India

THE CURSE OF THE OH SO VERY SMARTPHONE

It has come to my attention in recent years that smart phones can potentially destroy lives.

No, not literally, but the ability we have to connect our (very) smart phones to any free wireless connection in the world can damage not only our experiences, but what exactly we are seeing in front of us.

As a traveller I have found it harder and harder to cope with the ever growing technological lifestyle. When I first set off travelling in 2010 I didn’t have an iPhone. I had a phone that wouldn’t allow me to connect to any sorts of Wi-Fi. I didn’t know any different. I relied on good old internet cafes. (And what a wonderful thing they are!) Internet cafes not only limit your time you have on the net also stop prevent one from being disgustingly vain (I mean you’re not gonna take webcam selfies) or talking to people, that quote frankly don’t mean a lot. The curse of having an iPhone to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots means that we have to deal with all that bullshit vibrating through (you know what I mean) WhatsApp messages from some guy you met last year in a bar, spam emails asking you to protect your life insurance, snapchats of pets, university announcements, club event invites, Tinder matches, creepy tinder messages, birthday reminders for some lunatic you haven’t spoken to in 5 years, chain mails, and most importantly JUST A LOAD OF SHIT THAT MEANS NOTHING.

The worst part about it is that WE ALL FALL FOR IT. We are all addicted to our phones. So we’re sitting out and before we know it we’re scrolling through Facebook blah blah blah and OMG JESSICA FROM COLLEGE IS PREGNANT???!!!! AGAIN??? I mean, honestly why are we even interested? Do we even know this person anymore? I hate myself for it.

It’s obvious that smart phones have their benefits, but what about the influence they have on the experience we are having? Personally for me, travelling, concerts and even nights out have all been spoilt by silly human beings (including myself) who are glued to what is actually happening on our screens rather than right in front of us. How many of us have been to concert and the majority of the audience are watching the actual concert through their screens rather than enjoying what is happening on stage? I nearly had to stand on a girl’s head at the Beyoncé concert this year because this bitch had her tablet out recording. That damn near huge piece of technology was nearly blocking my entire view of Queen B.

I hate myself for being so attached to my phone; it’s the one thing that aggravates me most when I’m out to dinner or in a bar and the majority of people are flicking through their twitter feeds or even worse snapchats. This is in no way a hypocritical blog, I myself when I am in London are glued to Snapchat and twitter to pass the time on long train journeys or lectures (shoot me!) But I personally am able to detach myself from that life, a simple read on the train or making a few notes in my diary is more than enough to satisfy me if my battery dies.

But do we really need to have our phones out on the tables at dinner? Where has the art of conversation disappeared to? Do we really need to be sharing with the world exactly how pretty our dinner is? Is this just habit? Unfortunately we have now become obsessed with sharing our locations, our food, our family, our friends, our selfies. But why do we feel the need to share everything with predominately strangers? Is it simply an ego boost? Do those 50 likes on insta allow us to sleep easier at night? Am I going to wake up in a cold sweat if my latest selfie hasn’t reached the crucial 11 like mark?

No, but there probably is someone out there reading this who knows someone who does.

Where do we go from here? It appears that the social media could possibly have reached saturation. Have we explored every avenue? Kyle Bylin for Hypebot describes what we live in now as an “always-plugged-into-social-network reality”. But with 2.5 billion global internet users the possibilities are endless. I am always intrigued when travelling to Asia the amount of locals that have a Facebook account. It really is so intriguing. I recently travelled India and visited the largest slum in Asia and low and behold there were tons of guys with their camera phones and some without, begging to take pictures for their Facebooks. Anyone you come across always requests to be your friend on Facebook, especially in Asia its an absolute privilege to have a white western on your friends list.(They show how happy they are by liking and commenting on anything and everything) In Nepal, our project leader told us to keep the Wi-Fi password a secret because otherwise all the locals would stand outside the house and start uploading pictures to their Facebooks.

Amazing huh?

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When the world really does become your oyster (or maybe even your lobster)

To a non-traveller I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain the passion of travel that gives me nothing but pure therapy. It gives me therapy in the same way putting all this thunderstorm in my head down on paper does to my soul. I mean hey, It’s cheaper than rehab or a one hour slot at your local support centre right?

Well maybe not, but the experiences and people give you nothing but riches. The famous Tumblr quote “Travel makes you richer” although it makes me want to punch a small cat is actually very accurate. Travelling isn’t just about having a year away from your clingy parents on a prolonged gap year, or an escape from a stressful and meaningless life at home. It’s so much more than that, and that’s the part that a non-traveller will just never get their head around.

When I first returned from my first set of travels in December 2011, the first thing my Grandma asked me was “How was your holiday?” I looked at her in disgust. I hadn’t just been on holiday. In fact I’d been working at two volunteer projects, one in Honduras and one in Fiji then travelled parts of Asia before landing myself a job in Italy. Each part had been nothing but tough and much more of a challenge than a lot of people could ever even imagine. I responded to my Grandma with “I went travelling for God sake Grandma, it’s completely different to a holiday.” This confused her even more and before I knew it we were having nothing more than a heated debate between a holiday and a travelling adventure.

I know we have to excuse the bemused elderly more times than we would often care but trying to explain to an 84 year old the prospect of staying in hostels crawling with cockroaches, cooking your own food over gas stoves, travelling by public transport with questionable locals and living on a budget is my idea of heaven.

There really is something about the people you meet travelling. There is no way of describing how interesting the selection of people you meet is. From the 33 year old hippy living in the Hostel smoking up every night, to the couple on the path to exploring Buddhism and to the bloke from London who took all his 3 weeks holiday off work at once. The variety of people is just incredible and the connections you make with people you only met 2 days ago even more incredible. The openness of individuals you meet has such a stark contrast to everyone at home. Why do I want to spend my entire life with people that are so closed and carry round this huge barrier with them? I crave good conversation, not just about travelling, but conversation with MEANING. Conversation which involves not discussing what I’m wearing at the weekend or what colour I’m going to dye my hair next. I have an awful habit of becoming extremely uninterested in people and conversations like this, I just switch off entirely. Famously, travellers all have a mutual respect for one another and this is my favourite aspect. No one is in competition with one another, you’re all there for the same reason and why would anyone want to spoil their own time away? Listening to people’s traveling stories is my favourite activity. It inspires me so.

People tell me about this incredible lost temple, this remote beach, this fantastic project and the culture, smells and vibrancy of a city and it excites me in too many ways. This excites me in perhaps the same way a gadget lover would queue up for the new iphone at ridiculous o’clock or a fashion lover would drool over the new Hermes Bag in Vogue mag.

I can only describe my passion for travel by thinking of it in a way which removes myself from the present. I feel as if though my life can just stop still for a while and I can just appreciate the smaller things in life. I appreciate that I am very fortunate to be able to detach myself so from everyday life, but perhaps I just was never that attached in the first place. To me, there is no better feeling than feeling free, and this is exactly the way in which I feel when I have the opportunity to embrace an entirely different culture to my own. The growing pains of facing everyday Groundhog Day in “reality” is a pull in the wrong direction for me. I want travel to become my reality instead, and I don’t see how it can’t eventually.

I’ve often been described as “intense” and “deep”. I take this as nothing but a compliment. Travelling has changed my life entirely and I will continue to grasp as many new adventures and wild experiences by the bucket load until I reach the end of my days. I may “over-think” everything but honestly what is life if you don’t overthink it? Life is anything but simple. It’s a complex web of years that require choices and fulfilment and so so so much adventure. Sure, travelling requires confidence, but what doesn’t these days? Going for that first grad job or first date can be more daunting than anything, but what the hell is life without a bit of fear and a little challenge?

I tell my Dad how happy I am. His response is this “Well I think everyone is happy while their on holiday, Flo”.
JUST NO.
The constant battle of being misunderstood. I mean what the hell I thought this only happened during your teenage years? Am I subject to this for the rest of my life?

I don’t believe in comfort zones. What I do believe is that comfort zones provide nothing but a false sense of security and an excuse for individuals to stick to with what they know. Escaping from your comfort zone is genuinely liberating, once you do it once you’ll do it again. Finding a passion that is against the so called “norm” makes you an interesting individual.

“The traveling bug” is one of my pet hates. I often associate this with gap year travellers, those who join tour groups and set off on a 6 month slot of nothing but partying and being promiscuous and return with the notion that they want to do it all again, but just end up going to Ibiza the following year, and well, just doing exactly the same thing all over again.

I suppose though, maybe I did catch the so called “Travelling Bug”. I caught and held on tightly to the sense of adventure and accomplishment traveling brought me and genuinely never wanted to let go. I’m sure there would be many people reading this that assume I’m a pompous rich bastard who can quite freely gallivant around the world but let me assure you this: I am not. But maybe I will be one day… Once I’ve made my millions out of being a writer and the world really does become my oyster (or perhaps even my lobster) I guarantee I will be gallivanting as much as I please.

I like that word. Gallivanting.