I’ve been to Cuba where I had my first digital detox. I went with an old friend who was my lecturer when I did my degree. We kept in touch after I graduated and until last summer when we found each other again (thanks Facebook!), the last time I saw her, her daughter was 3 months old. When we met up again last summer, it turns out that that daughter is now 25 and has two younger siblings. My friend and I hadn’t spoken for 25 years!
Kathryn drove from Chester to see me last summer. Before we finished our first cup of tea, she said that she really fancied going to Cuba, but that no one wanted to go with her. I said I’d go and we booked it there and then. We left Manchester on 30 March for Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and then Havana. I was so looking forward to it.
We landed in Holguin, the sun was out and there was a light breeze. The temperature was around 24 degrees, it was a perfect day. I switched my phone back on and immediately, it buzzed with a text message, telling me that one of my daughters had split up with her boyfriend of two years. With calls from my mobile at £3 a minute to make and £1.25 to receive, I didn’t need a long, sad call. Even texts were 50p each and so we got to our hotel and set off to find some internet access.
In Cuba, you can buy wifi access from the government supplier for £1.50 for an hour. First, you have to join a queue (which, I discovered, can take up to an hour to get through) to buy a voucher. Then, you use the 12 digit username and scratch off the covering of the 12 digit password to log in; if you can actually get onto the right page to do so. It took me ages the first time. Well over 30 minutes of trying again and again to reach the login page. Eventually, I managed to get internet access and talk to my girls via Messenger, although by now they were in bed and wanting to sleep. Suffice it to say that we had the opportunity to call the ex-boyfriend a few choice names and for me to ascertain that they were both ok (even if one was sad too!).
Woman Of The World
Over the next two weeks, it became a habit of mine to walk to the closest wifi connection place after breakfast and spend about 15 minutes chatting to my daughters via Messenger. For the first several days, I fretted about them both and about the general lack of connectedness. I hadn’t realised just how much time I spend ‘plugged into the mother-ship’. I panicked about my Monday Morning Motivator not going out (it’s my weekly newsletter and I rarely miss a week) and my blog post being unwritten. I’d taken technology with me in the certain knowledge that whipping up both blog post and newsletter wouldn’t be a problem. I had some vague notion of this ‘woman of the world’ who could work from anywhere; Cuban coffee in one hand, iPad in the other…..
It transpired that this was not the case. The iPad didn’t want to connect at all. My phone would connect eventually, but the connection was wholly inadequate for work purposes and so I had to stop. It took a few days, but I did indeed stop. I stopped trying to find places to give getting online another go. I stopped worrying that the world would end for everyone without an email from me or without me writing a blog post. I stopped rushing and started strolling. I stopped thinking ahead and started thinking in the now.
I stopped rushing and started strolling.
I stopped thinking ahead and started thinking in the now.
We drank fabulous coffee and I practiced my Spanish on the locals (Kathryn’s Spanish was non-existent at the start of the holiday and, hilariously, equally non-existent at the end!). We queued in shops to buy things to take back to our apartment to cook. We wandered around old Havana and ate delicious food. And we talked. We talked and talked and talked.
I remembered how very fond I am of my friend. I learned of her life over the last 25 years, I told her about mine. We laughed, occasionally I laughed hysterically. She made a pack of cards – I cried laughing at the pictures of Jack, Queen and King – and then we played whist with them, which was harder than you might imagine because all suits were ‘biro blue’ in colour
In short, we digitally detoxed and it was fun. My daughters survived, of course, and were very pleased to see me when I came home.
I have to say that I am not about to rush back to somewhere with poor communications for the next wee while, but I realise how very different our lives are with the advent of digital everything. I’m not complaining. I like the internet and the connectedness that we have. I love that I can bank online and pay for car parking with apps on my smartphone. I don’t think twice about googling something that I need to know or to find a great place to eat locally. I use online sites (like this one) all the time and I think I would be poorer without them.
However, I will never again worry about not being connected if I’m away. I also won’t assume that I will be able to get a connection from anywhere, at any time.