Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Switch Off Time

Half term saw us hurling down the M5 towards the lush green hills, valleys and coastline of South Devon for a camping trip with friends.  Before we left, I had pondered the possibility of charging up the ever present phone using the car charger in order to Be Connected, but then I stopped.  Do I really need a phone?  Do I really need to keep in touch with the outside world?  Would it hurt to just NOT for a few days? 

What would it be like to really switch off for five days?  No internet trawling, no Facebook, no Tweets, and absolutely no Instagramming of exciting random stuff?

Lets do this, I thought.  Let's get back to real life for a bit.

So, I switched off and we went to Exeter for a night, to wander around my old home town streets, and to catch up with some sorely missed, and well loved friends.

There was a bit of an itch going on at first, that habitual knee-jerk reaction to check messages, emails, play Scrabble, see what everyone was doing on social media....but it passed pretty quickly to be honest, and by the time we were in the sunny field pitching the tent with our friends, I actually forgot all about it and concentrated on lending a hand, talking and listening to the bird song and chatter of the children running about in the grass.

We took long walks through the dunes.  All the wandering paths create a sense of wonderful anticipation because you know that inevitably they will lead you to the sea.

Ahhhh...and there.  Stopping for a moment to listen to the breeze rushing through the grasses, a soft swishing sound accompanied by the call of oyster catchers over on the estuary to our left, and gulls crying high above the sea to our right.  And nothing else.

A gentle, and steady feeling of peace and tranquility pervaded my bones.  I took photographs on my camera instead of snapping happily away on my phone.

I became much more immersed in my surroundings.  Instead of being constantly diverted by beeps and tweets and the insane urge to document every living moment, I started to tuly live those moments.  There was a luxurious feeling of reality, of living life the way it used to be lived, before we all became gadget bound by technology.

I was a little surprised in a sense, because I had no idea that I had become so trapped by the various phones and pads I had in my life.  I was also amused.  

When you allow yourself to switch off, you slow down.  You really do.  You stop caring what people are having for tea or finding the need to photograph your food.  You don't think about the latest trending hashtag and how many Likes you have on your Facebook Page.  You stop wondering about emails - they can all wait, we're on holiday - and you just start being more present.  Switching off is like a meditation, but better.

I had better conversations without the distractions, I felt happier, I felt more peaceful and more connected with my actual life than I have done in ages.

We went to Dartmouth and spent a delightful few hours on the beach at Blackpool Sands.  The water here is like crystal - we sat by the edge of the sea and listened to the rhythmical shushing sounds as it gently pushed and pulled its waves over the shingle shore.

We drove to Dartmouth town afterwards for ice-cream and a wander around the lovely little shops and streets.  Dartmouth is very, very beautiful and the River Dart is chocablock with sailing boats; the rigging tinkles and snaps in the wind, such a magical sound which I associate with memories of living on the coast. The river mouth eventually opens out to the sea, and either side of this pretty waterway is clustered with pastel coloured cottages and houses among the trees.

There are two ferries too, to take you back and forth across the river, and the Steam Train still runs along its scenic track.

One of the lovely finds in Dartmouth is Baxter's Gallery.  Our visit coincided with their Spring exhibition - it was good to see some work by friends of mine on show, including Andrea Berry, Janet Bell and Kirsty Elson amidst all the other wonderful pieces by talented artists and makers!

After admiring the art work and having a nice chat with the gallery owner, Sarah, we left to have a final wander about the town before returning home to camp.

After five days of fresh air, sleeping under the stars and waking with the dawn chorus and excited children, we reluctantly packed up and set off for home.

Here are a few things I absolutely adore about camping and escaping technology:

It being OK to wander around a field in your pyjamas with strangers and nobody bats an eyelid.

Cooking outside - Rob rustled up some beautiful fresh sea bass on the BBQ which we enjoyed with new potatoes and crunchy salad.  Food tastes immense outdoors on a warm sunny evening!

Keeping it simple.  Paring back on things we use everyday at home and just going with the basics - soap, flannel, toothbrush, pillow, sleeping bag....

Drifting off to sleep listening to a lonely owl hooting in the woods.

Being outside at 11pm and seeing millions of stars in a clear, navy blue sky.

Talking and connecting in real life, with real people.

Feeling relaxed and happy.

Have you ever taken a break from technology?  How did you find it?  Did you like it?  Why not share your experiences here in the comments?  I will definitely do it again, and it's made me more aware of how much time I spend using computers and phones etc.  I plan to figure in more time to switch off at home on a regular basis, just to reconnect and be still again.
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