I spent the better part of yesterday digging out from under a pile of emails, calls and messages that had piled up while I was totally offline last week. And by totally offline I mean connecting to anything but the people in my immediate vicinity was the only option for communicating. Absolutely zero cell coverage beyond a satellite phone which was reserved only for emergencies that, thankfully, was never used.
This “unplugging” wasn’t part of some grand scheme to reconnected with myself or shed a debilitating digital addiction; rather, it was the result of a commitment I made to a small group of neighborhood kids over 6 months ago.
Each year the local scout troop in our neighborhood pulls together something known as a “Super Trip” in which the boys push themselves to complete a physical challenge spanning an entire week. This year’s Super Trip was to be a 50 mile hike through a section of the Wind River range in Wyoming. I had never been to the Winds, as they’re known, but had heard stories of their majesty, fickleness and, yes, their total remoteness from what we know as civilization.
I’ll spare you the details of the trip and the drama that unfolds when you throw 3 adults, 7 kids and 6 goats into the backcountry. But, needless to say, it was a transformative experience for all of us.
As we packed up the cars Saturday morning and began our drive back to the paved roads that marked not only civilization, but connectivity I began to think about the impact the week had on both myself and the kids. Given there were not games for them to play on their phones, no Snapchats to send, or Instagram photos to like, we just talked- a lot. Nicknames were bestowed, inside jokes were born, even campfire songs were sung. And in the midst of all of that, deep connections were formed. Strangers became friends and walls that separated cliques began to crack and crumble. To top it off, we didn’t lose a single person in our party to social media withdrawals.
So as our car rolled onto Highway 121 I couldn’t help but reflect on a week disconnected. As the messages started pouring in and my phone began to light up once again, I thought to myself about how the week had changed me.
All throughout I never longed to check email or see what was breaking on Twitter. I was content to be present, undistracted, in the moment. Rumor had it that one of the 4 mountain passes we summited allowed for cell reception. Yet, upon reaching the peak I had no interest in proving or disproving the rumor. Instead we whooped and hollered as a group and continued down the other side.
As we hit Evanston, en route to SLC a thought occurred to me to Be Changed.
What that means to me is that it would be very easy to slip back into old patterns upon returning home. To continually flip out my phone to check on the latest virtual happenings at the expense of what’s happening in the real world around me.
It would be a shame to have passed through such a rich and challenging experience just to revert back to the person I was and the habits I held before.
So, as I work through this backlog of digital todos and distractions I am reminding myself to Be Changed and allow myself to evolve beyond the person I was before I stepped onto that Big Sandy Trailhead.