My big summer vacation this year was a 10-day trip to Ireland with my youngest sister. It was 10 days out of the country, 10 days out of the office, 10 days away from the computer and my cellphone and 10 days without Facebook or Twitter (almost).
It was a breath of fresh air.
Vacations are supposed to be about getting away from it all, but "it all" can follow you pretty easily if you've got a cellphone or a computer with you. All you need is a coffee shop with wifi and before you know it you've wasted an hour of your "vacation" checking email, reading the news and updating Facebook and Twitter. Worries about work and other stresses from back home creep into your thoughts. You may be at the beach, on an opposite coast, or halfway around the world, but if you've got Internet, it's like you've never left home.
When I went to Ireland, I didn't take a laptop, because that would be one more piece of luggage to haul around. My U.S. cellphone was useless overseas, so it stayed behind, too. When you're traveling between cities, like we were, there's not a lot of time to stop, find a place with public computers and type out a Facebook status update. Home was a six-hour time difference and thousands of miles away and it felt like it.
There were times when I wished I had access to Twitter, like when we overheard another American tourist trying to explain tailgating to a group of Europeans on our tour of the Guinness storehouse ("We pull up a truck and grill out and drink in the back -- on the tailgate -- so we call it tailgating"). My sister brought along her smartphone and used wifi to post pictures and updates to Facebook as well as Skype with people back home. I wavered between being jealous that she could record and share moments from her vacation instantaneously with all her friends, and wanting to tell her to stop texting her boyfriend during dinner.
I mostly kept track of my trip the old-fashioned way: A notebook, a pen and an old digital camera. I used to journal all the time when I was a kid, but it's been a while since I've done it on a regular basis. Writing in the evenings or on buses between cities, it was hard to capture everything about the trip. Some days I didn't write anything -- not because nothing happened, but because I really didn't have anything to say. The experience I was having traveling in a foreign country was enough. I knew I would remember it. I didn't have to record it or share it with anyone.
With Facebook, Twitter and other social media, you experience and share that experience almost simultaneously. Friends' comments, "likes" and retweets become part of the memory. But sometimes just having that memory is enough. You don't need all your friends to like your vacation photos to remember that you had a good time.
Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more commentary, read her 20-something blog at www.ledger-enquirer.com/sara.