I am a communicator. For better or for worse, I am the person who reaches out, who persistently (annoyingly?) calls over and over until she reaches you. Am I compulsive or diligent? Caring or paranoid? For whatever reason, it seems to have become my reality, my role. I have learned to expect to be the person who makes the plans. In the old days of paper and pens, I was the friend who sent birthday, Valentine's Day AND Christmas cards. Something snapped with the card-giving thing after I went through a divorce and realized I had nothing good to say about my year that holiday season. I never got back into writing cards and have instead completely embraced technology. I now have high-speed internet, a Skype account, AIM, Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and probably other social-networking accounts I can't even remember. I have three email accounts and two blogs. One website. I have a smartphone, a SPOT, an iPad, ipod touch, MacBook Pro and iMac. Am I out of control?
To top it off, ok, I'll admit it, I am addicted to texting. Instant access to people, casual conversational tone, no interruptions. I even like the goofy typos that appear and make me chuckle. I like the laughter (ROFL) and the emoticons. I like that there is no busy signal nor machine picking up. The other day, one of my closest friends said, "Jennifer is texting me so I must be awake." I will reveal my age now, when I admit that it is hard to believe that the magical little device that does all of this sits in my pocket at all times. I am in awe of a technology that allows us to talk on the phone chord-free - yes, I do remember wrapping up and unraveling myself with the ten-foot-long twisted phone chord as I talked with junior highschool friends from our kitchen. I remember busy signals too. I remember running outside to play and saying I'd be home for dinner, a dime in my pocket for emergencies, otherwise unreachable.
When cell phones first came out, I resisted. I only took the plunge mere days before giving birth to my first child. While waddling around Fred Meyers one afternoon in October 2000, I experienced my first contraction and had no way to reach my husband. The panic and fear I felt in that moment buried my suspicion that I would develop cancer from the cell-waves transmitting so close to my brain. I marched right to the local cell provider and got myself hooked up with my first Nokia. No texting plan those first few years, but it was the beginning of the end.
Now, in 2012, after 12 years of making and receiving phone calls 24/7 and becoming thoroughly addicted to texting, I am at a juncture. It is time to decide whether to spend the large sums of money it will take to remain in constant communication while at sea, or to settle with being out of touch for days, maybe weeks at a time. You see, in 58 days I will set sail on a journey with my family of four, embark on a cruise around the Pacific or beyond. Do we really want to be reachable all the time? Isn't part of the adventure the part about being out of touch? Most days the idea of being off the grid feels like a breath of fresh air. Some days, though, it feels scary. I have experienced it before, while living for the summer at a remote Alaskan cabin, but after a few weeks of biking or walking three miles to the beach where I could get a signal, I succumbed and bought a cell phone that worked at the cabin.
Researching how, when, and why we need to communicate has been an interesting and necessary process as we get ready to depart. The HOW part of the puzzle is not so difficult, it is basically about technology. Instead of deciding which cell phone plan to get, we are deciding whether to carry a cell phone at all considering the cost of international roaming and the hassle of finding local sim cards around the world. Do we need a satellite phone? How and when do we use a Hamm radio or a Single-Side-Band (SSB) radio? How many wifi hotspots can we connect to in Central America? Are Skype, AIM, Facetime the same thing? Is a SPOT device enough, sending periodic messages to family and friends about our location? Can I live without texting?
It used to be simple. Write a letter. The other day someone was talking about wrapping notes to a messenger pigeon's foot. Even done the standard non-aviary way, it might take weeks for a single letter to reach someone who lived on the other side of the world. I remember the thrill of receiving a postcard from a foreign country, sometimes weeks after the sender had already returned home. I remember thinking about the many planes, ships, trucks and mail bags it took for that piece of paper to get into my hands from the hands of my family or friends. A romantic part of me wants to revisit that world. I want to send postcards from the edges of the world, to touch the paper so that it may touch my loved ones. Perhaps I will get back to my card-writing days.
So, here I sit faced with the reality that very soon daily texting will no longer be part of my world. And here I am grinning at the thought of it. I have a feeling it will not be as hard to shake as I think. I wonder if the freshness of Now, if experiencing every moment as it happens, will be more interesting. I wonder if a heightened awareness will come when my head is no longer bent down, eyes gazing into my phone, but held high toward the light like a reaching sunflower, my eyes gazing out at the world.