“Can you imagine doing this without a phone?”
A question that has come up countless times since I began my adventures abroad. I took off on December 28th 2016 from San Francisco, and have since then explored seven countries with a major dependence on that small blue dot on my screen.
This question first entered my mind over Christmas break when my Grandma’s bf (go gram), did what most seasoned (old) people do and…talked…a lot. Which, honestly, I am more than okay with because old people have a right to tell stories. Just as kids have a right to ask dumbass questions because they don’t know anything about anything, old people have a similar right to tell stories because they know everything about everything. Which they don’t. But Jesus Christ, you don’t tell them that.
Anyway, back to the question. The question about technology entered my mind as he began to recount his experiences touring Europe in the early 70’s in a brand new yellow VW van with his first wife. Wait wait wait. Did you say 70’s? OG yellow VW van? I don’t think he was quite aware of the insane nostalgic, Tumblr porn he was casually spewing. I perked the fuck up as he laid out a typical day on the road:
Him and his wife (Dawn) would whip their van to the tune of Black Sabbath, whistling along to Pink Floyd in perfect key until coming across a camp filled with like-minded, tie-dye wearing, loose moral hippies like themselves. After a casual acid trip and floating around the fire in Levi bellbottoms, they would rise the next morning and simply decide as a group of strangers where their next destination should be. Once decided, they would simply caravan along to the next stop. HOOLIGANS!
Okay- a few disclaimers:
1. I have no idea what his first wife’s name is, but “Dawn” was #5 on “Most groovy names of the 70’s” when I Googled it
2. Pretty sure there was absolutely no acid involved being that his view on weed is “I could never do that stuff, made me feel funny”…which I am pretty sure is the point of weed but w/e
3. Honestly, about the only true detail of this story is the caravanning with strangers part, but bare with me b/c I was on my third glass of Rosé and I got excited as I was writing
The point I am trying to make is about trust. Trusting these strangers to lead them around Europe. Trusting the crinkled map in his glove box. Trusting a local on the side of the road after taking a wrong turn. The antiquated idea of trusting yourself to be in charge of your journey without the security blanket of a Google search bar in your pocket.
When I first landed at Heathrow Airport and bought a SIM card, I quickly learned three things:
1. Whoever tells you there is no language barrier in London is full of shit
2. It feels way less socially acceptable to ask someone to repeat what they are saying when you know they are speaking the same language as you
3. Just smile and nod
This is how I ended up with a SIM card that worked in a whopping two of the seven countries I visited throughout the next month. It wasn't until after my trip that I realized just how valuable this reality was. Being forcibly disconnected for the majority of my trip was the most disguised blessing I’ve ever encountered.
Now, I want you to understand that this is coming from someone who has Yelped everything down to public restrooms, and still Google Maps to my childhood dentist of 15 years. I love technology. I depend on technology. But, as I cordlessly traveled, I found something intrinsically beautiful about trusting your gut. Something rewarding about trusting the vibe of a restaurant just walking past. Something warming about stumbling upon a quaint café rather than mapping the closest Starbucks (or god forbid McCafé) for free wifi. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you fuck up and end up at a Mexican-Czech fusion restaurant in the middle of Prauge where they offer you the English menu before you even speak, but sometimes you find yourself eating the fattest schnitzel you’ve ever seen in a Vienna coffee shop surrounded by locals smoking mad men style inside and meet 3 film students in a polygamous relationship who give you a list of all the best underground, unmarked clubs in the city.
Who knows. I’m still working on finding my happy medium in the screen world, but I just don’t think a blue dot can lead you to shit like that.
PS. What are the chances I stumbled upon this babe while walking through Paris