It's possible that like me you take technology for granted. It wasn't until a recent camping holiday with friends to the pointy end of nowhere that I realised the full extent of my dependency on modern comforts. Up between cliff and ocean my phone signal was nil, and worse my internet connection was non-existent. The first couple of days in this strange and uncomfortable new dynamic were really tough, how was I supposed to check the news? How could I keep tabs on my friends without actually speaking to them? And what was I supposed to do without the internet to tell me what was worth checking out and what wasn't? I'll be honest; I was a bit all over the place. Much like a break up at first I was angry; frustrated at the end of what had always been a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship. Then I was mournful, saddened by the loss of a good friend, finding myself wondering what they were up to without me. Finally I reached a point of acceptance, my phone signal was fractured and weak, the internet wasn't coming back anytime soon and the closest thing I had to a video game was the old and beat up House of the Dead arcade machine at the campsite reception. There was only one option left, I had to move on, had to figure out life without the technology I'd become so used to.
So what was the first step? I had to ask myself how people lived before the World Wide Web took over our day to day happenings. How was I going to find somewhere good to eat or an evening of decent entertainment? How does someone Google search the real world? I found the answer, not nearly as effortless, nor as informative as Google but entertaining none the less - Tourist Information.
For those of you unfamiliar with such places let me explain. Tourist Information is a quaint place, this one certainly was anyway, a sort of shack halfway up a hill adorned with various useless knick knacks that I was reliably told were all for sale, presumably for people with too much money and not much taste. Rather than having a search engine Tourist Information has a person, in this case a smiley little old lady. I didn't catch her name but it was probably Doris. Before I could start browsing Doris put me through a sort of initiation test whereby I was required to tell her my name, where I came from, how old I was, why I came to this part of the country and what I thought of the weather, all in all significantly less information than Apple want from me every time I update iTunes. After having successfully navigated the maze of questions and idle commentaries such as ‘It's not always raining like this' I was given permission to browse. Doris idly chit-chatted away as she pulled a variety of glossy and colourful sheets of paper from a large a shelf stacked full of them. The strange documents were relatively similar to web pages, big and varied typefaces, words punctuated by pictures and contact details should I need them. Try as I might though I couldn't for the life of me work out where the forums or user reviews were though. This meant my friends and myself had to use our own judgement about the qualities of these places and try to decipher the strange code the colourful documents used such as ‘rustic', which we quickly discovered is Tourist Information slang for ‘old and dilapidated' when we walked into our first ‘rustic' restaurant. Somehow using only the little information we had and our own judgement we were able to draw up a shortlist of things to do during the day such as go-karting, bowling, pool as well as some places to go during the evening like the local nightclub or comedy venue.
Another method we found for getting around the lack of internet was talking to people, strange though it was without a headset or keyboard we set about finding people we could talk to about our local surroundings. One such person was the most opinionated Dutch man I have ever met, he owned a pancake shop which was instantly appealing and would only take the tiniest bit of prompting to launch into a ten minute tirade about any given subject. Finding this amusing my friends and I took turns to see what topics we could get his incredibly detailed opinions on. Money, Politics, Weather, Sport, you name it we asked and he answered very thoroughly. This was good. I had found my user reviews and forums all rolled into one Dutch Pancake shop owner.
Having been given an extensively list of places to avoid we decided to eat at the only place our pancake serving guide hadn't mentioned a place that clearly wasn't created with smelly campers like us in mind, sat in a corner and waited on with an air of pomposity we dived into our meal and sipped our beers engaging in the only type of conversation we could without the internet available to tell us all that was new in the world, reminiscence. It was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, with most things we are all forward looking people and our normal discussions are about what is just around the corner or what we hope will happen in the not too distant future. I was reminded of things about my friends that I had always known but had somehow been overlooking such was the extent of our collective progressive nature, undoubtedly fuelled by internet culture where today's news is old news and everything must keep moving forward at a new and ever increasing pace.
It turned out that it wasn't a bad thing that I had lost my connection to the rest of the world, even though it was harder I'd had a lot of fun exploring my own significantly smaller world. It occurs to me now that Internet, video games and social networks are like any other good thing and that too much can lead to an unhealthy dependency and cause neglect of things that seem less important in the all encroaching glow of computer monitors and smart phone screens. Of course as soon as I could I was straight back on the internet but at least now I was a little a bit wiser and aware that a world without it wasn't the end of the world.
*The author of this blog would like to point out that he wrote this with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He is in fact slightly less socially retarded than he portrays himself in the above text.