This past Monday, I returned home from a lengthy trip to a remote section of the Colorado mountains. I spent 12 days with my father and two other men on an elk hunting trip where we were packed high into the mountains by horseback, dropped off at 11,000 feet of elevation, and left there for the next 8 days to make camp and survive. The entire process was challenging. We hiked 7 miles up the mountain while the horses carried our gear. We had to collect water from a nearby lake on top of the mountain and prepare it for consumption. We had to cut firewood and use it in the wood burning stove to provide heat and for cooking. Although I learned many lessons about life during this trip, I learned one important life-lesson—look up, listen up, and enjoy life for the glory of God.
One of the most challenging aspects of the trip was the fact that our only form of communication was an InReach GPS device. It was capable of sending text messages, but we had no other form of communication. No FaceTime, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Gmail, no Internet, no cell phones, and no politics. We went the entire time without hearing the voices of our wives or children. That, by far, was the most challenging part of this entire trip. Although a true challenge, it was a good digital-detox.
What I noticed during our time together was that we spent time looking at one another in conversation without the constant barrage of interruptions that we have learned to tolerate in our connected culture. When was the last time you considered the amount of time you spend looking down at a device rather than into the eyes of people in your presence? When was the last time you carried on a conversation with people without being a distracted listener due to technology?
As our trip came to an end and we hiked back down the mountain, by the next morning we were within cell coverage once again. Our phones started to ping cell towers and download all of the missed text messages and e-mails from the previous 10 days. As we traveled 30+ hours across the United States back to Atlanta, I couldn’t help but notice the vast number of people on the road who were sitting in the passenger seat scrolling down social media outlets on their smart phones. Many of these people were missing majestic mountain ranges and beautiful scenery (except for the time on I-70 through Kansas – not much to see there). When was the last time you found yourself passing through beautiful mountains, interesting cities, or simply sitting at your family gathering staring at your phone rather than enjoying the world and people around you for the glory of God?
When we consider that the average American adult spends 5.6 hours per day on a technological device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop), it’s apparent that we are living life through the screen. What exactly are we missing? Who are we offending? What people in our lives are we neglecting? Is technology really that important to us? I may have learned about the physicality of elk hunting in extreme primitive conditions on the mountain in Colorado, but it revealed just how connected I am to technology.
It was a difficult challenge to be without cell phone coverage for that length of time, but it caused me to consider how terribly unhealthy it can be to be a normal functioning American citizen with a smart phone. We should all rethink how distracted from reality we are today. What are we missing? What sunsets, birds, flowers, and precious moments are we missing due to technological distractions? Look up, listen up, and enjoy life for the glory of God. There’s a big world out there and you don’t need a smart phone to experience the high definition views. Just look up!
*The picture in the heading was taken on my hike down the trail in Colorado on my final day. No filters, no e-mail distractions, no social media interruptions, no notifications popping up to remind me of an appointment.