We’re experiencing a first this weekend: Going camping. As a family. Sounds fun, right? I’m cautiously optimistic.
With the exception of an ill-fated Girl Scout weekend (the temperature plunged and we only had a pair of those flimsy princess sleeping bags), I haven’t been camping since I was a kid, and things have changed a lot since then. I remember the merciless teasing my mom endured for bringing along a battery-powered makeup mirror. Looking back on it now, I’m not amazed she brought a battery-powered gadget, but that she took the trouble to put on makeup on the banks of the Salmon River in Idaho.
Today, camping is a whole new world, and that seems wrong to me somehow. Shouldn’t getting back to nature be the same from generation to generation? It isn’t. We’ve entered the age of iCamping. A quick glance at our duffel bags reveals so many digital gizmos, I’m embarrassed to list them all. Here’s a sampling: two iPods, two iPhones, a Nintendo DSs, an electric razor, a battery-operated fan, a battery-operated lantern, a digital watch that’s water-resistant to 100 feet, should we decide to go scuba diving in the river. Even the simple compass my dad carried in his ever-fashionable fanny pack has been replaced by a Global Positioning System. When my husband threatened to bring his laptop, I finally put my foot down.
What’s the point of going camping if we schlep all this stuff with us? And it’s not like we’re going for a three-month trek through the wilderness. We’re talking about one night. Twenty-four hours. Not even long enough to fill up an email Inbox.
After my attack of idealism, I culled through our bags and limited our gadgets to one cell phone, a watch, and a flashlight. That’s not so bad, right? I couldn’t bear the thought of my kids watching Aliens in the Atticon their iPods inside the tent instead of enjoying the campfire. But the whole exercise has me wondering, does anybody ever truly get away anymore?
I know I don’t, at least not very often. As an author, I work for myself, as does my husband. The autonomy is great, but on the other hand, there’s the feeling of always being on call, never really getting off the electronic leash.
I wonder if the average American family has lost the ability to just pack up and get on the road, get back to nature. If so, that’s a shame. I think we could all use some time away from our digital devices. A whole day seems like heaven. Sometimes I sit in restaurants watching people chat away on their cell phones and wonder if even getting people away from their iPhones and BlackBerries long enough to share a meal is a fantasy.
What do you think? Is there something to be said for forcing your family to go offline every now and then? Or am I fighting a losing battle here?
I’d love to hear your opinions. And one lucky commenter will win a signed copy of my latest release UNTRACEABLE. Good luck to all of you. And wish me luck as I head off for a digital-free weekend!