I can’t hear you now: reflections from being without a cell phone

This is another post I’ve been meaning to get up since getting back from France. Aside from a few cultural and linguistic barriers, one of the main experiences I had was living without a cell phone. Ever since high school I’ve almost always had a cell phone on me and with the new LG Voyager I got earlier this year I regularly use it for texts, pictures, mobile web, and yes voice calls. It’s like an extra appendage. Thanks to Verizon though, it was absolutely useless in France and although I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a French sim card I just didn’t think it was worth it. Being phoneless for a month though made me realize some things.

The first thing you notice (other than lighter pockets) is that you actually have to make plans. You can’t just call up or text someone on demand to meet somewhere or do something. Instead, you have to talk to people ahead of time and plan out when and where you want to meet. That brings me to my second observation: landmarks become so much more important. Maybe it’s because Paris has so many of them, but it makes finding people a heck of a lot easier if you’re meeting by Notre Dame or the Louvre. Also, that nice watch you wear on your wrist becomes a little bit more than just a fashion accessory since you can’t rely on your phone for the time. It also means you need to find an alternate way to wake up in the morning (including using an actual alarm clock). I think the key take takeaway here is how powerful and important these little devices have become. A cell phone isn’t just a phone anymore, it’s an all in one survival kit.

As inconvenient as it was sometimes, living cell free for a while wasn’t all bad. It definitely helps slow down the pace of life a little bit. You don’t feel constantly tethered to the outside world and it lets you focus on things around you. For the most part, I also felt safe enough in Paris to go most places without feeling like I needed a cell phone for safety (although it could’ve been helpful when lost in the Louvre). I couldn’t imagine myself going through everyday life at BC or at work (or London) without a cell phone, but for a few weeks with a small group of people on a pseudo-vacation? Yeah I think I can do without.

Can you hear me now? Nope.

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