(Originally written on July 20, 2011)
I’m sitting on a cottage porch in rural Ontario just east of Lake Huron. The Georgian Bay has chains of small islands that pop up throughout the fresh water. Rocky shorelines with evergreens surround this idyllic North America summer location spot. It’s about 82º F with a slight breeze. The morning fog has burned off and I just finished a BBQ lunch.
I’m on vacation this week. My wife and I are enjoying some time away at her family’s wonderful Canadian cottage. There’s no electricity here1, but it is an amazingly comfortable place to live. It’s only accessible by boat, and has running water2, propane, kerosene lamps, and tons of natural light. The view is spectacular and July weather doesn’t get any better.
So why am I punching away on my keyboard?
It’s hard to predict when the writing mood will strike. I’m sure forcing myself to write everyday would be a good thing, but I’m not quite there yet. I didn’t bring my laptop on this trip but I did throw my iPad and wireless keyboard in my backpack. I’m comfortable disconnecting (I swear), but I also don’t see a reason to do it just for the sake of doing it. I was exhausted the first day here. I took out the kayak, went swimming, made dinner, and crashed early. It’s typical not to stay up too late here. There’s something about kerosene lamps that naturally brings sleep on by 10 PM.
I woke up the next morning and immediately walked outside along the the deck, moss and rocks and watched one half of the bay’s Loons swim around. Did I mention this place is wonderful?
I felt much more rested on the second day here. We had nearly nothing on the schedule other than cooking meals, installing a new dock ladder, and working on sun screened tans.
Annie and I both love reading. We just have very different tastes. Me: short stories, news, blogs, long-format periodical articles; Annie: Novels, period pieces, and murder mystery novels from the 60s. Before the trip I got her a going away / “thanks for getting me that iPad” gift: A Kindle. By day four here she kind of called me out.
Me: This Kindle is really great. It’s so nice for reading in natural light, and we get free international 3G web access!
Annie: So, you basically bought this thing you really wanted and gave it to me.
Me: For both of us.
Yeah, you can guess how far I got with that. Anyway. Yes, the Kindle is wonderful. I don’t know how good previous generations were, but I’m really impressed with this 3rd edition. It feels extremely thought out. The physical device is substantially lighter than the iPad, has a great case connecting mechanism, and the page turning buttons on both sides are exactly where they should be located. The interface – once you get used to the screen refresh rate – is very efficient. I’ve had a good many hours to play around with it and I’m a total fan. No wonder Amazon is doing so well with these. They’re not trying to compete with Apple.
I’ve been reading a lot: Mostly I have caught up on some very long articles and posts that I had queued away in Instapaper. Without having Internet access on my iPad3, I found that I wanted to spend the time to read these long articles. It wasn’t just the lack of connectivity though, I had the time to spend reading. But, this is my case for limited (Annie likes that more than “moderate”) connectivity: It forces me to slow down.
There was one article I came across that I immediately wanted to send to a colleague and get his feedback. I had some really basic questions formulated, but the drive to send the email was outweighing my need to formulate some more thoughtful questions and suggestions based on what I was reading. Not having access to my email client prevented me from sending that rushed email.
I spent the next day thinking more about the article, and activating the 3G service on the Kindle to do some more research. The Kindle’s browser, by the way, is fantastic. It may be slow to refresh the screen, but once a page is loaded it is rendered very well. “Article Mode” (sort of like Safari’s “Reader Mode”) formats pages almost as well as native Kindle books. 24 hours after having wanted to fire off an email and delegate my own research left me with a much better understanding of the subject material and I had developed some of my own opinions.
Perhaps this is one of those Unintended Consequences of our ultra-connected society. It has certainly made me much more aware of a habit I had formed while not on vacation.
While being completely disconnected has benefits of its own, I’m now convinced that Moderate Connectivity is also a good thing. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed catching up on long articles, short stories, and starting books – between waterskiing and sunning on solar warmed rocks. This trip is helping me think more clearly about some big professional changes I have coming.
If you feel like you’ve been in reaction / fire-fighting mode yourself, I recommend giving yourself some Moderate Connectivity while on holiday this summer.