Why I Wish I Could Time-Travel This Summer

In the hyper-digital age that we now live in, it can be difficult — even for those of us who are not digital natives — to remember a time before the internet and screens of all kinds were an indelible part of our daily lives. When I look at children these days, I find it amazing how much of their routine, education and entertainment is tied to a screen. Or, for that matter, how much of my routine is also dependent and driven by screens. Recently I found myself with a few free hours on a weekend, and decided to look through some photo albums in my family home. While it was really wonderful to go back down memory lane and see moments from my childhood with my friends and loved ones, what it really made me think about is the fact that we lived life so differently back then.

I had to really jog my memory and spend time thinking about what life was like before the mobile phone, the internet, and this world wide connectivity. And the words that came to me first were simple and mindful. I truly believe that we lived in the moment, lived in rhythm with the world and with one another. We got bored sometimes but never used that word in a bad way — the sense of emptiness always let creativity kick in and we’d find ways to stay occupied, to stay alert.

Take, for instance, summer holidays in the 1980's and early 1990's. We may not have traveled as easily and as widely, but there was a sense of adventure and discovery to our trips that the internet has taken away now. The discovery of an uncharted city, forest, town, or country felt more serendipitous and less planned because we didn’t have the tools we have now. Losing oneself in a neighborhood and having to figure a way out through sign language and garbled directions. Ordering dishes at a restaurant and finding new favorites. Allowing life to take us somewhere instead of setting coordinates on a map.

I know I am looking through those times with rose-tinted glasses, and with the fondness of nostalgia but I cannot help it in these languid summer days. I do miss the uncontrolled sense of possibility. Of waiting for the next episode of a beloved show on television. The precious feeling of ordering a book at your favorite bookstore, then rustling its pages and treasuring it for years. What I miss, partially, also is the sense of anticipation and the thrill of the wait, the chase, the hunt. Now we have an app for everything, which is a mixed blessing! And while I love the immense potential and opportunities that social media brings us — aside from the fact that it helps us stay in touch with people so much more easily — I also miss the time when travel was a little private. Holidays were sacrosanct. When you were away, you were away. There was no soundtrack of alerts to your vacation.

At the end of all the reminiscing I did that weekend, I realized that what I miss the most, perhaps, is a more mindful simple life after all. And there are ways to bring that spirit into a digital world, too. So these are my new principles for summer:

  1. Get off social media for a few weeks. There is nothing so urgently achieved on social media platforms that I cannot live without even for 14 days.
  2. Plan to spend days off the grid when I travel. No Googling. No Maps. No agenda.
  3. Don’t stream shows or movies — give myself a schedule and stick to it to watch whatever I want.
  4. Downtime, off-time, no-screen time — whatever one chooses to call it, I want to unplug and stay offline.
  5. Journaling and writing letters and postcards to loved ones.

What would you do to make summer a little more retro?