My family and I spent the last week in Iowa. Like usual, I brought along every device I could pack, including an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle, and my laptop (so I could write… that was my excuse).
After a few days with the in-laws, we rented a car to visit some family. On the drive to go pick up the rental car, my father-in-law asked, “Do you have a map?” “No,” I said, “I have my iPhone.” After a few seconds of silence he finally said, “You better take the map” and handed me one.
He was right.
Just a few minutes after leaving Des Moines and heading north, my iPhone stopped working.
Well, it still worked… I could still play Angry Birds on it if I wanted to. But it didn’t work. No cell coverage. No email. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Pandora. Nothing. I realized that I wouldn’t have access to my toys until I got to the hotel that night. Forced offline, I started to get a little worried.
It’s a strange feeling when you realize you’re disconnected from the world. You move into panic mode and you start coming up with some pretty good excuses for needing access to “the grid.”
What if I miss an email? What if someone needs to get a hold of me? What if my car breaks down?
But the things we fear usually don’t come true. Instead of becoming disconnected to the world, going off the grid can make you more connected with the people you spend your time with.
Without the crutch of a gadget, being off the grid can even force you to pay more attention to life.
My boys, who are also addicted to Angry Birds, suddenly found themselves without their toys, too. Like their dad who had to engage with the real world, they found ways to be creative and have fun.
They climbed a mound of dirt next to a newly built house and pretended that it was a mountain.
They looked for rocks and washed them off with a hose to see what kind of treasures they found.
They ran around and played with their cousins, exploring a cornfield.
They helped name a stray cat.
Then the next day, we all tried to catch fireflies in their grandpa’s backyard.
We went to an Iowa Cubs baseball game.
We played on a slip-and-slide.
We shot each other with squirt guns until we were soaked.
We shucked corn for the first time.
We took a walk in the woods and my oldest son found a log that looked like an alligator.
When the kids lost their toys, they got creative and their imaginations took over.
I’ve written before about seeing life through a 4-inch screen… how I’d much rather live life in the moment instead of trying to capture every single experience with a camera, only to miss it.
A funny thing happens when we ditch the devices. Our brains reset. We get creative. We have fun.
What would happen if we decided to spend one day or even just one afternoon disconnected?
How could going offline for an electronics Sabbath help us appreciate more of what we have?
Don’t wait until you’re stuck off the grid to pay more attention to the things that really matter.