Nature

The Challenge with Connection

Most people are shocked when I tell them that we don’t have access to internet out here. I must be honest; it was a learning curve for me as well when we first moved to our little farm. It’s not because we don’t want to pay for it, but rather because no working internet provider will bring it this far out of the way. Our town Facebook page is littered with posts about how the only satellite that provides internet is down time and time again.

The town grocery store puts up a sign asking people to pay in cash and Nikolai’s school has internet access issues too. When you live deep in the woods like we do, there’s no point in paying for something that rarely works. Large pines, poplars, and oak tree’s spread their limbs and reach to the heavens causing the signal to be disrupted. It’s almost as if nature is blocking the path for a reason.

The more I read the news and catch up with old friends on Facebook, the more thankful I become for the interruption. My ability to get into stupid debates when something rubs me the wrong way is limited to moments when out of nowhere my phone suddenly receives two bars of LTE. As soon as I’m invested in riveting conversation… the moment has passed and I’m unable to respond again. Instead, I use my phone as a paperweight. I listen to Audible, pull up pre-downloaded books on Kindle, or just leave it to charge while I spend the afternoon in my garden.

We don’t live “off grid” but I’ve come to enjoy my life being this way. When I want to upload a blog post and catch up with other writers, I must drive to the coffee shop to connect or wait until I need to go get something from one of the bigger towns nearby. I often pull up Facebook while I’m picking up feed for my animals. In other words, I schedule time to use the internet and my time is limited.

About six months ago a man came and knocked on my door to ask me if I wouldn’t mind putting my dogs up so he could access the powerlines. His bald head was a glossy glow in the morning light, and he had the kind of nose that was thick through the bridge but flat around the nostrils. He was doing research for an internet company who was determined to “bring knowledge and connection” to rural towns that are hard to reach. Apparently, there is a government contract for this kind of thing.

“Knowledge and connection.” I think towns like mine have more to teach the world about knowledge and connection than the millions of people who live in large cities and never look up from their phones. I’ve read articles that detail the problems that social media has caused on the mental health of billions of people. So much so, that humanity likes to boast about taking social media breaks (which I have done myself).  

One of my biggest accomplishments was the time I deleted all my social media apps from my phone for six months. I didn’t miss a single thing. I did, however, enjoy more phone calls from loved ones. They made my day burn brighter. Friends reached out with cellphone numbers so we could chat and there was far less confusion about the tone in which something was taken because it was a lot easier to clarify misunderstandings.

The gentlemen from the internet company asked me if I was excited at the possibility of getting internet. His brown eyes lit up with the prospect of gifting something of such great importance to most people. I attempted to smile.

“Not really!” I replied. His bushy salt and pepper eyebrows furrow at my response, so I elaborated.

“Why bother with that when I have all of this?” I reached my arms wide to gesture to our 11.2 acres.

He didn’t get it. My niece and nephew who live near Chicago didn’t get it either when they first came to visit. It took time for them to see the value in how we do things out here. I took them hiking on our farm, drove them to see an amazing waterfall, and took them to an empty field where they could learn to drive for the first time. The learning curve hit them harder than it did for me. Yet by the time they had to go home… they were wishing they had what we have here.

It all comes back to connection and real connection doesn’t come from a screen. It comes from immersing yourself into your environment. The feeling of your bare feet touching solid earth, seeing a creek turn into a waterfall, holding hands with the ones you love, and listening to the soothing voice of a friend. Salivating over an amazing meal and mentally stimulating your brain with conversation that bubbles over into laughter.

The internet can’t provide substance for you and knowing a lot about the world is meaningless without experience. People were social distancing long before Covid ever came into play, we all just got better at it. It’s a lot harder to handle the news when you’ve lost sight of things that have real value, and we can’t expect to change people’s points of view without first being able to connect with them.  

Upon returning home from our amazing family vacation and having the alone time to sit and reflect on everything I have learned… I continue to come back to the topic of connection. It doesn’t take living in the middle of nowhere to find it (though I truly believe that it helps prevent us from slipping into old habits). You can limit your time social distancing exactly where you are.

My hope in writing this is that these thoughts of mine will touch someone who is as exhausted as I am. That perhaps they will read what was on my heart and have a desire to take a leap into connection with me. Challenge yourself to put your phone down, to limit your internet access and use the extra quality time this week to read a book that shakes you. Grab a loved one and hike to somewhere you’ve never been. You don’t have to be in shape for it… Lord knows I’m not!   

If you’ve decided to commit to doing this with me… I want to read about it! Write me a comment to tell me what worked for you and what didn’t. You don’t have to make it an everyday thing, just circle one day a week on your calendar. If you can’t do a full day, try an hour or two. Contact some friends or family and see if they can’t meet up with you or give gardening a go. Most importantly of all… share how this challenge made you feel, not just with me but with others.

Nikolai standing in the rain on an empty mountain road. WiFi free, making connections
My usual work spot is in a quaint little place down the road from my farm but since Izzy is working today… I popped by to brighten her day and say hello.

Side note: I had originally planned on posting more about my incredible vacation today but in light of what happened with Canada loosing internet service… I felt this was a better fit for this week. I’ll post amazing images, videos, and stories next week instead. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint anyone!

32 thoughts on “The Challenge with Connection”

  1. I’m oddly reminded of Australia’s Sky Muster satellite internet system with your post.

    I used to work for an Aussie telco that offered the service for those living in the Outback. Apparently, the Australian government launched satellites in 2015 and 2016 to beam down internet signals — for subscribers with satellite receivers.

    (On a side note, you guys are lucky over there as your Starbucks branches are conducive for work! The coffee shop’s branches here in the Philippines aren’t so much, though; the more high-end Starbucks Reserve is more suited for remote workers, at the cost of more expensive coffee.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My preferred work space is either my living room at home or the quaint coffee shop in my little town, but Izzy (my kinda sorta daughter) works at a Starbucks in a bigger town and sometimes I go there to see her and check in with her 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, I think that the secret, like in every good recipe, is the balance. With the first step being one’s need to realize and accept that one NEEDS to find balance, that balance is achievable, and that more is not … well … more …
    I live in a big city where technology is omnipresent and where it is the opposite of rural or secluded or without internet connection. Even our subway stops have Wi-Fi. For many people, this means ongoing, never-ending, ever-present connection and constant checking of their notifications. For some of us, however, it means the POTENTIAL for easy connection when we need it, but not the REQUIREMENT to be connected.
    I make it a point to disconnect a little every day. Some days more than a little. I am privileged to live near Central Park and I go for walks, practically daily, where nature and quiet and wildlife and the calm of the outdoors recharges me.
    I make a point to connect with people ‘live’ – to share a walk with a child, to have a talk with a friend, to dive into choosing the best colors of yarn or thread for a project someone is doing, to hug a baby. It recharges me.
    Not only phones need recharging.
    I value technology, and I appreciate the global potential for connection that the internet allows. It can be a lifesaver. It can also become a master.
    I’d rather work toward having some mastery of balance.
    Here’s to finding balance and knowing the grounding power of connection. To others. To nature. To this planet. To the whole that we are.
    For we are one.
    Na’ama

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how you worded that! Balance is exactly right Na’ama. For so many I see that it has become an addiction but I’m glad that’s not the case for you. Brilliant!

      Like

  3. Beautiful piece and reminder of what is truly important, LaShelle. I love the Internet for bringing me posts like this so I’ve been able to get to know you and experience your amazing stories from afar. But every night when my kids come home, I put down the phone for our family time together. These years go so fast and I want to run, play and slide with them while I can – and before the time when the phone is my primary connection to them… 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I fully understand this; for four days a week I am virtually ‘off the grid’ bu choice, spending time with a very close friend living in the present, away from the buzz of social media; when I get back sometime on Wednesday I go online and ‘catch up’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think there is nothing sadder than watching a family out for dinner, and all of them are on their phones instead of conversing with those in front of them. When people ask me what part of Covid was hardest for me, I answer immediately—human connection. I missed being around people, hugging my friends, or having a beer and some laughs with a buddy. The power of human connection is where it’s at, wherever we live.

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  6. This is so cool that we’re coinciding topics this week. It’s awesome that your approach to internet usage is more purposeful, rather than what most of us do, which is to consume impulsively. To be able to focus on just the writing before uploading on a scheduled day makes every step of the process that much more important—and streamlined too. Thanks so much for sharing this. Even reading this post gave me a sense of calm.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No internet, how interesting. I was just talking to my sister about how much we rely on the internet these days and how we would probably lose it if the internet disappeared. I love that you are happy without it and I feel like that’s how you can actually enjoy life in the present!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This post is on point! Living or being off grid is so good for you mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I’m with ya about catching up with all the craziness that’s goes on in the social media world. I’d rather not and just enjoy a peaceful life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such true words you write! The loss of connection in my neck of the woods was terribly inconvenient but it reminded me that we survived without internet before and we can do it again (more in the realm of entertainment).. since that outage, I’ve focused more on what I can better do with my time including diving back into reading which I’ve missed so dearly!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love all this! Real connection is important and it’s not found on technology. I write a lot, but I schedule that time on computers and make sure I’m spending plenty of time with my teenagers unplugged.

    Both my kids grew up going to Waldorf schools with no technology-no TV, video games or computers until middle school. We camped, did art, hiked, swam, played for 8 hours at the park and read in a hammock together until we lost sunlight. I truly believe it’s what made them both creative and not at all interested in being on their phones all day.

    Although the next generation is growing up with so much tech, I really think there will be a movement against social media coming. They see what’s happening and not all of them are accepting it as the way it has to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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