checking email and twitter or RSS.

    I am up for the challenge. I am going to not check twitter, RSS and Email at my phone any longer and just read RSS on friday afternoon or saturday morning.

    The one thing that is not possible to get away from is to go online for work and for school. I am in the middle of a tearm paper so there I need the net. And also I am working for a company to do the Social-Networking where I need to manage their Twitter and Facebook so those I have to check.

    Lets do this! Enjoy the moments offline! Good luck to all the others!

    • I did it! I unplugged my Twitter, Mail and RSS from my iPhone!

      And in addition: I am no longer reading RSS during the week. Even though I often think about reading my RSS but I keept being strong. Tuesday I unplugged RSS and Saturday I checked again. Now I am unplugged from RSS again till Saturday.

      It frees me but also I have a hard time using this time in a good way.

      I will keep this up and keep improving.

  • Judymoody2

    OK. email twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. I have to do this for my job as I'm a student adviser and time sensitive stuff comes in. Web only for work-related research. I don't have a smart phone so no need to wean myself from that. No e-shopping! (this I already implemented from a previous challenge about getting rid of stuff and simplifying one's life) No facebook.

    • Judymoody2

      Here is my reply to myself one week later. Epic fail. As explained below, bad timing played a part, but the responsibility lies with me alone. I take some small comfort, however, in the fact that my failure to achieve my minimal goals, even for a week, was instructive and I will learn from my mistakes.

      My lone success was staying away from Facebook for a week. At times, I felt the impulse to share with my 157 ” friends” various witticisms voiced by my kids but it wasn't that difficult to resist the temptation. Ditto for youtube. I'm a sucker for but I only peeked once or twice instead of daily.

      E-mail: As I mentioned, I advise college students for a living. This is the time of year when students are applying for grants and jobs. They are anxious. Quick turn around is appreciated. So while I did turn the wireless off for chunks of time (partial success), I did check it more than twice a day.

      Internet: here's the epic part of the failure. In an effort to “simplify” (hah!) my life, I decided to take up natural soap making. Some family members have sensitive skin and as a light traveler, I have shifted from liquid shampoos to shampoo bars. However, all natural soaps made only from vegetable products are rather costly. So I thought I'd learn how to make soap and last weekend I actually did make a viable batch of soap. But to do so required the acquisition of specialized materials not available locally. E-commerce, here I come. And while I got most of my information from books, when one is starting a new hobby, specialty forums offer a wealth of up-to-date information about techniques and suppliers as well as encouragement for the novice. Now that the learning curve has flattened out, I doubt this will continue. But it made me aware that while the virtual world is often a poor substitute for the face-to-face one, on-line communities with specialized knowledge can be a tremendous asset. The down side: comparison shopping for specialized ingredients can be a curse and a phenomenal time waster. The time spent is not worth the savings which were nominal at best. Won't do that again.

      So Rolf, do you want a homemade shampoo bar? Lightweight and it won't leak in your vest pocket.

  • Andrea Ghensi

    What a great occasion to do what I tried to accomplish many times in this year with no luck!
    I often find myself watching some series on streaming sites and procrastinate lurking geek sites instead of actually study for my next exam (which is the day after tomorrow).
    To make it happen I set up my digital life this way:
    -I installed Chrome Nanny to block video sites and social networks during the day; gmail + google reader are allowed only Wednesday (I have 1 free hour between lessons in the morning)
    -I unsubscribed to all the heavy traffic RSS feeds, resulting in only 5 low traffic sites (no baggage challeng included, of course!)
    -I signed up to AwayFind to get important mail via SMS. I don't get so many important messages so my phone is silent, and it's great :)
    -Wigh geekTool and icalBuddy I get my todo list on the desktop, so I realize that I have tasks to complete just after I boot my mac. A butterfly picture taken outside a mountain house, placed on the desktop, reminds me of the beauties I could see if I get outside of my room.
    Other than that I'll try to do the following:
    -Use my after dinner hours to play bass: it's 2 months since I don't even touch it. Maybe I have to use internet to find some tab or tuxguitar (guitar pro clone) to play along with.
    -Reading novels and/or writing journal before bed instead of watching movies
    -Take a walk when I'm tempted to surf the web without a good reason (maybe I can make my default homepage tell me “Take a Walk!” :) )
    -Hanging some picture on the wall to remind me what I want to do in my life that cannot be done by sitting on a desk.
    Let's start!

    • sanzoghenzo

      sorry for some typo and for my bad english… Cheers from Italy!!

  • Robin J

    Clearly this is something I need to consider as when I read that people will limit their time with RSS feeds to one day per week my response was “How?” I also think that indicates that I subscribe to too many feeds. And, like Christoph states above, surfing can create “needs” that lead to dissatisfaction with right here right now. Over the next two weeks I plan to:
    -Go on walks without listening to an audiobook;
    -Check personal emails once per day and respond immediately so my inbox doesn't overfill;
    -Knit at a local yarn store rather than in front of my computer;
    -Evaluate RSS feeds and unsubscribe to those distracting from rather than enhancing my life;
    -Use a timer to limit online browsing; and
    -Limit my Google Reader sessions to 30 minutes per day.

    • Dave O

      -Go on walks without listening to an audiobook;

      I find this interesting, as you are getting out & exercising, while still taking in a audiobook. Which is helping you.

      Yet you want to stop it? AudioBook side of things mmm.

    • Robin J

      – Well, I think I listened to more audiobooks during this time! My goal, Dave O, wasn't to stop listening to books but to unplug occasionally and experience what I'm walking through rather than what I'm listening to.
      – Personal emails – checking once and responding immediately worked well. Think I'll keep that habit.
      – I did knit with other people not at a store but still feel this goal was accomplished as it got me out of my nest in front of my computer.
      – Unsubscribe — Wowser! This one was an eye-opener. I unsubscribed from just a few sites (maybe 6) but they generated the most volume so it impacted the number of feeds dramatically. And I don't miss them at all. And I find I'm browsing fewer “consumption” sites as well.
      – limit browsing — didn't use a timer but my browsing was less probably because of unsubscribing from the what's new and great feeds.
      – limit RSS reading – easy peasy after reducing the number of feeds with high volume.

  • Skeezix

    The thing that works best for me in terms of “unplugging” on weekends is… no high speed internet at home. I know: blasphemy. I do have dial-up at home, so if there's something I really *need* to do online from home, I can… but it's amazing how few things I'm actually willing to wait through dial-up to see/do/buy on the weekends.

    And I fired the cable company last year… so I spend a lot less time staring at blinky lights (i.e., tv or monitor) in general when I'm home. And… I like it! :-)

  • My dad and I agreed to walk for 30 mins each day to the nearest shopping hub for tea while he's still between jobs… should be nice to get out of the house every day and spend an hour less online.

    • We ended up walking 4 out of the last 7 days, and one two occasions we even walked some or all of the way back from the shopping hub. On one of the days I didn't walk outside, I did half an hour on the treadmill, to keep up the effort. I feel noticeably more fit as a result, which is boosting my sense of well-being, which is in turn boosting my willpower to stay away from high-sugar, high-fat things. A very positive effect, and I'm going to try to keep it up. :)

  • skok

    Has anyone won the first two challenges? They're both over, but you haven't announced that you've actually given away prizes.

  • Dragonfly7

    Since I am currently unemployed, I spend a large amount of time on the Internet. Some of it is necessary to find and apply for jobs, but the majority is spent simply wasting time because I am bored. In order to reduce this time, I have done or will do the following:

    1. Check email 3 times per day (some potential employers have set up next day interviews by email) and respond to and/or file read emails immediately. I have set up folders for employment, family, church commitments, etc. If I find this can be reduced to twice per day by Sep. 20, I will do so.
    2. Check Facebook only twice per day, with the intention of reducing this to once per day by Sep. 20.
    3. Unsubscribed to RSS feeds for several blogs and all but one newspaper, and I will check the remaining ones only once per day. I will stop reading the comments on news articles since they usually only serve to infuriate me, which adds unnecessary stress to my life. I will, regrettably, read the entertaining comments on blogs like this one only once a day.
    4. I bookmarked the employment pages for the local organizations in my field of interest and for the places I would most like to work. It takes just under 30 minutes to check all of them, but the amount of time I spend filling out applications will obviously vary. I will change the settings on to show me more relevant postings so I spend less time on the site, and I will learn how to apply more specific search parameters to general sites like Monster, Careerbuilder, and Craigslist.
    5. I signed up for email updates for other things I spend significant amounts of time on so I can tell at a glace whether or not they are worth perusing. As for the sites that don't offer that, I will have to see how much I miss them.

    I don't know yet what I will use to fill my time, but I spent the first 13 years of my life with no Internet and the next five with limited dial-up, so I'm resourceful enough to find something.

    • Dragonfly7

      To quote a couple other people, “Epic fail.” This is partially because some of the things I chose to fill my time with ended up requiring email or information on the Internet to complete, like volunteering to cover for the church office administrator while she is out of town and how to make bows for a church ceremony. Most of the rest of it is because I have a serious addiction to fanfiction, especially the stories I can receive email notifications from. I did successfully stop reading news article comments and am checking my RSS feeds only once a day, and organizing my potential employer bookmarks has simplified my daily search. In addition to the fanfiction, I did manage to read some actual books, including Vagabonding (do I get brownie points for that?) and Soul Types.
      I think my main problem is since I am not working, I don't have many activities that require me to be away from my home, and thus, my computer. I have several events that should keep me away between now and Monday, so I will see if that solves anything.

  • Gavin D.

    I know I waste too much time doing nothing on the internet. This should be an interesting change, as my girlfriend just left for Italy for a year and our communication system is the internet. Except for time spend online with her, I’m gong try to limit my internet time to 20 minutes in the morning with breakfast and 20 minutes before bed.

    • Gavin D.

      That ended up being harder then I thought. Controlling the time in the mornings was easier then the evening (it’s too easy to get sucked in after working all day). The times I went over my allotment, at least I was more aware I was wasting time. There were things I didn’t do during the week due to the time limits, like upload pictures to my Picture-a-Day album on Facebook (I don’t think the world miss them).

      With the extra time I did some cleaning and sorting of my apartment (which is very needed as I’m moving at the end of October). I also worked on an old art project then had been pushed to the back burner, but needs to be done in 2 more weeks.

      All in all, I see, I need to work on continuing to less (& refine) my time sent plugged in.

      Thanks for the challenge Rolf.


  • Worldofmuse

    One of the rewards of travel is the seeing things in a new way. So I've never travel with my cell phone or with a laptop out of the US. I do go to internet cafes, which is a fun a new way to to have connection. I remember fondly mt travels in the pre internet world. When I was in Mexico or the Caribbean for a week or 2 I was totally away. Now that would seem odd and difficult, due to habit energy. But is a lot of that my ego, my sense of importance?

  • Shawn

    My attempt at unplugging actually started last week, when I picked up an ipod touch. This probably sounds like the opposite of disconnecting, but hopefully it'll work for me.

    I live in a valley in Vermont where cell service is poor, so investing in a cellphone has never been worthwhile… and I work from home, so most days I don't leave the house except for errands and appointments. I do get away from the computer to spend time with my wife and two girls, but the rest of the day is spent in the glow of the monitors, bouncing from telecons to emails to instant messages.

    On the plus side, lack of a cellphone means that when I'm out with my family, I'm not one of the people who is checking email instead of watching my girls grow up, but the downside is that I'm not likely to head out on my own… I need to be reachable by my wife, and work sometimes demands a response relatively quickly.

    The ipod (theoretically) allows limited communication, without paying for a phone contract that I won't really use… and at the same time, it won't allow me to be constantly tethered no matter where I go. I'm hoping to get out on my bike more often, for longer rides, and really enjoy this fall in Vermont. If I plan
    ahead, I should be able to pass by some public wi-fi spots and keep in touch sporadically while I'm out. Then, if something actually requires my attention, I'll know about it… and if it doesn't, I can get back on the bike and away from the interrupt-driven lifestyle.

    My wife thinks I just wanted a shiny new toy, we'll see if I can actually get moving on this plan and convince her otherwise.

  • Susan

    We agreed to meet halfway. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask. “Some people don't like to meet if the other person is too far away”. “It's fine” he assures me. “If it's the right person, distance doesn't matter”.

    So 52 minutes away from home, I wait in the parking lot of the restaurant, fielding multiple calls on my cell. “There's a lot of traffic”. “I'm on my way”. “I'm looking for the restaurant now”. He's half an hour late, and I'm hungry. I get out of my car, and extend my hand – he tries to pull in for a cheek kiss. I pull back. “Hello?” I think, “I've only just met you.” We walk into the barbeque joint, and wait our turn at the counter.

    “What are you thinking of eating?” I ask.



    “I had a late lunch”. OK, it's now 6:30, and we had agreed to meet for dinner. “When did you eat lunch?”


    “Oh, ok. Well, you don't mind if I order some food?”.

    “No, no, go ahead.” We continue to chat, and wait. “I'm going outside for a minute while you order your food” he says.

    “OK, sure”.

    I order a sandwich. I sit down at one of the tables to wait. I wait. Suddenly, I realize, he's been gone a long time. I stand, look out the door. His car is gone. I'm left here, almost an hour from home, with a sandwich and the Wall Street Journal, and the decision – I am unplugging from internet dating. I'm pulling up the line from PlentyofFish, shleping away from Jdate, relieving myself of the disharmony of eHarmony. No more searching, no more chatting, no more filtering, flirting, wondering what's real and what's not on the millions of profiles. Real is NOT virtual, and I'm getting away from the turkeys by going cold turkey.

  • Jamiebradish

    Several weeks ago my desktop took its last pull of electricity, let out a death rattle and shut down for good. A friend rushed me a loaner until I could replace my old one, but three days later, I came home from work to find this fine piece of machinery unresponsive.
    I stared down at the dead thing on my desk in disbelief and horror; I wasn’t at all bothered by the notion that I could now be classified as a serial killer, but rather by the feeling that I was suddenly drifting, alone, on an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic.
    Panic seized me; although I couldn’t be certain, I was convinced an email sat in my inbox needing immediate attention. How on Earth was I going to enjoy my friends’ witty humor if I couldn’t check Facebook? And o’ cruel fate, how would I know what to wear to the upcoming barbecue if I couldn’t check the weather?
    It was only seconds after having this last thought that I had a very sobering realization; despite my technophobia (I’ve never owned a television or a cell phone, and I’d never been on the internet until my then 60 year old father pushed me, kicking and screaming, to explore it just over ten years ago), I’d fallen into the abyss and had become a shameless junkie.
    It is in the spirit of adventure then, that I’m going to unplug, step back in time, and attempt to live in the manner of Pre-Digital Man for no less than 22 hours per day.
    ∙ According to Google, Pre-Digital Man used primitive tools called pens and sheets of paper as a means of communication. It may turn out illegible, but in lieu of an email, I’ll attempt to use a script called “cursive” to hand-write a letter to a friend in Australia. I will then employ my feet to walk downtown–sans GPS–to find a place called the Post Office. I’ve heard rumors that the remaining survivors of the Pre-Digital Man clan work the desks, and that it costs money to send information via a stamp. I have no idea how much a stamp costs, and so I’ll be sure to bring a Franklin. I will attempt to connect with the human on the other side of the desk by smiling. If that doesn’t work, then I might try doing a jig of some sort, as I’ve heard Pre-Digital Man was fond of dance.
    ∙ I will attempt to gather my friends at the pub for a night of face-to-face interaction. It’s quite possible that their humorous wit might be slower than on Facebook, as lack of human contact may have made them socially inept.
    ∙ The most daring challenge of this quest will be gauging the weather like Pre-Digital Man. I will step out on my balcony and let me eyes and skin guide me in what to wear.
    In the unfortunate event that I don’t make it back to report my findings, then it will be safe to assume that my organs failed me, and I either died in a blizzard wearing a bikini or died in 100º heat wearing a snowmobile suit and mukluks.
    The hour of departure is upon me, and so I beseech you to bid me Godspeed and good luck.

    • Jamiebradish

      Although living in the manner of Pre-Digital Man was relatively painless, I have to admit it showed me how reliant I've become on instant information and gratification.
      When I sat down and wrote a 12 page, handwritten letter to a friend, I couldn't stop thinking about how long it would be before I received a reply. It wouldn't be in an hour, but it could literally be months….months!!
      I spent quite a few hours throughout the week writing the letter, whereas typing it would've been a breeze. And Pre-Digital Man's tools proved to be quite primitive, as the exercise gave me a blister on my finger. The horror!
      It's no rumor that the remaining survivors of the Pre-Digital Man clan work the desks at the Post Office. I knew this to be true when I spied a sign banning the use of cell phones in the lobby. The clerk was obviously not of this era, because she didn't even make me do a jig to get her to smile, and she was quite graceful socially. Very impressive.

      It wasn't difficult to get my friends together with the lure of cheap drinks, and it was nice to see that they're not yet completely socially inept. However, I had to plead with one friend to put his gadget away after he tried to find the lyrics to a song he didn't know. I informed him that if he used his ears to listen, then he'd probably be singing at least the chorus by the time it ended. He was quite shocked when that actually worked, and he was well proud of himself when he could sing, “So kiss me, I'm shit-faced” with the rest of us.

      Going without checking the weather online was the most difficult part of this, but I somehow survived. I have to admit I can't really trust myself to judge the weather, as several times I lacked proper layers and was therefore freezing, and I once donned a jacket only to find myself sweating just minutes after leaving my house.

      The most enlightening part of this was learning (to my utter horror) that I possess more of the American fast food mentality than I realized; whatever it is that I'm after, I want it brought to me quickly, and at my convenience.
      My conclusion is that I need an attitude adjustment, and the only thing that could possibly help me would be another year long trip overseas, naturally. And so the planning and scheming has begun, all because of Pre-Digital Man!.
      Thanks, Pre-Digital Man, you rock!

  • I'm a student and rely heavily on my laptop to communicate with professors. I'm also teaching one section and so communicate frequently with my class as well. I use my laptop to track assignments, grades, and due dates. So it will not be something easy to give up during this phase of my life.

    For this challenge, I'd like to leave my phone at home for the day. I can call and text when I get back home in the evenings.

    I really think this will help me focus more on the people around me. I'll be a better listener and a better friend. This will leave the evenings for me to strengthen my long distance relationships–giving my near and far relationships the time they deserve.

  • The Test, in Haiku

    This will be a test
    of the emergent life-cast
    system. How to talk

    without screens, power,
    wires, keyboards. I might explode.
    But peace wants a chance,

    and so my challenge:
    no Facebook, no Twittering
    for one week. And just

    to make it hard, skip
    the blogs too, mostly. Just one
    per day—choose what's best,

    focus on meaning
    let all the rest fall away,
    leaving a clear mind.

  • W2best

    Good Post! Trying to kick my laptop out of my gear for a 4 month trip soon i wonder – what foldable keyboard are you using? : )

  • How can one balance utilizing the resources of the virtual world with better experiencing the real one?

    This is a very interesting question, one that I am already struggling with, but perhaps not for the reasons many would think. I am not addicted to many of the distractions that lure people into the virtual world. I can do days or weeks without checking Facebook or Tritter. I only follow one or two blogs at a time. I don’t even own a TV. I’ve heard of Hulu but never visited their site. I work 100% out of my home, for a company over 1000 miles away, and have only 1 coworker. I get very few e-mails and phone calls. If anything, I crave more connection than I currently have.

    I do, however, have one virtual addiction that I need to take a look at – I’m addicted to Google searches. I have a rather “Squirrel!” sort of a brain. I can be quite focused on work but suddenly get an overwhelming urge to look something up – for example, finding a service to come and clean our vents, which leads to how to rid my pasture of weeds, and then needing to know the names of the members of the band Lifehouse (and then watching a YouTube video or two of their songs). These types of information searches can get quite time-consuming, and one lookup often leads to a dozen others (a process we’ve coined as “splinking” – splitting from one link to another to another until you have completely forgotten what you were doing or looking for in the first place).

    I would just make my internet browser icon disappear from my desktop, or shut it off altogether, but I cannot do that, as I access several work programs via the internet. So I will need to find another way to keep myself from opening another New Tab and typing in another New Search.

    My plan is to keep a small notebook near me, writing down those things I want to look up as they come to me. If it is still important at the end of the day, maybe then I could set aside a limited amount of time (say, 30-45 minutes) to do my searches. I could time myself using and when the time is up – close down the browser.

    Yikes- what will I do with all those unresolved thoughts bouncing around my head?! That is the question. The nature of my work is so isolating, they offer some of the only relief I get during any given day. Having Google as a mental outlet makes the grind of my day less grueling. Which begs the question – perhaps it is time to look for work that is less isolating and more fulfilling. Perhaps I use Google as a way to avoid doing the hard work – finding new work.

    • I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would, being a bit nervous about cutting myself off from what little connections I currently have with the wider world. But I didn’t actually cut myself off, I just set some boundaries around how to use those connections to my best advantage while being more aware of where I was and what I was doing.

      Getting into the habit of using my notebook to record the ideas I wanted to look up on Google was the hardest part. Once I got in the routine, now I just pull out the notebook (or my phone if the notebook is not on me) and add the thought to my list, then get back to whatever I was doing. During a break or after my work day has ended, I fire up my browser, open up, put in 30mn, then open another tab and begin searching. When limiting my internet time in this way, I always seek out the highest priority items on my list to tackle first.

      A surprising discovery is that I never have time to research about 90% of the things on my list, yet, since I always tackle my highest priority items, I never feel like I am missing anything. The rest of the items were merely distractions from my work, and now they just get jotted down and forgotten about.

      Because there is still an isolation factor to my work and lack of connection with the wider world, I do still check my non-work e-mail account once/day and Facebook once/day, a quick task taking less than 20mn, along with allowing myself to continue reading this blog and checking it for new updates.

      Because I am no longer “plugged in” late into the evening, I have discovered this week that I am getting in an additional 60-90mn/day of bonus reading time (books) and going to bed earlier at night.

      Overall, I have enjoyed this challenge very much and plan on continuing to use the tools to further refine and tweak my virtual connections. After all, the only life worth living is in the real world anyway.

      Cheers –

  • <crocodile_dundee_voice> Now this here is a challenge. </crocodile_dundee_voice>

  • Audrey

    My workweek is five groundhog days long, sometimes it’s hard to tell Tuesday from Thursday. The days I spend traveling are much longer and richer, each one filled with different events and sights and smells, even if I don’t do much more than go for a walk or have coffee with a newspaper at a cafe. When I travel, I write in a notebook instead of a laptop, and I read papers rather than online news. So my challenge will be to bring my travel habits home, and write by hand on paper, and read real newspapers.

  • Carlos

    I've been thinking of ways to cut down on my life online. This challenge has encouraged me to go ahead with the plan. Like many people, I turn on my computer with the intention of accomplishing a certain task and end up doing that task along with a lot of extra stuff like Facebook, reading blogs, etc.

    Since I primarily work from home, I have an office at home but it's situated in such a way that I feel at times as if I'm not home. I would like to keep my home life and office + online life separate, so I plan on doing the following:

    1. Never check email outside of the office.
    2. Check email and reply only once a day.
    3. Take a week long break from Facebook and Twitter and after a week check only once every day or so.
    4. Use the time that I would normally be online to go to a cafe and read a book and meet new people.
    5. Clean out my RSS feed reader. There are a lot of blogs there that I rarely read but keep because I think that I'll miss something.
    6. Instead of playing games on my computer, dust off some of the board games that my family enjoys and play together.
    7. Devote more time to exercising in the morning instead being online. My exercise routine has been sporadic at best.

    Hopefully, this will enhance my family life and my overall well-being.

  • I applaud your discussion about unplugging. My family, living in Silicon Valley, recently unplugged for an entire year! It was so difficult, but so worthwhile. It was a life-changing experience. You can read more about our story at
    Sharael Kolberg

  • Stefan

    To explain my plan I have to tell a little story. When I moved out of my parents house last August to study computer science I started to change my Internet life. I didn't get an internet connection for my flat in order to have only internet at the university. In the following months I also quitted most social nets I was in. Which means I already cut down a lot of my internet life.
    At the moment I am working at a diving center to do something usefull during the semester holidays in wich I can only access the internet or use the laptop before or after the work and the work is long and after it you only want to go to bed. which means I have an daily internet time under an hour. And I usually only check emails and google raeder which takes about 5 minutes. When the semester starts again I have to use it more again because of my field of study. But in February when the contract for my smartphone runs out I want to eliminate that too. In the end I can only say I can't cut it down much more. If anyone has any ideas please tell me.

  • Perfect timing. This year I'm doing one small, new thing each week. While walking to and from a nearby coffee shop yesterday (a coffee shop I've always driven to), I'd decided to reduce my internet time and up my outside time as my thing for next week.

    Here's my plan:
    1. Ignore my RSS feed next Mon-Fri.
    2. Walk to the coffee shop and back each morning Mon-Fri (1 hr).
    3. See what effect that small change has on my life next week.

  • Erik

    This is great– I've been thinking about what exercises I can do to reduce the virtual clutter of my life.

    Since I've always been a bit of a night owl, and it's dangerously easy for me to stay awake so late that I'm falling asleep at work the next day, I will set my bedtime as midnight, but more importantly, my COMPUTER BEDTIME at 11 pm. Most of the stuff I used the computer for after 11 pm was distractions, so this will have the double benefits of focusing computer use AND getting me to bed a bit earlier :)

    • Erik

      Well, to put it succinctly, this has been a stellar week.

      It is perhaps the most healthily I have slept in years. Not only have I gotten a decent amount of sleep almost every single night (except for when I accidentally read for 2 hours past my bedtime…), but I have felt awake at work too.

      One benefit of having a computer bedtime is that I've taken to reading before bed. This is great because a.) reading is awesome and I finished 3 books this week and b.) reading makes me sleepier than TED talks and wikipedia, so I have fallen asleep more easily more regularly now than for a long while.

      Finally, I have also started using my free-time a little bit more wisely. I like to journal in a Word document, and so now I am forced to start reflecting on my day at a very specific time (usually about 10:40 pm), and since it really hurts to record that I worked on “none of my goals” during a day, I'm always making an attempt to do something worthwhile on the computer during those few free hours I allow myself to use it.

      Because I have more limited computer free-time now, I took up another strategy. Whenever I see a non-RSS article or video I want to check out, I automatically put the link in a Google doc called “Media for Later” that I can only go through and check out on the weekend. If I still feel like watching it on the weekend, then I go for it. But frequently I don't, and so that strategy has worked brilliantly in clearing out those 10 minute distractions that lead to other 10 minute distractions and so on….

      One note: I didn't follow this over the weekend, but I had allowed myself that from the start.

      I think I'm going to keep this one up!

  • Cool challenge this week, thanks for offering it, Rolf.

    I'm self-employed (online business) and work from home which makes it difficult for me to separate my professional and personal lives.

    “Unplugging” during my personal time will allow me to stay more focused on my 18 month old son who I take care of much of the week.

    When I'm plugged in to my work in the digital world while I'm with Charlie, I'm not fully present with my son–physically or mentally.

    So, my challenge is to unplug and become more present in the moment. I'll challenge myself for five days next week–Monday through Friday–to unplug during all designated non-work hours.

    Here's the plan:

    Monday- I take every Monday off to spend with Charlie. I will truly “take the day off”. I'll turn my computer off on Sunday night and will not turn it on again until Tuesday. No work, no surfing, no email, no social media–nothing. All day with my little man.

    Tuesday through Thursday- I'm with Charlie until 12:00 each of these days when I walk him to day care. I work in the afternoon until 5:00 when I pick him up from day care. I'll unplug in the mornings and in the evening and only go online during my designated work hours between 12:00 and 5:00.

    Friday- I work from 9:00 to 5:00 on Fridays. I'll keep my computer time to only these hours and unplug at 5:00.

    My computer is typically always on and I seem to gravitate to it any spare moment I have for no other reason other than “I can”. That's probably like a lot of people here.

    I plan on filling my unplugged time with personal writing assignments and reconnecting with one friend each day. I know exploring my life through writing and reconnecting with friends from the past will be much more enriching than aimlessly surfing the Web. As will being fully focused and present with my son.

    So, there you have it–I'll work during designated work hours only and unplug at all other times.

    (side note: I don't have a television, smart phone, iPad, or other devices so I will truly be unplugged)

    I'll check in next Friday night with my results.

    Thanks again for the challenge and opportunity!

    And thank you for your inspiration Rolf!

    Chris Heiler

    • I'm still alive after five days of being unplugged!

      Following my plan/challenge that I outlined above and killing my computer during non-work hours really wasn't that difficult. Though not difficult, it was certainly beneficial in a few ways.

      Two things really stood out to me during the week. First, I was much more focused on my priority tasks during designated work hours. I knew I didn't have extra hours to make up for a lack of focus. I had to get things done in the time allotted. This alone is enough reason to continue a life somewhat unplugged.

      Second, I realized that much of my time spent online during nonworking hours was mostly spent on unimportant, work related tasks. I just tinkered with things because I had the time to do so. During the week some idea would pop into my head and I would think, “Boy, I wish I could get online and work on that.” But I wouldn't. And the next day I would realize the task/idea was completely unimportant/irrelevant and I was glad that I didn't waste time chasing it.

      I spent my unplugged time doing what I said I would–writing, reading and catching up with people I hadn't connected to in a while. I was able to catch up with my parents, my brother, a couple of my friends and my in-laws.

      I didn't miss a single thing by being unplugged.

      I'll definitely be incorporating this into my daily life, though not as rigid as this past week. I'll be spending less time in the digital world :-)

      Thanks again for the challenge, it was a lot of fun!

      Chris Heiler

  • Thea

    Uh-oh. This is going to be difficult, and that is probably the most important reason I'm taking part.
    I have recently (5 months ago) moved to a Mediterranean country, from Northern Europe, because I had the opportunity and felt I should take it. I was bored with my life and my work. I don't know how long I will stay here, but it's probably not forever.

    The fact is I spend too much time online. It has become important because I want to stay in touch with my friends back home, I've always loved the net, and because I don't have a busy social life yet in my new country. But the problem is I feel that, by being online so much, I miss out on the experience. I work fulltime and I should use my free time better by exploring the island, making friends, and 'being where I am now'. I'm not lonely because I'm a social and happy person, but I may be too passive.

    So the plan is this:
    – I will not start the computer when I wake up, because that is the nicest time to be outside on my veranda with a cup of tea. Hopefully I will be at work a bit earlier too. ;-)
    – At work, I will not keep Facebook, Twitter and iGoogle open. I will check them a few times per day probably, but even just closing those tabs straight after will probably be a big change. I wonder if I get more work done…
    – In the evenings after work, I will either explore the city or work on my language course. Which is, come to think of it, online! Oh well, I will try and limit it to that.
    – After work online time will be maximum an hour every day.
    – My phone is ancient, so no problems there.

    Like I said, this is going to be tough! I hope it will result in more adventures and less feelings of restlessness.

    In exploring my new home country, those travel vests etc. would be of great help! (Hint, hint… pick me!)

    • It'ss only been six days, but I can tell you now: I failed, I failed, I failed! :-) I have become more aware of how often I am online and I'm sure I've cut back, but not as much as I would have liked to. I did more on my Greek lessons though.
      I will try again soon. Now I'm going to enjoy the morning on my veranda (hmmm… maybe something changed after all!)

  • Rick McClelland

    I already monitor a lot of my technology use, and there are things that I believe if I cut down on, I would overall improve my satisfaction with life. So, here's the problems and my proposed solutions.

    Problem: Surfing the internet mindlessly in the morning, reading favorite websites, news stories, etc. (This point struck home to me due to Rolf saying he can often do the same thing.
    Solution: I always say I'm going to get started writing something, but never actually do. I can use this time to write. In order to make sure I stay off the internet, I will turn off the wireless connection on my computer (there is a button located next to the power button which makes this simple)

    Problem: Constantly pulling phone out of pocket to check for missed calls or messages. I do this while walking down the street, or even times in idle conversation. I realized how much I did this yesterday when 44 Verizon towers went down and I didn't have service for most of the day. I ended up leaving my phone at home, yet constantly grabbing for it while I was out.
    Solution: Move the phone to a different pocket or forsake it on some trips altogether. Leaving it home is a more drastic option, as I do use it to tell time, but I will go to that length if moving it to my left pocket doesn't work out.

    These are my two biggest problems. I don't think I'll have as much trouble breaking my morning routine of web surfing; I think I'll have more problems actually forcing myself to write during that time. We'll see how it goes.

    • Rick McClelland

      After a week, I'd say that I was slightly successful, but overall I've completely failed to meet even a fraction of expectations.

      As to my first problem, the first few days I did fine not mindlessly checking websites, but I did not use the time to write, instead picking the easier way out and reading a book. While I did shut off the technology, I consider it a slight personal failure since I failed to write some short stories I have outlined. I did write in my journal though, so I did make some progress (it's been a 1.5 years since I wrote in my journal). As the week progressed though, I started to drift back into my old habits, which confirms that they are hard to break.

      As to my second problem, moving the phone to my other pocket is a working solution. I reach for it in my right pocket and stop myself from looking at it constantly. I do make mistakes a lot though and end up putting it back in my left, though after wards I move it back.

      So all in all, I've made some progress, though I regressed as well. I plan on continuing to try in the future.

  • Pole

    Fifty years ago I was almost completely unplugged. As a college student I owned no phone: that is obviously no cell phone, no phone in my room and no pager. I owned no computer for the, again, obvious reason. I was 1200 miles from my home, knew hardly anyone and was very lonely.

    Did I let that stop me from being plugged in, no. I found a way. My college had an on campus post office with small boxes that you now find in antique stores. There was a bank of about 500 of these boxes that were visible from anywhere in the Student Union. I was quite clever. I could find box 211 from anywhere in the large Union and I could see if something was visible in the tiny window from far away.

    I would spend far too many hours of my non-classroom time sitting at a table in the Union waiting for that visual signal of “you got mail”. As you can see, I was plugged in even before I knew there was a plug. Eventually I overcame my obsession and checked just once a day.

  • Ok, so I've become a pretty bad case lately, and as such I'm going to use your challenge for my own means. I just got off a year+ hitchhiking and living in Central America, and it was one of the best experiences of my life – lots of fresh air, nothing more than I could carry; a very minimalist way to live. Since returning I've gotten into a lot of my old bad habits: reading too much RSS, surfing Reddit like a fiend; internet usage without any real purpose in lieu of actual social interaction or productive activity. Worst part of it all is that I'm trying to write a book about my adventures (by all measures fantastic and worth reading about) and what limited free time I do have is getting sucked up into these nonsense activities instead of in pursuit of my real goals.

    I've decided that the best method will probably be to revert to how I lived as a traveler, when internet was a precious commodity and a nuisance both. Here are a few limitations I'm going to enforce for the next week, and hopefully report back successfully on.

    First off, I'm going to enforce the same limits on my iphone that I did when I used it traveling – namely, I'm turning off 3G and data roaming to simulate the functionality it had when I was using foreign SIM cards. I only encounter wifi when I'm in the house, and since that isn't often, my hope is that this will cut down substantially on my internet usage. If I can't hold to this no-data strategy I'm going to swap my SIM into the little unlocked Nokia I bought in Honduras last year and really go retro.

    Second, because I really want to write and I do that best without internet distractions, I'm going to cut off my laptop wifi whenever possible. I've transferred some music onto my hard drive, and I'll just pump up the tunes and write – really, this is exactly what I did traveling, and it showed through in much better stories and articles. I figure that I'll check emails once in the morning, once at night, leave google reader, twitter, facebook to fester a while, and only fire up wifi when it is legitimately necessary to do business.

    Finally, I'm going to start carrying my notebooks and laptop everywhere – it's a eee netbook, and easy to slip into my bag or trunk. There's no excuse to not have my writing implements around every day. This should fill a secondary function of driving me out of my routine more often, causing me to spend more time in little coffee shops, at the beach, wherever I can find some tranquility. Oddly, I think that this little bit of added connectivity will give me a lot more disconnected time, as I'll be trading internet for writing, and time spent at home for time in places that inspire.

    Anyway, that's my list, and I'll let you know in a week how it works out. Good luck to everyone with your unplugging!

    • Worldtraveler2

      Are you a writer? Im sure you will have an interesting story to tell of Central America. I just got back from one year around the world with my 12 year old son and I would love to write about it. Just dont know how to start. Do you have any suggestions?

      • Hey, I'm breaking my self-imposed internet ban, but I do need to check email from time to time, so bite me.

        I do fancy myself a writer and poet, and I too have been struggling with where to start writing – the problem to me seems one of magnitude really – so many adventures and stories, and no way to tell what people will enjoy reading about. I've been paring down stories to the truly exciting and/or illustrative; writing down others for my own personal enjoyment, all while seeking out some sort of over-arching narrative.

        Where I've started specifically is to 1) outline the whole trip start to end, 2) expand some of the good bits, and 3) write out my favorite/most vivid adventures in their entirety. I'm left with a pile of stories and not much connective tissue right now, but I feel as if transitions and connections are secondary to the real meat of the stories.

        Anywhere, that's where I'm at, but I know it doesn't work for everyone – what are you aiming to write? (I mean, are you looking at a book, blog, stories for your friends? I'm slowly realizing that we write differently for each audience.) Cheers! -k

    • Only day 6 (ish) but I'm headed out of town for a small trip, and I don't want to forget to reply at all.

      The thing I forgot before starting this challenge is the ease of unplugging on the road, and conversely, the difficulty of doing it while sedentary. The first pair of days, when I was still going through the same daily routine, were particularly rough. I'd already figured out how to fill the gaps in my empty days with twitter, facebook, google reader, and to cut that out required some sort of bigger change.

      I took up smoking again – that filled the gap problem temporarily – but I needed something bigger, bolder, and so I went up to LA and visited friends for a couple of days. That was great, because I was outside my normal territory and being unplugged didn't seem bad or unnatural at all. Of course, I was cheating a bit – logging into email almost daily, watching a TV show with my friends – but by and large I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. I mean, who would rather hang out on Facebook than go out to brunch or taking a wakeboarding trip?

      Of course, as soon as I get back into my house with my things, the same habits come fighting back: the last 2 days I've been re-connecting bits and pieces of my electronic life. Some of it is necessity, some laziness, a bit is just routine. It will be hard to have any real lasting effect out of just a week, but I really was able to refine my focus – there's no doubt in my mind that by early-June next year (at the very latest!) I'll be back out in the world with a small pack and no real ties.

      In the end, I failed to disconnect from the world, and instead changed how I connect – I had forgotten how easily a tool can become an imposition can become a chore and a burden. However, it's not that hard to force things back a step as well; remove a bit of connectivity and gain a whole measure of peace and focus. Instead of surfing Reddit, I fill out GoAbroad applications. Rather than lay around watching Hulu, I'm skyping old friends in other parts of the world. It's not disconnecting, but that's because I don't really want to disconnect. I'm just tired of connecting for the sake of connecting, you know?

      I'll let you know how it goes.

  • Scott

    I'm going to spend the week visiting and failing that, phoning as many of my email/Facebook etc. contacts as possible. Instead of impersonal electronic updates I'm going to rest my fingers and vigorously exercise my vocal chords.

    • Scott

      First ly, what an interesting week!

      It is revealing that people have a lot more to say in person or on the phone than on Facebook / Email. I had a great week catching up with friends – it was really great fun but I'm knackered!

      I did not miss interacting with the online world and I have no idea what awaits me in my inbox / Facebook account – although I have to admit I am kind of looking forward to seeing.

      All in all a great challenge.

  • Whyhavekids

    Interesting concepts here! love the “washing clothes as you shower” idea. Regarding the “Jessica” post above, I don't understand why some people have kids and then feel stressed about not having enough time. Why cram all of that in? Life is busy enough as it is. I prefer to borrow kids, and then give them back and go play in my music studio. I absolutely love kids, and love spending time with them. But having a few kids to me just seems over-rated, after I see SO MANY couples aggravated with their parenting duties, and expressing not having enough time for other things they may enjoy. I feel that nature has successfully 'tricked' them into procreating. ha ha ha ha ha. (evil laughter..)

    • Dragonfly7

      There is a balance between making time for yourself and having to be with your kids constantly. Some of this depends on the age and/or responsibility level of the kids, like being able to get ready for school on their own or what activities they participate in afterward. However, in an age where I've had a friend charged with neglectful supervision for allowing her children to walk to the park without an adult, it is getting harder to not be required to constantly hover over one's children.

  • Michael

    Okay, my concept this time isn't really set in stone, the best advice I've heard on the matter is just to make small course corrections if you stray to much into mindless browsing again.

    For the me the other thing is I'm trying to make the browsing that I do, as efficient as possible:

    I've got a faster browser
    I've set it up so all the everyday little updates I can access with one click, and scroll through quickly in tabs, and also limited to check it once a day (cause really, It's always so much more fun if you check something for updates if you've left it a while, I might even consider checking this even less at some point)
    And I'm planning on an efficient 30 minute researching session everyday in which I can plan what I want to look up, and because I don't have unlimited time, I'll have to try and fit in what's most important.
    I'll also include a 90 minute gaming/design session in the evening to relax.

    Now I know this is probably more time then most are going to try, but I'm going to try this for a week, and then adapt.

    I look forward to posting what I've learnt next week

    • Michael

      Okay I'm back to tell you how it went!

      For the first couple days I did pretty great, I spent more time with my family, played with my cat more, read more, exercised more, generally had more fun.

      Sadly it then went a bit downhill from there, I did manage to keep my daily updates to staying daily and quick and efficient to look at, however most of my day was still on the computer. . .

      What was I doing?

      Reading about how to do stuff (Best way to learn a language? How to pack light? How to get fit? Can I do this? Can I do that? ) rather then doing it (practice, exercise) cause really I've read enough now on the subjects to know how to continue with them, and of course adapt where nessecary.

      So now fortunatly I think I've realised where my times going, and over the next bit I'll try and do it rather then read about it.

      overall I think the challenge worked well for me, it got me thinking about this stuff, and starting to act upon it.

      So thanks.

  • goldenho

    I have been keeping up this blog “no baggage challenge” but have not jumped in yet. However, I do recognize just how plugged in I am to the electronic world and how much I have neglected my family. It's really convicting to hear this from someone who has more valid reasons to be plugged in than I do.

    In line with the challenge, I have unplugged my Blackberry from the web (and save myself $25 a month as well), and will plan to keep it that way for the next three months. I'm also going to limit my own computer browsing time to two hours per day (will use Safeeyes to keep me honest).

    I expect this to be tough, being such a huge information addict. But I also know that if I take something out, but fail to put something else in (reminds me of something Jesus said in Matthew 12:43-45), I'm just going to revert back to old habits. So in follow-up post, I'll report back on what better alternatives I will take up to take my attention off my virtual propensities.

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  • Rolf

    Congrats to Jamie Bradish for winning the Week 3 Reader Challenge! Results were announced on October 6th on the No Baggage Challenge Facebook fan-page…

  • Selling with, cheap adobe photoshop software, he pause themselves already, the window's become worth should want la hdmi unplug herself including whenever …