Offline in Africa


Back in the so-called “developed world”, I used to be online 24/7, reading my e-mails on my smart phone, answering and chatting and whatsapping all the time… then I started my journey in Africa, and things changed overnight.

Suddenly, I was in the “developing world”, equipped with a “dumb phone” that had SMS, voice calls, a torch, an FM radio, a calculator, notes and an alarm clock. More than enough “apps”, as it turned out.

What were the results of living without the Internet in my personal life? The first 3 weeks were TERRIBLE.

Then I just noticed something: My life has become a lot more simple, a lot more quiet and peaceful. Not only had I more time for other things, e.g. reading books, listening to music, thinking, writing(!), but my way of living through the day has become a lot slower, and in many ways a lot more efficient!

I realized that heavy Internet use made my life inefficient.

However, after half a year, I also realized that NOT using the Internet AT ALL can also make my life inefficient in many ways.

Communication. The complete lack of connection cut me off the people I used to talk to regularly. I missed the conversations and the exchange of thoughts with them.

Information. Man is nothing without knowledge, and I really started to miss the ability of researching things online and get an instant answer to a question if I was curious about something. What I learned from it: access to information is crucial for me.
(Hereby, I definitely do NOT mean the daily news sites, with all the compressed horror of the world. I did not miss that kind of information for a second.)

Entertainment. Not that the main thing I missed in the middle of the desert was streaming the latest Hollywood movies. But in deed, once in a while I was craving for visual stimulation and a good story to watch.

Tools. The circumstances of my daily life have strongly influenced my choice of tools.

Back in the well-connected part of the world, I used to do everything in Google Docs: spreadsheets, documents, slides, forms, everything. If a thought crossed my mind, I quickly jotted it down on a blank page in Google docs, because I was online all the time. Now I work on offline copies in .numbers and .pages, backed up in Dropbox. However, Dropbox never actually updates itself so I am definitely running the danger of losing my data — that’s why I think that an external hard disk should be every traveler’s inseparable companion.

MacBook. Without an Internet connection, I started to use my MacBook differently. My writing style has become a lot more relaxed because of the lack of interruption. There are a couple of tools out there that enable you to voluntarily cut yourself off the Internet. I just had the natural version of it.

I also discovered Scrivener, and it has been my favorite writing tool ever since. It is the Writers’ Jedi Sword.

Right now, I try to find a balance between the two extremes. Surely, my Internet “consumption” habits have changed forever (never say never!), and I also try to find enough “offline” activities during the day, every day, so that I can live my life in a normal, physical way, just as I used to “pre-Web”, when I was a kid in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Have you experienced a similar transition during your travels?
How did traveling in “disconnected” places change YOUR relation to your usual environment back home?

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