I got tired of spending my precious time on my smartphone.
And however hard I tried, every time the screen lit up or I heard the buzzing sound, I just had to check what it was about.
So I decided to just leave my phone at home while I went on vacation to my childhood home.
(Read more about why I decided to go off the grid...)
Getting from point A to point B was easier then I thought. Of course, I had printed out two train schedules from Google Maps so I knew exactly at what time my trains were and from which platform they would leave.
If I missed one of the trains, I had a back-up schedule printed out. And I had my sisters phone number written down in case I needed to let her know I would be arriving late.
I needed no such things.
I also bought my train tickets online and saved 26 euros. I am painfully aware that I wouldn't have been on time and would have payed more if I didn't have a smartphone or internet at all. Ever.
During the following days I read a lot more, I probably read almost every time I normally would be scrolling on my phone:
I read when I woke up in the morning, on public transport, before falling asleep, when sitting down on the couch after a long walk or after dinner..
Spending quality time offline has never been a problem for me. I am mostly on my phone when I am at home, and even though my phone and countless apps help me with my work, it gets in the way of my productivity.
In restaurants with my fiancé or my friends I am not the one that checks their cellphone or needs to show pictures or video's to keep entertained.
But the release I felt once I didn't feel the need to take a picture of every moment of my life was great. Yes, I wanted to document my vacation, and that's why I had an analog and an instant camera with me. But film is expensive, and so I had to be picky.
I didn't have a camera with me all the time. I took one with me when we went for a walk sometimes or if we went somewhere with Q, like the tiny theme-park where my parents took my sister and me when we were his age.
I took four pictures that day, and just enjoyed going down slides, riding the rollercoaster and eating ice-creams.
I went for long walks, bicycle rides, had water fights with my nephew Q and read my book on a beach by the lake.
My new morning routine was being woken up by Q, prepare breakfast for the two of us, turn on the television for him while I continue reading my book. And than we would get ready for the day.
Yes, sometimes I felt excluded. When I left my book in my room in the attic and I found myself sitting next to my sister and her husband catching up with local news and messages from friends and family, I would sit there, wondering if I should get my book, or if in five minutes the phones would be put away. this was mostly in the evening when Q was in bed, and I was surrounded by adults again.
Now I know, that I do this every day too. When I have my smartphone with me, I often check if anything has changed online... I check my instagram, my email, facebook, messenger, WhatsApp, telegram and reply to any messages I might find here. And before I know it, my hair is gray and my skin all wrinkled.
I called my fiancé, and then I wrote him a letter:
I tried to call you tonight. In lack of a land-line phone, both at your end as mine, I used my sister's phone. You seemed a bit agitated. But that's probably because you were working. I didn't know. At least I got to hear your voice.
If it were an actual land-line I would have heard nothing but an endless dial tone, mocking me.
We did not talk for long. All you could say was where you were, and that I should try again tomorrow.
I don't have any problems not having a phone on me, except for this. I can not share my day with you or hear your voice. Hear your silent smile between the "I love yous".
I will have so many things to tell you when I se you again. Like how I took Q to the playground today. We went just the two of us. And how he gave me fourteen kisses this morning.
My parents arrived when I was pimping up the sidewalk with chalk together with Q and his neighbour.
We had chips for dinner, and everyone had an ice-cream after. Except me, you know me. I was the only one who ate some tomatoes though. You know me, I need my veggies.
I read another few chapters of my book. I'm almost at the end now.
Oh! Lonan (my dog, but who has always stayed with my parents because that's his home.) had surgery to have most of his teeth removed. He feels better now, still cute as ever.
Even without his teeth he is still perfect.
With Leonie I watched a movie I wanted to watch with you. It's good that I didn't, because you would have hated it. Another bad choice, haha.
Before you hung up the phone you asked me to call you back tomorrow and you said:
"Je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime, je t'aime."
Needless to say, the most difficult part was not being able to simply call him and share my day with him, hear what he did with his, and tell each other all the lovely words before you fall asleep.
When we came to pick him up from the bus station on day 6, everything changed: All of us went to my parents house to stay a few days around dad's birthday, there were more of us now and I didn't have any time to read anymore, or write in my journal. Fiancé had his laptop with him, so even though I still didn't use the internet to check my social media and e-mails, we would watch episodes of Friends on Netflix at the end of the night.
I still enjoyed every single moment being offline, and wasn't tempted one bit to turn on my phone. (F had taken it with him, in case I would need or want it for some reason.)
There was a day we went to a lake to cool down, we all got into the water, started a water fight and threw the ball around... We tried to fly a kite but there wasn't enough wind. I think maybe after all that I read one chapter of a new book I started reading. (I finished the first one when I was still sleeping at my sisters home.) And that afternoon I completely forgot to take pictures. Not one.
But I do have instant photos from that same lake when I went there two years ago.
But there is a downside to all that careless time spent with my family.
Before I left, I simply shared a message on facebook to contact me at my parents home, or leave me a message there so I could call them back.
Because I moved 10 years ago, I have few friends left around there. And usually I go see the ones I do have left, every time I go see my parents.
Upon arrival back in Brussels I read the words from friends trying to contact me. Maybe they thought I would check the desktop. But I didn't.
Did I get what I wanted?
Yes and no. I didn't get to see any of my friends but I wanted to have a relaxed vacation and I did:
I read two books, didn't waste precious time scrolling through my instagram feed and wasn't curious about "likes" and reactions on any of the social media platforms. What a relieve, I talked more, played more, felt more relaxed.
Now that I am back I still spend quite some time on my phone, and I haven't read more than a few chapters in my new book. But when I post something on my instagram I don't go back very often to see if anyone commented. I sometimes leave the house without my phone for short trips, or I turn of the internet function for several hours.
So there has been some change, and I am more aware of the time I spend online. Also I discovered I started using the platforms in a different way:
I scroll less and use the "direct message" feature more. Both on facebook and on instagram. So there is more direct contact, and it has gotten more personal. Also, I have had more video-chats with friends than I did before.
I guess you could say that my social media has gotten more social.
About the photos:
I took my old "Russian Tank" Zenit 12xp with Kodak 35mm film and a fun Lomography instant camera: the instax mini8 by Fujifilm.
My four year-old nephew didn't understand my analog camera at first, and absolutely wanted to see the picture I took, the second after I took it.
After explaining to him how the old camera works he was intrigued and didn't mind posing. He also wanted to see the film that had to go inside, so a few days later I showed him how to unload and load a new roll of film.
He also took a few pictures:
"You can not see it yet, you have to take it to the photoshop first. Right?"