I tend to take two types of holidays: Those where I close the curtains, do nothing, and immerse myself in whatever game is tickling my fancy at the time, and those where I shun technology and re-introduce my body to the sun. Do you ever do the latter? A complete getaway, not just from normal daily stress, but from over-connectivity?
Over the new year period, I spent some time in Tasmania. The plan was for a large group of friends to meet up at the Falls Festival, do new year's eve to the sounds of The Flaming Lips, Hot Chip, and SBTRKT, and then split up on smaller hiking adventures before meeting back at home. I had just finished a season of 5 inch Floppy. Getting away from technology seemed like a nice temporary change.
I thought that I would have reception throughout the trip - turns out, that's not an assumption you get to make when you're with Vodafone prepaid.
It's amazing how long a phone's battery lasts with no reception. To hazard a guess, maybe six days? Longer? Which would be great, if I just wanted to play a bit of football manager. But I had really only brought it in case one of us broke a leg, or got bitten by a brown snake, or in my case, fell into a state of shock from game deprivation and ran around the jungle looking for Vaas. I swear that only happened once.
But as me and my small group trekked around the Freycinet National Park, the main concern was dehydration. While some of the beaches were beautiful, Wineglass Bay in particular, there was also a lack of drinkable water, adding some stress to the hikes. In hindsight, we didn't allow ourselves enough time to enjoy the untampered shorelines before we had to be on our way, reaching the next rainwater collector before nightfall.
At this point, none of our phones would connect to their networks. On the last day, we had a pretty hard deadline to meet - a 7pm plane out of Hobart. And what would normally have been a fairly mild hike, even with our heavy packs, was made almost unbearable by the harsh Tasmanian sun. The weather report had predicted light showers. How nice that would have been...
On a track that featured brutal sun exposure, we darted from shade to shade. Out of water, I had wrapped a wet rag around my head to stave off dehydration. Long stretches of sun-filled track were the worst, including Hazards Beach, which seemed to go on forever. I probably made a comment like "I'm not sure how long I can keep this up in the sun."
Right around the time I started feeling properly dizzy, I couldn't get one thing out of my head. It was the Council from XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I had been playing it before I flew out of Sydney, and had been well addicted by that point. In the height of my flirtation with dehydration, all I could think about is how your Council member boss forces out every syllable separately. "The Con-tin-ued Sup-port Of This Pro-ject Has Been... Worth-while. Rem-em-ber. We Will Be Watch-ing."
When we finally reached the parking lot and headed out, we found out the park had been closed and bushfires had started raging around the area. Around 67 bushfires. Firefighters were battling them back off the road as we drove on. The whole way to Hobart, the horizon was filled with smoke.
In the airport, there was a moment when a reporter started talking about the fires on TV. The entire airport fell silent, straining their ears to see how bad it was, if anyone they knew was affected, or if, God forbid, any planes were cancelled. People were missing, it turns out. Perhaps even the same people we had seen days before on the track, enjoying a park that had been shut down without their knowledge due to fire danger. It was an odd moment when I felt I had been living the events that were being reported on, rather than just connected to them through the net.
Of course, my first task when I got back was to finish XCOM. Then start a game on Iron Man Classic. Then finish Hotline Miami, and The Walking Dead. But it certainly has been a culture shock of connectivity, going from hiking a (reasonably well-traveled) mountain to being on top of every news feed for Kotaku.
Do you ever do anything similar? I know, I know, I spent yesterday encouraging you to join me in knocking out some gaming achievements, and now I'm talking about being some mountain-wandering monk. But surely I can't be the only one that does this. I'm interested to hear what rules people make for themselves. Do you have trouble sticking to it? Or do you, like me, have to actually go to a place with no reception to stop checking your phone? And how do you feel at the end of it?