Who needs the internet when you have this view? Well, it turns out I do.
Internet access is hard to come by in Cuba, and during our month there we spent about an hour online each week. As someone with a blog and a minor Instagram obsession, on the other side of the world from most people I know, let's just say that's quite a drastic reduction.
An hour a week is just about enough time to scroll halfway through the Instagrams you've missed, email your mum to let her know you're still alive, load up the Guardian app to catch up on the news and delete the 100 emails from Facebook about all the "important notifications" you've missed.
Before we left I was certain that spending more time offline would be a good thing. No more hours wasted browsing Twitter! Finally time to really focus on my interests! The chance to enjoy the moment without seeking validation through social media. Maybe I'll even finally start meditating.
The first couple of weeks were exactly that (apart from the meditating). Without distractions we threw ourselves into exploring a new country, read lots of books and tried to learn Spanish (a work in progress). It was so nice to wake up and not immediately reach for a phone; we spent more time talking to each other and interacting with our surroundings. And when we did get online it was always an anticlimax to find out that everything was the same – or worse – out there in the world.
But I gradually started feeling disconnected and kind of ... down. Travelling full time, the internet is the only way to stay in touch with family and friends, and I really missed that interaction. It was frustrating not being able to throw all our questions at Google or look up reviews and recommendations online.
Since we've been in Mexico, I've loved getting connected again, but some things have changed. Facebook is a time waster that I've kind of forgotten about. Catching up with my blog reader (500+ missed entries!) has shown me who's stories I really care about following. And I'm pretty sure that not reading the news every day makes you happier (ignorance is bliss).
I'd always viewed the Internet as a necessary evil in a lot of ways – it's useful, but it feels like it must be bad for us – but now I just plain love it. The challenge is bringing the positives of being offline with us. I hope it's not all or nothing.