We live, what many people consider, a less than ordinary life.
As expats in the Dominican Republic and now Mexico, we’ve grown accustomed to living without things that I definitely took for granted when we lived in New Jersey: the internet being among these things.
On a recent weekend away in Mexico, we were told that there was no Wi-Fi, and I assumed it meant there was little connection. Surely we’d still be able to maintain some connection to the outside world. After all, we’ve been warned before about “no Wi-Fi,“ and it has always just meant that I’d have to use my data. To be safe, I told people we’d be “off the grid” so they’d know I’d be hard to get in touch with. Not because I actually thought it was impossible.
It was impossible.
Into the last two hours of the car trip, when my Instagram wheel kept searching and spinning and advising me that they couldn’t refresh my feed, I started to think this no Wi-Fi thing wasn’t just an exaggeration. I tried again in 10 minutes—because I’m addicted—and got same response. When we got to our house, I Whatsapp’d my mom to give her peace of mind that we had arrived. The little clock icon showed up instead of the “it’s delivered” check mark. The message hadn’t sent. I moved to a different area. Still nothing. I finally stood in one spot long enough to make a phone call and let her know we were fine but to not expect much communication.
Over the weekend, I tried a few times to find Wi-Fi at different spots around the house and town before deciding to embrace my new freedom. Turns out, I’m pretty addicted to the web and without it as an option, I had to find, dare I say, other things to do.
So, I connected with my surroundings in a way I haven’t in about a decade. Back then, text messaging was enough for me. Googling something on a tiny screen seemed annoying at best. The internet on a phone was a thing young millennials did and something so futuristic that I didn’t want to deal with it.
This weekend reminded me that there was a time when I wasn’t obsessed with my phone or status updates. No one would die if I refrained from posting.
I stared into the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic cliff jutted out; it was the only thing in the way of an expansive view of the horizon. The view was impressive to say the least. Boats in the distance cut through the waves. I assumed they were fisherman boats since this wasn’t a touristy beach spot, but they were so far away, I couldn’t tell for certain.
Something in the sky caught my eye because of its color. Was it pink? Was it a flamingo?! I doubted myself because, honestly, how many times have you seen a flamingo in the sky? So I called my husband to come and see but really to confirm. The kids looked up from playing in the pool, and we caught a glimpse for about 10 seconds before the flying pink UFO was out of sight—and immediately, I had this visceral thought:
I would have missed this moment if my head was buried in my Instagram account.
The pink flyby lasted a mere sixth of a minute. It takes me 20 times that to come up with a clever caption. In fact, how many things had I already missed, staring down into the abyss of social media?
Don’t get me wrong, my Instagram account and Facebook page are a necessity these days. Both of my careers require a social media presence (a phrase I still cringe at saying). But doesn’t trying to capture every moment dilute the actual purpose of traveling? I’m so busy thinking up travel hashtags that I miss a lot of what’s actually going on in my travels.
The flamingo sighting stings me with more moments from the weekend that I realize were possible only because of the non-connectivity.
I took a nap on the beach—two actually. I haven’t done that in years. All this time, I assumed it was because we have two small kids. Now I think it’s because I have Facebook. I finished a book I’ve been reading for a month and a half; a book I had actually been enjoying but that I passed over nightly in favor of scrolling. I even started another book. (Well, just the sample—because I didn’t have Wi-Fi to download the rest.) I watched my family play in the sand with the most devout attention. I stared at the ocean for the better half of the day until the sun took center stage at sunset.
It turns out, being disconnected did more for my connectivity than unlimited data ever has.
Author: Jennifer Legra
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis