Tag Archives: technology

8 Ways to Unplug Everyday


Sometimes its best to enjoy nature with a friend.

Last week I questioned whether it was even possible anymore to unplug ourselves from the great Cosmic Technology outlet. The responses were interesting.

One of my FB friends simply responded with NO. It isn’t possible for him, apparently.

Another offered up a thoughtful response. But the irony was not lost on me when that same friend retweeted my post. On Twitter. On the Internet. Probably from her computer. Or maybe from her phone, which is probably worse. It is getting hard to get away from all this technology that was supposed to make our lives easier, proving more time for leisure and recreation. For some its nearly impossible.

My step-daughter recently posed a question to me. Would I rather lose my foot or lose the Internet for everyone. Before she asked me the question she told me she thought she knew my response. So before I answered I asked her what she thought I’d say. She figured I’d go for the lost foot. I explained that the Internet is not actually a necessity–like food and water. Or even an almost necessity, like walking.

She begged to differ. She reminded me of the parameters of her proposal. I could save the Internet, nay THE WORLD, by just giving up my foot. I could even wait until I was OLD to lose my foot.

“Do you mean when I’m 90 or do you mean next year?” I asked. It’s important to clarify when engaging in hypotheticals. Especially with a 10 year old. She said I could wait until I was 90 to lose my foot and save the world.

I stuck with my original answer–no way in Hell would I give up my foot for the freaking Internet. She was shocked. She reminded me that her entire life had been shaped by the Internet. I groaned. We are going to have to spend some serious time outside this summer. Without our phones. Without our iPads. Without our earbuds. This is getting serious.

So, I want to offer some tips of getting unplugged. It’s too hard to go cold turkey these days.

  1. Set your email to vacation mode, even if you aren’t going on vacation. No one will know.
  2. Go out on an errand and leave your phone at home.
  3. Do not look at Facebook today. Resist the urge to post a photo of that man walking down the street in the superhero costume. Just take a mental snapshot and tell a real-life friend about it in person. Perhaps in a coffee shop. Use your hands to gesticulate. Talk in a loud voice. Call attention to yourself. You’ll be better off for it and you might actually have others genuinely interested in your story.
  4. Take your old-school camera for a walk in nature. Notice the dew on flower petals; pay attention to the quality of the light; listen to the birds or other creatures. Take at least twenty pictures, ones that require you to focus and pay attention. Do NOT hold the camera away from your face and take a picture of yourself for your Facebook profile.
  5. Pet your cat without your video camera at the ready. Yes your cat might do something incredibly strange and worthy of the world’s best cat video. But chances are you won’t get 3 million views on your youtube account anyways. And really, who cares? The point of having a pet is that they need/love you even when you’re being weird.
  6. Go outside. Go to the mountains, the rivers, the beach. Find your happy place and resist the urge to share it on social media. Just be there. Absorb it rather than being a conduit for the virtual world. Better yet, bring along a friend/loved one/total stranger to share the experience.
  7. Try a new sport. Of course I have to mention skiing here, the ultimate HOLY COW I BETTER PAY ATTENTION sport. But there’s also surfing and kayaking and pinochle.
  8. Take up a new hobby that requires all your attention. Think birdwatching or knitting or roller derby, anything that occupies your entire mind. The trick is to come up with NEW hobbies every once in a while. Or take your old hobby and push yourself a little. Get out of the HO HUM and into the HOLY CRAP, I REALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION phase every once in a while. I suggest something challenging. Like slack lining. Or Karaoke.

Bonus*** Now its your turn. How do YOU unplug? (I do see the irony in commenting on a post–on your computer, on the Internet–about ways to get away from your computer and the Internet.) Just promise that as soon as you share your ideas you will then turn off and unplug, even for a few minutes today. After you share this post on all your social media outlets, of course.

Does technology help or hinder backcountry rescue?


Last week, the NYT published an article about National Park visitors using cellphones and other technology during their recreation trips. 

One woman, a visitor at Yellowstone video taped her husband’s close encounter with a buffalo.  She even joked “Watch Donald get gored.”  Turns out, the buffalo attacked her, causing bruises and other minor injuries.

The author of the article goes on to discuss other misguided tourists.  One family, while backpacking into the Grand Canyon, sent out an emergency signal on their personal satellite messaging device, calling in a helicopter because their water “tasted salty.” 

These tourists are certainly taxing the patience and funds of rescuers.   The “salty water” family sent out a total of three emergency signals, all of which were non-life threatening situations.  On the third helicopter assist, the rescuers gave them no choice.  The bothersome family had to return home. 

However, my experience as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain refutes the examples given in this article.  Last year alone, several backside searches were aided by the injured party’s cellphone calls. 

One man, skiing alone just outside the boundary of the ski area, got caught in an avalanche and severely injured.  It was late in the day and getting dark.  He was partially buried in deep snow, suffering from broken bones and internal injuries and no one knew where he was. 

He was able to extract his cellphone from his breast pocket (only his upper body was out of the avalanche debris) and make a call.  Fortunately for him, he had the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol number programmed into his phone.  He called our dispatch and within minutes help was on the way. 

Without that phone, it may have been a few hours before anyone knew he was missing.  If he didn’t have good cellphone coverage, we wouldn’t have received a call at all.  Perhaps his wife would have called 911, the patrol may have left for the day, and it would have been too dark to search by helicopter.  Instead, the ski patroller on duty would have initiated a search, and wouldn’t have even known where to start. 

Certainly the buffalo videotaper and the “salty water” family used their technology irresponsibly.  Backcountry travellers should never substitute an emergency satellite locator or a cell phone for good common sense and preparedness. 

Perhaps it is the proliferation of survival shows that have jump-started this surge in ill-prepared backcountry travel.  One of the examples sited in the article was the death of two young men who tried to navigate Utah’s Virgin River on a log raft.  They were video-taping the trip as an entry into the Man vs. Wild competition.  They had no prior whitewater experience.

I’m the first to admit that Bear Grylls is fun to watch.  And not just because he can catch a salmon with his bare hands or float a crocodile-infested river on a hand-made raft.  Let’s face it.  Bear Grylls is hot. 

But he does his homework.  And he has experience.  But most importantly, what any backcountry traveller needs is good judgement.  No amount of rescue technology is going to save you from bad judgement.

But cell phones should be considered an essential piece of equipment in the backcountry.  Just like Bear always has his huge Crocodile Dundee knife and a piece of flint to start a fire, so should we all carry a cell phone and the judgement not to ever need it.

Here’s the link to the article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/science/earth/22parks.html