I went camping with my family over the weekend. We’re old school campers. We actually use tents (though we do have good air mattresses), we generally don’t take showers (unless we’re camping for more than a couple of days), and we don’t use (almost) any technology while camping. (I had to say “almost” in that sentence because someone handed me my phone, which I had intentionally placed somewhere I wouldn’t see it, and I was briefly sucked into the email vortex.) So, that means no portable DVD players, no laptops, no gaming devices, etc.
The campground that we were at has free wifi and plenty of full hookups for RVs and trailers. So, I noticed quite a few people relaxing around the campground watching a movie, working on a laptop, or using a smartphone. I’m sure they also played at the beach, hiked in the woods, went for a bike ride, roasted marshmallows, and did all the other things you generally do when you go camping. They just plugged in when they got back to the campground.
So, I’m wondering, was there a fundamental difference between their experience and mine (beyond the fact that they probably have fewer emails to answer on a Monday morning than I do)? I find that I need to unplug in situations like that if I am going to be truly “present.” Technology affords me the amazing ability to be present in multiple places at once. But, to me that is a drawback if my goal is to be fully present in any one place. I also find that the distraction of technology makes it more difficult for me just to sit and enjoy nature. (Granted, even without technology that can be very difficult in a campground full of energetic children and obnoxious adults.) So, a technology fast has always been an important part of my camping experience.
As I reflect on this a bit more, though, I’m struck by the fact that I do not go on a similar “book fast.” I can’t even conceive of going camping without taking several books. So, while others are plugged in online, I’m plugged into a book. Is there a difference? Am I any more fully present in this natural environment that the techno-camper?
What do you think? If you like to go camping, do you “unplug” when you go? Why or why not? And, do you think there’s a difference between being plugged into a book vs. being plugged into a device when camping?