Manual Me

This is a follow-up on a previous post, e-Me.

On Saturday morning, I’ll be jumping on a Korean Air flight to the Philippines. This will be my first new destination since my spring trip to Europe in 2008. I remember when I went on that trip, I had made the conscious decision to leave behind my cell phone, but I had had no other notable pieces of technology to consider. About a week into my journey, I noticed how liberating it was to be without the electronic leash that my cell phone had become.

With this in the back of my mind, I started deliberations over what was strictly necessary for my trip. I started with my laptop: which turned out to be a quick and decisive “No.” While it would be useful for blogging, I could just as easily find an Internet cafe, not lug my computer around, and not worry about an expensive piece of technology finding legs and disappearing. Additionally, my computer is too much of a black hole as is; I far too often find myself sitting down at my laptop to study Korean or write a blog post, only to find that I’ve wasted hours doing nothing that could be considered even slightly productive. My vacation will be too short as is, the last thing I need to do is waste time in front of a computer screen. Any and all writing will be done with a pen and paper first, and then transferred to a computer when I get around to it.

Next on the docket: my Kindle. This was also a quick “No.” I’m not sure what makes sitting on a beach with an actual book intrinsically better than sitting with an e-book, but I’m fairly certain it is. I know that I feel a connection with actual books that my Kindle just does not provide. Books offer a certain tactile satisfaction that no e-book can provide. I will not need to have a library at my fingertips. Instead, I will bring along a few good books and work through them at my own pace. Instead of my Kindle, I’ll be bringing Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945 (some of you may remember my very positive review of his history on the battle of Stalingrad), Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut and The Lonely Planet guide on the Philippines.

My ipod was the toughest decision, but again I decided to do without. We are such visual creatures that we often diminish the importance of our other senses. Sometimes it is nice just to mindlessly listen to music while going on a nice stroll through town, but I would only be doing myself a disservice. I need to hear the birds in the trees, the waves against the shore, and the people on the streets just as much as I need to taste the local cuisine, and see the local sights.

On seeing the sights, that brings us to the one piece of technology I will lug along: my camera. It is said that the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory, and indeed, this is why I write. It is also said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and if this is also true, than it is one thousand times more vital that I bring a camera than a pencil. I’m not sure about this exact calculation, but the point remains.

Along this line of reasoning, I am left to wonder where experience is on this scale? Narratives are merely the filtered perceptions of the observer, not actually applicable to anyone else; although we might relate to certain authors more than others, our experiences are each unique onto ourselves. And while pictures might be stunning and capture a certain truth about their origin, they too are subject to interpretation and filtering. While pictures are considered necessary for creating lasting memories, these memories are incomplete on their own. Pictures never capture the complete story.

Clearly, having the experiences is the most important aspect of any vacation, and for this reason, I’m leaving the technology–spare my camera–at home. Technology should help to heighten experiences, not take away from them. As the years go on, it is becoming more difficult to escape the digital age. At some point very recently, the question went from “Should I take my computer with me?” To, “Should I leave my computer at home?” I should be thankful it’s a question at all, because soon I fear it might not be.

I may or may not update this blog while on vacation, but I will certainly write. I hope that a week in tropical paradise with nothing but books, pen and paper will be as liberating and relaxing as it sounds.

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