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Unplugging: One family puts away technology

No Twitter, no cell phones – one family was without gadgets for six days and, says Dad, was better for it.

By Troy WolvertonSan Jose Mercury News / August 29, 2012

No cell phone service or Internet access meant one family was truly off the grid for a camping trip.

Lee Jae-Won/Reuters


Earlier this month I went off the grid and — to my surprise — loved it.

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My family and I went camping in a remote corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is some 50 miles east of Redding in Northern California. For most of the six days we were there, we had no wireless service. We couldn’t check email, couldn’t send texts and couldn’t surf the Web. We couldn’t even make calls.

And I haven’t felt as relaxed in a long, long time.

Because I couldn’t do anything about it, I didn’t worry about trying to keep up with my inbox. I didn’t stress about the latest missives from my managers or how to fit another meeting in my already overscheduled weeks. And I didn’t fret about trying to keep up with the latest tidbit of news posted on Twitter.

It was only when we stopped in Chico, Calif., on our drive home and I was finally able to download and check my email that my blood pressure started to rise again.

Being disconnected allowed my wife and me to focus on each other, on our kids and the world around us. It’s not unusual at our house for one or the other of us to be focused on some sort of screen, whether it’s a tablet, a smartphone, a computer or a television.

We have good reasons for this, of course. My wife frequently works from home, and I sometimes do, too. Our jobs often require us to jump onto a computer to write a story or check email. We also use our gadgets to keep up with the news or to just relax at night.

But staring at a screen comes at the expense of face-to-face interaction. I often worry that my wife and I aren’t giving our kids or each other our full attention because our minds are so immersed in the screens of our devices.

And those gadgets are highly addictive. When the answer to even the most arcane question from our kids is just a Google search or smartphone app away, reaching for a smartphone or tablet becomes almost a reflex.

At Lassen, those gadgets weren’t as much a temptation. With no signal and thus no way to check email or access IMDb, we spent more time conversing, enjoying the scenery, watching the stars at night and grappling with the tasks of camping, such as starting the campfire and getting dinner going.

Mind you, I didn’t intend to unplug. We chose to visit Lassen not because it was remote but because we’d never been there, and the descriptions of its volcanic and hydrothermal features sounded unusual and intriguing. We’d never climbed volcanoes before or even seen one up close; we figured here was our chance.


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