I have returned from my holiday, a little softer after too many Sangrias, and a little browner after days of walking in the blazing Spanish sun.

Posing with some of the tat sold in souvenir shops.
The monkeys in Gibraltar trying to climb into our car!
Puerto Banus beach front

I had a good time – mostly we explored the touristy parts of the Costa del Sol, ate a lot of good food (including the best steak and onion pie and the best garlic chicken I’ve ever tasted), went swimming, read books by the pool, met some monkeys on the rock of Gibraltar, and learned a tiny bit of Spanish.

One major part of the week was the fact that I didn’t take my beloved iPhone with me, and so had no access to the internet.  I am an iPhone addict – I do the vast majority of my socialising, organising, and reading there. I wanted to try going for a week without the internet to see how I would manage, and whether it would encourage me to adopt a more mindful and patient attitude.  Here are the findings of my little experiment:

1. I found myself thinking about my activities in terms of how I’d tweet them, e.g. “Best. Garlic. Chicken. Ever. #somesortofwittyhashtag“.  Everything I did – all the outings, all the random observations – became  pithy 140-character tweets in my mind, and I began itching to share them with the world, no matter how mundane  (see this xkcd comic for a similar take on social media).  I didn’t even realise that my brain had started working in this way!  That’s, uh, quite worrying actually.

2. I put more effort into writing and reading when I didn’t have my phone glued to my hand.  Usually, I try to do too many things at once – reading with the TV on in the background, with my iPhone close to hand in case something interesting happens.  This means that my attention is diverted from the task at hand, and I can’t put enough concentration or effort into whatever it is I’m trying to do.  But when I found myself at the poolside with three options – write in my diary, people-watch, or stare into space like a lemming, my diary became a thing of great detail and beauty that commanded my full attention.  I managed to get a lot of writing and reading done, by my standards.

3. I couldn’t google things whenever I wanted to.  The waiters at our resort had this tendency to only speak to us in Spanish, and make us feel guilty for speaking English; if I’d had my iPhone I could’ve whipped it out and found out the Spanish for “two sangrias please”, or “please don’t scowl at me” (it’s “dos Sangrías por favor”, by the way. Just saved you a trip to google).  Without my iPhone, I had to find a Spanish to English dictionary in a shop in the next town along.

4. I couldn’t distract myself when doing briefly boring tasks, like peeing or queuing.  Usually I’d be on my iPhone, entertaining myself in this tiny period of time by flicking mindlessly through my various social media feeds.  But I had no distractions this week!  At first it was difficult, and almost counter-intuitive – I’d reach into my pocket for the iPhone that’s always there, and found nothing but an euro and a rolled-up tissue – but it felt fine after the first two days.  It takes me less than 30 seconds to pee, why would I even need to distract myself for such an insignificant amount of time?

5. I slept like a baby every night.  I even managed a kip on the red-eye flight home.  Usually falling asleep looks like this for me.

This morning I turned on my computer, a little excited about catching up on my email (because I’m a nerd like that), and a little nervous at how much I might have missed.  It turned out to take no time at all to “catch up” – I had 80 emails, most of which were junk, and one email on We Make Zines.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my habits this week.  It’s quite scary, how much I rely on technology to entertain me, and how little I actually get done as a result of this.  It’s like I’ve always got one eye on the phone, waiting for something interesting to happen.  I’m going to make an effort to turn my phone and my laptop off more often, because as entertaining as being online might be, it sucks my creative energy and my patience for anything that doesn’t refresh instantly.  I want to stay in touch with the calm, thoughtful part of my mind, even if only for a small portion of each day.

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