As Labor Day approaches, many of us are making plans for the last three day weekend of the summer. My husband and I considered flying into a remote family retreat for rest and relaxation called Pistol Creek Ranch. While the logistics are not going to work for these dates, I was reminded that one reason I enjoy this location is that we live basically technology free: zero cell phone reception and very limited internet.
After returning from Pistol Creek Creek Ranch in the summer of 2015, I researched and wrote about the benefits of taking a technology free holiday. Three years later, these reasons remains the same, but have incrementally become more exasperated because our personal lives are now reliant on smart phones for various daily activities including communication, sharing data, providing information and expediting processes.
Next week I am still taking a holiday, but it will be a vacation from technology for the hours surrounding one of the most joyful experiences in my life: the stable. I will start with my almost daily luxury of enjoying a Starbuck's cappuccino during my drive to the barn. Instead of pre-ordering/tipping using an APP, I will walk into the store to place my order and interact with the baristas. My phone will remain in my backpack and checking texts, online orders, emails and posting on social media will be stopped. The APP I use to track physical activity while I ride using my Iwatch will be disabled. Instead, I will focus on being present, unwinding and better recognizing the people and experiences that bring pure enjoyment to my life.
Adaptation of post published July 2015
PISTOL CREEK RANCH
Over 30 years ago, my in-law’s purchased a ramshackle house in Idaho’s Pistol Creek Ranch. A former homestead located on private land on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness Area, Pistol Creek Ranch consists of a limited number of home sites and can only be accessed by flying or rafting in. With four children and a hectic Southern California life, this was a special place for them to connect and bond with family and friends for several weeks during the summer months.
In August of 2000, an intense forest fire engulfed 21 of 29 structures at Pistol Creek Ranch. My husband recalls flying in to access the damage later that year in October and described the experience as walking on the moon because every footstep raised a puff of ash. Embers were smoldering out of tree trunks and all that remained of the cabin was a tin cup of items.
My in-laws were the first family to take on the task of rebuilding and they worked closely with the U.S. Forest Service to create structures that were built in an architectural genre representative of the 1930’s mountain west. Every item had to either be air lifted or floated to the location and to this day, every part and tradesman required for repairs must be flown in. What now exists is a solitary refuge from outside communication, yet the comforts of a modern home.
Going “off grid “has different interpretations and is a relative term. My immediate family uses the term to describe a disconnection from outside communication. At Pistol Creek, we have no cell service or easily accessible Wi-Fi and power is generated using alternative energy. When we leave for Pistol each year, I explain to friends, family, and business associates that we are going “off-grid” and I will not be able to be reached.
Just 5 years ago when I was still on a corporate track, I felt TOTALLY disconnected because I had no cell service and each day I found it necessary to go to the manager’s area to access emails using dial up connection. Today, the home has limited Wi-Fi connectivity, but it is painfully slow and the allotment of time is extremely limited.
OBSERVATIONS & LESSONS LEARNED
Visiting the ranch generated some huge behavioral observations. It was my first trip with a singular teenager to this remote spot, much less an individual that truly has not lived in a world without internet or cell connection. My stepdaughter’s personality was much more prevalent because we spent one-on-one time together and she did not have the distraction of communicating with friends using Snapchat or texting.
I was much more relaxed and slept better because I was totally independent from business connectivity, including social media. My husband was the only person whose stress level did not lower because he was communicating externally; originally due to some issues with the home’s power system, which then led to additional discussions via Internet.
The benefits of modern technology are valuable, but disconnecting is also important. I challenge everyone to disconnect for an afternoon, a day or even a weekend. Here are my top 4 reasons:
1) Smartphone Use and Anxiety and Stress
“Preliminary research is coming out of Great Britain investigating the relationship between technology (smartphone use) and anxiety and stress. Early reports suggest those individuals who use their smartphones more frequently also experience higher stress levels. ” (1)
Very candidly, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder years ago and I found I was much more relaxed by not having use of my Iphone. As I mentioned earlier, my husband’s stress level never diminished, as he remained connected.
Typically I sleep with my IPhone next to me. Upon unpacking and organizing our provisions for the week, I decided to take a quick nap. I ended up sleeping from 1 pm until almost 6 pm, which is unheard for me. After dinner I went to bed and did not wake until the morning. The ability to check my email, social media or return calls was totally removed, thus allowing me to mentally decompress.
According to Wayne Conn, a sleep coordinator at Texoma Medical Center, using your phone right before bed is unhealthy. “Checking your phone before bed and keeping it close by as you sleep is now believed to cause serious sleep problems, which could lead to poor health…It wakes the brain up. It gets you overstimulated and you're not going to be able to fall asleep," he said. "It's almost like a two year old that's really excited for a birthday party.” (2)
3) Being Present
“Being Present is what we experience when we are completely at peace with this very moment. It is a life journey where we constantly grow our inner peace.
Our feelings are calm. Our reflexes are fast. Our mind is clear. We are decisive. We know what we want. We know what’s right for us. We perform our best – public speaking, sports, music, relating to people. Our confidence is deep. We know and accept that we’re not perfect. This lets us be real. We accept we have faults and we own them.“ (3)
Without the distraction of my IPhone, I was much more present in almost all daily activities including exercising, eating, conversations, and recognizing the beauty of the outdoors.
4) Social Interaction
“Research demonstrates that phones are eroding our ability to communicate in face-to-face dialogue and reducing family conversation,” Saunders Medlock says. “Gone are the days of sitting together at a table and asking the simple question of ‘how was your day?’ (4)
Communication with teenagers can be frustrating because their normal is non-verbal using texts and Snapchap. The reality is that they were raised post-internet and cell phones. Adults, though, have adopted a behavior that is often adverse to holding face-to-face conversations. Texting is definitely time saving and productive, but when used incorrectly can lead to misinterpretation and evasive and/or passive-aggressive behaviors.
I remain ADAMENT that the difficult conversations should be made in person or at the very least over a phone a call. We need to remember to lead by example to demonstrate the importance of effective verbal conversation.
Technology is a tool, but relationships are invaluable.
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