. To society and travelers, get off the phone! : Budget Travel Adventures

Get off the phone! My plea to society and travelers

get off the phone Vancouver

When it’s time to celebrate and have fun, don’t be this guy – get off the phone!

This weekend, I spent time with my favorite people.  However, I caught myself checking my phone during lunch.  I got that feeling something wasn’t right.  I realized that the hypocrite inside of me was yelling “Get off the phone!”

I’ve spent years telling people how I hate smartphones.  I’ve ranted how smartphones have become appendages.  I’ve railed against technology as I have seen what it has done to people.

After my behavior this weekend, I’m ashamed of myself.  After reading Dave Bouskill’s post telling people to get off their smartphone, it’s time I made my stand.

It’s time for travelers and everyone else to get off the phone!

Why I hate cell phones (and my anti-technology rant)

When I was a teenager, I talked a lot on the phone.  I didn’t have many friends but I would spend a lot of time talking to the ones I had.  I was as bad as most girls.

Today, I don’t care for the phone.  For years, I refused to get a smartphone.  I didn’t want to be on the internet, check Facebook or Twitter, or constantly be connected with others.  My phone was a piece of crap.  After 8 years, buttons were falling off but I refused to get a new one.

For years, I’ve been anti-technology.  I say this as someone who works in IT, has a full time job on the computer, and carries a blackberry for work.

As a travel blogger, I’ve questioned whether our use of technology is a good things.  I’ve asked if social media has hurt travel bloggers.

I’ve heard private conversations in public spaces.  I’ve watched people ignore friends so they could check email, update Facebook, or upload an instagram photo (yes, I’m guilty of this one).  I’ve seen people walk side by side as they look down to type messages to each other.  When did that become more enjoyable that sharing words face to face with another person?

While I don’t hate technology, I do hate what it has done to all of us.

We live in a world where technology has connected us.  Yet people with thousands of online friends and connections feel alone.  People have forgotten how to talk and communicate.  Many people struggle to share feelings, talk to their family or friends, or remember their last real conversation with another human being.

As a society, we may be more depressed, angry, violent, and selfish than we’ve ever been.   At times, I’m amazed at how self centered and important people become with a cell phone in their hand.  It’s all I can do to keep from yelling “GET OFF THE PHONE!!!”

Ironically, technology has isolated us from real people and relationships.  When I look at the problems in the world, I don’t think we need more government, money, or technology.  We need to spend more time connecting with others through our words, emotions, and actions.

Travelers, get off the phone!

get off the phone Jeremy Branham Roni Weiss

Really – you couldn’t wait to post this photo?

I’ve seen beautiful sunsets, eaten great food, and hung out with lots of people.  I couldn’t wait to share that with a tweet or Facebook update.

With my horrible sense of direction, my GPS on my phone has saved me.  I’ve found places to eat late at night when I didn’t know where to go.

However, it’s time for travelers – and everyone else – to get off the phone.

This past year, I got a smartphone because of my College Football Travel Tour.  Going on the road to write travel guides for Expedia, I told myself that I needed it to stay connected, share photos and statuses, and remain connected with my travel community.

Honestly, being connected has made me feel so alone these last few months of traveling.  In an effort to stay connected, I missed out on opportunities.  My phone became an excuse.  I failed to live in the real world and disconnected from life in an attempt to stay connect online.

Last year, I walked the streets of Seattle with no phone to distract me.  I met these lovely University of Washington sorority girls picking up trash on the streets.  In Ireland, the Irish people changed my life as conversations in pubs, at a school, and in the airport reminded me what was important.

My most memorable travel moments have been the people I’ve met while traveling.  I’ve let my stupid phone get in the way of taking chances and making memories.

I’m tired of Instagram photos, Four Square check ins, Facebook updates, and tweets.  I’m sad when I think about the conversations I missed, the time I wasted, and the things I missed.

Post it later.  Live in the moment now.  You’re going to see fewer updates from me.

Travelers, will you join me and get off the phone?

Don’t let your smartphone own you

Fall lake California

Turn off the phone and enjoy moments like this

Technology is a good thing.  I love the things I can do now that I couldn’t do years ago.  I can keep in touch with friends I hadn’t talked to you in years on Facebook.  Thanks to social media, I have friends in nearly every city I visit.

However, I see a hurting world and missed opportunities.  I need people.  Talking face to face, sharing a touch or smile, chemistry, connection, and real life.  I believe this can change the world.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, I love this quote from the Bible.  I think it sums up smartphones, technology, and so many other things in life.

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial.

Today, life called.  It was a short conversation. He told me “get off the phone.”  I’m going to listen.

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  1. Deb says:

    Excellent post Jeremy. You are so right. We are all more connected than ever, yet we’ve all never been so alone. There is nothing that can ever replace good friends in person and it’s time for everyone to put the phones down and enjoy each others company. We’ve made a choice to do so. It was being so plugged in all summer that made us realize, we’re not happy doing this. There were many factors contributing to our negative feelings this year, but I think the biggest one was because we spent hours on the internet, even when we didn’t need to be on it.

    • I got my smartphone in May for the purposes of traveling. However, I think I’ve enjoyed traveling less as a result. Staying connected is great but I don’t travel the way I did before when I didn’t have my phone. Before the phone, I would have to ask directions and look to talk to people. Now, I look up directions and check out Facebook and Twitter when I am bored. Ironically, I’ve felt more lonely when traveling now. Now I am bringing these bad habits home and it has to stop.

      I own the phone. It doesn’t own me. And I believe that access to information and being online has made us more disconnected and lonely. I’ve held the belief that the quality of life is better when life is simple. As Westerners, we screw this up with all our problems in the pursuit of more. In our travels, you would think we would learn from those we meet – the people, connections, and cultures.

      I need to spend more time with the phone off. I think my life will be better for it.

  2. Andrew says:

    In the rising number of connections, we have lost the depth. You can’t have deep connections with 10K people. It just doesn’t work given the time alloted. I think especially the blogger world is susceptible to this. We crave more fans/followers for our own business/blog purposes and lose out on some of the deeper connections.
    None of this is an absolute, I have certainly built some deep relations online, but I do notice how the more I try to reach more people the thinner I feel spread. The width and breadth of connections sacrifices them in depth.

    I like my phone in general, but am trying to get beyond being on it all the time. It becomes like TV used to be. I am done with what I wanted to do on it, and yet still stare at the thing waiting for it to entertain me. Oh well, another thing to work on in life.

    • It’s not how many people we have in our lives. It’s the depth of those relationships. You are right – we spread ourselves too thin. Our technology is another way for us to avoid the things that matter in our lives.

      If people talked more, loved more, and connected with each other, many of the problems in our world would go away. Technology is great but it’s become a barrier to things that really matter in life.

      I am guilty of this. TV, technology, ________ (fill in the blank) has become a substitute for what matters in life. This needs to change. I’ll say it again – a simpler life is a more enjoyable life. Don’t tell anyone I said this but sometimes I absolute hate our country for all its excess.

  3. Steve Whitty says:

    It is all about balance. Sadly, I agree with you Jeremy people and I include myself in this get lost in their smartphones today. Almost too reliant on them that we escape the human contact. There were times on my last trip I found myself staring at the phone rather than engaging with people over a beer. Lesson learnt.

    • I think we all do it Steve. There was a song many years ago that I loved. It’s called “Lost the plot.” I think we’ve done that. It’s not just our phones, it’s everything.

      In my travels this Fall, I’ve been lonely and not enjoyed it as much. My phone has been my barrier. I remember when I went to Washington last year what a great time I had. Didn’t pull out my phone once. I need to get back to that. Not just in my travels but in my daily life.

  4. Miruna says:

    You certainly have a point and you’re right! We loose ourselves in this king of odd trifles, we forget how it feels like to talk to someone face to face and to look into each other’s eyes, we probably miss the most important things in life, but, on the other hand, we’ve already made the pact with the devil, it’s too late to give up.

    • I don’t think it’s too late to turn back. Technology has replaced real people in our lives and we are worse for it. I don’t think we truly understand what impact this has had or can have if we fix our relationships with people.

      There’s no need to throw it away. Just put it down and cut back. I believe that a simple life is better. It’s not always easy to maintain balance but quality of life is more important than all the stuff we have in our lives.

      I just need to remember this in my own life, whether traveling or every day interactions.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Exactly what I encourage people to do. I also feel like people have gotten dumber with phones. My GPS told me to walk into the lake!! No one knows how to read a map anymore. It seems like every single time I have car trouble, I never have my phone and *shocker* some how I survive. And who is everyone talking to? It didn’t seem like people talked this much 15 years ago. And one of my biggest pet peeves, when everyone sits down at the table and puts their phones on the table. Grossgrossgross. I have a smart phone, but only because it was cheaper then getting anything else. I use it mainly as a small computer, because I don’t have the internet at home, if that says anything more about me:-). Whatever it is, it can wait.

    • I actually still like travel guides. I like reading. I like a book in my hand. Don’t care for a kindle. I’ve got enough stuff on a screen I want a book in my hand.

      You are right about phones. I think they’ve become an excuse. We say we need them but use them for everything else. It’s an addiction, an escape from reality. I’m guilty of this. However, I can’t stand people talkig on phones. Putting it bluntly, people are too selfish or too arrogant. Either your conversation can wait or you need to realize you’re not that important. Plus I don’t want to hear you conversation.

      This is what needs to change for me. I need to connect more with real people. So much of our lives could be fixed just by connecting to people close to us. These phones are great as long as we own the phones, make real people our priorities, and the phones don’t own us.

  6. Amen, brother!

    I couldn’t have said it better. I actually read something in the news about this a few weeks ago. A person was commenting on why they think Europeans rank themselves as being happier and it was because they seem to actually have relationships with people versus conversations with a phone.

    I would really love to get rid of my non-smartphone and just may do it someday soon. I’m with you Jeremy, I still love books and don’t even have a kindle yet.

    • Very good point about Europe. From my first trips there years ago, there was something special about that place. For one, they exercise more and eat less in their daily lives. Two, they interact with people more than we do. Families take walks at night in the park or in the neighborhood and their communities are more social.

      I think Americans can learn a lot from Europe. There is a reason countries there rank higher on the happiness scale. We pursue too much crap and not enough relationships and connection. I believe phones have made this even worse. We are more connected yet never been more disconnected. We need to learn to put down our phones. I completely agree with you and need to do this more as well.

  7. Gray says:

    Hear, hear, Jeremy! I won’t be a complete hypocrite and say that I don’t own a smartphone (and now a tablet), because I do, but I will say I never have it out when I’m hanging out with friends. I think it’s incredibly rude. If you’re with friends, you’re there to enjoy THEIR company, not the phone’s. I don’t have it on in the car, or in the movie theater, or in meetings at work. When I go for a walk, I don’t take it with me. You have to treat the phone like the tool it is. There’s a time and a place for it, but it’s not supposed to be glued to us 24/7. Maybe I’m old-fashioned that way?

    • I think it’s perfectly fine to own these things Gray. The problem is when these things start to own us. When we use them as an escape and make them more important than the world around us. It’s not just friends. It’s moments, experiences, views, and just learning to sit still and be quiet. Silence, peace, nature, moments have a way of speaking to us. However, it can be hard to hear when we are constantly connected.

      Like you, I am very old fashioned. I actually believe the quality of life goes up the simpler it is. A few years ago, I turned off the TV for 40 days. I wanted to see what I would do with my time. I still remember that experience. Maybe it’s something I should do again. Less is more – it’s why I love that quote from the bible. Just because we can doesn’t mean it is good for us.

  8. Reka says:

    I’ve resisted using cell phones until the beginning this century, although I used to be a student by that time and I didn’t need it because I was usually online in my room.

  9. There certainly is a case for not letting the phone distract you from enjoying your time away, enjoying friends, and appreciating the simple pleasures, away from the little LED screen.

    I try to put my phone away when I’m on the road and balance things out. I Post less than some of my friends and usually wait till I’m back to post stories. Unless there’s something I really want to share right away.

    I’m for a healthy balance. :)

    • Balance is definitely the key. However, I think we’ve gone too much in the wrong direction. At times, I am guilty of this. I need to get offline and off the phone. I love having it. It’s an awesome tool! However, when we are looking down more than we are looking up to the people and places around us, the phones now own us rather than the other way around.

      While it may seem obvious (and you’ve already suggested some ideas), any other tips for maintaining this balance between technology and travel/life?

  10. Craig says:

    My phone has disconnected me from real face-to-face interactions, it’s sad. When I was in my early twenties, I loved being a tech trailblazer. Status updates, tweets, texting: I was all for it. But now, in my late twenties, I’ve come to cherish real interaction a lot more and use my phone less and less. Great reflection post, I hope more people take a step back and ask themselves why their phones have become glued to their palms.

    • I’m actually the opposite of you. I work in IT but tend to avoid the technology trends. I am one who believes that simpler is better (for some of the reasons you mentioned). Yet since I’ve had this smartphone I’m now spending too much time with it. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities have changed. Connecting with people face to face is more of an effort now. However, it’s something I need to do.

      I think we all need to take a step back. We have created our own little worlds that we live in while we shut everyone else out. Honestly, I think our society has suffered as a result of this.

  11. Brilliant topic and one close to my heart. I love a phone and internet and wish I did have a iphone and a ipad for portablity. However my pet peeve is when people stop talking to someone to answer their phone. It is saying that this other person is more important than the one they were talking to face to face. And it is worst if it is a text message. At least a message will NOT disappear if you wait until you have finished a real conversation.
    I remember when… we all have our stories.

    Maybe I am fortunate in that I am partially deaf and can not hold long conversations on a phone! (I am clever but have yet to work out how to lip read over a phone! [grin])
    99% of the time the person I am with is much more valuable to me there and then, than the person intruding in on the phone! Value your real flesh and blood freinds, they will be the ones that will chip in when you need them.

    • I feel the same way when I go to a store and am standing in line. Why does someone who calls in get more priority than me who came all the way to the store and stood in line? It’s the same principle for cell phone conversations. People need to realize that those that are taking the time to be with you are the ones that deserve your attention.

      Honestly, I am not a phone person. I just don’t want to talk on it that much. I will text when needed but I am not glued to my phone. I find it very useful for getting information, researching, directions, etc. However, even I admit to using it as a crutch. I never use it to ignore anyone but I have used it as a tool for boredom.

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