It was an impulsive decision. Saying yes to this holiday that my best friend of 20 years and her family was making to celebrate the recent festivities. I didn’t particularly celebrate the occasion but that didn’t mean I couldn’t use the holiday, right?
I was a little excited, a little low on expectations (because who wants to be let down anyway!) and a little taken aback when my friend forwarded me the last minute details of the cruise. Instead of getting keyed up about the extravagant itinerary they had in store with us, one minor (realistically: MAJOR) detail caught my eye: NO FREE WI-FI ON BOARD.
Let’s not even get to the price list of their internet packages where you get charged per hour (in USD, mind you). Basically I got stopped at my tracks for a bit with a million thoughts running through my head. Although we were headed to two destinations, we were only going to disembark at one, which wouldn’t be too bad as I could try to get a day pass from my telco provider BUT what about the other four days in between?
Thing is, I’m not really a social media person (although I can be a little crazy about Snapchat because of its ‘real-time’ function) but the just the thought of not being able to communicate with people scared me the most. “What if I met a cute guy and I need advice from my best friend?”, “What if I had a wardrobe malfunction and needed my mom’s advice asap?”, “What if work needed to get a hold of me urgently?”, “ What if….”.
Well, the day arrived and we had to board the colossal vessel. Hurrying to send my goodbye texts to my friends and family who I usually awkward-text/anxiety-text/excite-text/bored-text, I heard my friend’s brother call out to me. Looking up from my phone, startled, thinking that I had already dropped something or knocked someone off the boat (being the klutz that I am!), I saw a fine young specimen in the form of an Italian man in a suit right in front of me with a smile brighter than the sun that was simultaneously burning my skin up at that point, welcoming us on board.
I turned to my friend’s brother and he smiled at me cheekily before he told me to ditch my phone right then or I’d be missing out on more eye candy throughout the holiday. Sounded like motivation enough..right? Wrong. I was still trying to send pictures to my best friend who was now 5 hours away from me and wanted updates by the minute even until I reached my cabin. It was after my fifth ‘retry’ that I realised I was done with trying. I shoved my phone in my bag and swore to take it out only to take pictures.
Here’s what happened while I was away at sea without the distraction of social media, real-time communication and everything else that my day usually revolves around:
- I finally got the rest I needed – for real!
Usually when I’m holiday, there’ll be plenty of down-time, but there’ll also be down-time while scrolling through Instagram, documenting myself having down-time, generally everything besides having some real good rest. Without internet, I didn’t have to wake up to every beeping sound of notifications or wonder what my friends on the other side were up to (FOMO did kick in every now and then initially), etc. All I got was pure, uninterrupted rest and sleep be it in the Jacuzzi or while taking my time to get ready for the shows and parties.
- I bonded with the people around me
While I’ve known my friend and her family for most of my life now, I’d never really spent five whole days in an enclosed area with them before. My friend and I had more time together than ever before, and maybe it was because we both depended on the internet a lot, we had the chance to bond with each other just like old times without it, like the silly, adveturous 10 year olds we once were which brings me to my next point
- I made a bunch of new friends
Having no distraction from the ‘outside’ world, my friend and I were forced to get our butts out of the room to explore the 12-storey ship that we were in and to take part in all the activities they had planned for us. Our days were filled with dance classes (I can add pro-Bachata dancer to my CV now!), soaking in the Jacuzzi, going for shows and Italian classes which meant we were constantly meeting new people from all over the world, exchanging banter, talking about our lives and so on. Did I mention that most of the crew consisted of Italian men, who can dance and charm the hell out of you? (I’ll write about that bit in a separate story, of course but safe to say I’m now fluent in Italian flirt-language as well).
- I got over the FOMO
As I started paying more attention to myself and my surroundings, I was having so much fun. Being the curious person that I am, everything on the ship (especially the people) amused me. Before I knew it, I had already lost track of the days – you lose your sense of time when you’re in the middle of the ocean, apparently. And I definitely wasn’t interested in who dressed up as what for Halloween that was happening that weekend back home anymore! I didn’t feel the need to take carefully curated pictures for the ‘gram or to update my fellow Snapchatters as to what I was eating , instead I kept all my witty comments to myself and shared it with those around me who appreciated it more.
- I got used to it
And I don’t know how to particularly feel about it. By the end of day 5, we had already docked into our home port and believe it or not, I wasn’t at all jumping for joy to turn my internet on again. In fact, I was already dreading the surge of notifications from all platforms. After mentally prepping for it, I turned it on and even then it took me at least an hour into it before I finally opened my unread messages and e-mails. Apart from sending a text to those at home to tell them that I’ve safely made it back to land, I just didn’t feel the need to look at my phone at all.
End note: I’m back at work day #3 now and guess what, I STILL don’t feel the need and want to scroll through social media feeds. Of course, I do need the internet but I’ve been using it solely for work and news purposes only. If it’s one thing that being internetless has taught me, it’s that there’s actually a lot more to be appreciated in front of me than on my screen. But am I ready to give it up entirely? Not just yet. (I mean, how else am I going to keep in touch with my Italian loverboys then? Wink.)