Call me cheap, but on my recent trip to Ireland, I simply turned my phone off rather than risk paying enormous roaming charges while I was out of the country. Like many people, I’ve grown very dependent on my cell phone, using it for phone calls, emails, texts and even taking and sharing photos. I was a little nervous about going without my phone for so long (what if there was an emergency and my family or the dog-sitter needed to reach me?), but my husband did have a phone that he could use to his check emails, and even make a (very expensive) emergency call if necessary. So, as soon as we boarded the plane for Dublin, I turned off my phone, stuck it in the bottom of my purse, and vowed to just forget about it until I was back home.
I’d like to say that my phone stayed in the bottom of my purse for the entire time I was in Ireland, and that I always gave my full attention to that beautiful and interesting country. But that wasn’t what happened. I found myself reaching for it again and again, purely from habit, whenever I had a spare minute or two. We’d board a train to travel to a new city, and as soon as we had settled into our seats, I’d reach in my purse and pull out my phone. Then I’d remember that it was off and couldn’t be turned on, and quickly shove it back in my purse, hoping that nobody had noticed what I’d done. I’d do the same thing when we were seated at a restaurant or pub, waiting for our food to come, and when we returned to our hotel room for a short break from sightseeing. It was kind of embarrassing.
Eventually, as the week wore on, the fact that I was without a functioning cell phone finally sunk in. I found myself not reaching for it anymore, or at least not as often. And gradually, I not only got used to not having my phone turned off, I actually began to enjoy it. True, my husband and I did exchange a few emails with our son and daughter on his phone (some connections are just too precious to break entirely) but otherwise, I was well and truly out of touch with my normal life connections. And I liked it.
I rediscovered how to just sit still and either think my own thoughts, or pay real attention to what was around me. I spent the train rides staring out the window at passing countryside, admiring the stone fences, the quaint farmhouses and the little towns we passed through. When we were stopping back at our hotel to change and rest, I’d actually close my eyes and rest for a few minutes, which did wonders for restoring my energy level. And while waiting for our food at pubs and restaurants, I listened to the music, if there was any. If there wasn’t, I spent the time actually talking to my husband, who was sitting so conveniently right across the table. I found myself both living in the moment and truly connecting with my environment, to an extent that I haven’t enjoyed in a long, long time.
Now that I’m back in the states, I have my phone turned back on. My time in Ireland didn’t entirely wean me off my cell phone habit, but it did make me see that I was letting my phone intrude into my personal life far too much. So I’ve made the promise to myself to leave my phone in my purse, where it belongs, while I’m in the company of people I care about. And I’ve vowed not to reach for it first thing in the morning, or when I’m just a little bored, or even when I feel conspicuous sitting among a group of people who are all staring at their phones. Because truly, sometimes it’s better to be disconnected.