I REMEMBER calling home on my first trip to China very clearly. It was 2004 and I had bought a local phone card that would allow me to call home to speak to my family.
I had yet to discover Skype back then, and that was before the days of WhatsApp and Facetime.
Like all international phone cards, mine had a silver-coloured strip that I had to scratch with a coin to reveal the personal identification number, or PIN, beneath it. I was to key in that PIN before every phone call.
Today, travellers with smartphones are just a few taps away from staying in touch with folks back home.
With a good Wi-Fi connection, even phone calls are free when you have apps like Skype and Viber. In fact, for those who have full-time jobs and are away on a break, sometimes the problem is not being able to escape from work.
Emails and social media apps don’t really give you much opportunity for rest if you’re trying to enjoy a holiday.
I’m not encouraging you to shirk from your responsibilities or ignore the rest of humanity, but here are a few ideas on how to go offline when you’re on holiday.
Tell your family and close friends
If you’re travelling with family, they’ll know your plans already, but if you’re travelling alone, you’ll need to remind them that you’re thinking of going offline.
The beauty about family and close friends is that you can trust them to keep your emergency contact number secret (more on that below).
Mute your WhatsApp groups and turn off email notifications
If I’m overseas and expect to be contacted for work, I tell whoever is concerned to contact me via whatsapp and to email me after that.
Even in Malaysia, I only check my emails manually because I don’t believe in constantly receiving alerts every time a non-urgent newsletter or promotional email comes in.
Multiple messages from chat groups can also be very disruptive if you’re in a different time zone from the rest of the group, so remember to mute the alerts from the group chats.
Share your holidays, then leave it at that
We all enjoy sharing highlights of our holidays on social media, but let’s not go overboard and use up our data just to update or to keep checking how many likes or comments we get.
I used to do this a lot until I realised that while I’m travelling, my focus shouldn’t be on sharing.
We should be more preoccupied with the trip rather than spend our time telling people what it is like.
The constant interruptions from being reminded that someone has retweeted, “commented” or “liked” something of yours takes up a lot of energy, not to mention battery power.
Switch off occasionally
On certain days, switch the phone off completely. Enjoy your adventures; go shopping, go on a hike, have a great lunch without checking your phone every few minutes.
Don’t even take your phone out of your bag. Switch it on only at the end of the day.
Set up an automatic response on your email, but don’t include your phone number
If you need to ensure your boss or clients that you’re still receiving emails but are unable to reply immediately, set up an auto-responder message to tell them that you’re away and will get back to them when you can.
What I would not suggest you do is to include an emergency phone number for “urgent cases”.
People often over-estimate their work-related emergencies, so if you give them an emergency number be prepared to receive plenty of non-urgent calls and text messages.
Remember that there is no urgency
Social media and the Internet have brainwashed us into thinking that real-time and immediacy are everything when it comes to telling people where we are, what we’re doing, what we’re eating, what we’re seeing before our eyes.
It’s as though we have to tell people immediately what’s happening, rather than first observing, collecting thoughts in our heads, taking notes, going home and then telling our stories, when that was exactly what travellers of long ago did.
They spent more time observing and thinking about what they saw compared to us.
We’re on holiday, so remember that the message will not be lost even if we tell someone how beautiful the Eiffel Tower was an hour, a day or a week after the trip.
*Anis Ibrahim also writes at ‘Five Foot Traveller’.
Nessun messaggio potrà mai superare gli sguardi. Non sarà whataap , Facebook e ask a farti sentire importante. Siamo chiusi ormai. Viviamo tutto il giorno dietro un telefono , evitando gli sguardi degli sconosciuti. Continuiamo a pensare che scrivere un messaggio sia meglio che guardare una persona negli occhi. Pensiamo che un cuore possa sostituire un abbraccio , che un messaggio sdolcinato possa sostituire un bacio. Ormai nessuno riesce a capire più i silenzi perché l’unica cosa che riusciamo a comprendere e il “visualizzato alle”, ormai il nostro silenzio è quello. E non dovrebbe essere così. Dovremmo cambiarle le cose. Dovremmo preferire la realtà alla vita virtuale. Dovremmo preferire un bacio, un abbraccio, una carezza , uno sguardo , una parola. Dovremmo preferire le litigate,i silenzi imbarazzanti e dovremmo trovare una soluzione invece di chiudere un’applicazione e cercare di dimenticare il problema.
“If you have a device, a smartphone and if I call you just through the mobile phone network then there will be a record at Telstra that I called your number,” [Malcolm Turnbull] told interviewer David Speers.
“If, on the other hand, I communicate with you via Skype, for a voice call, or Viber, or I send you a message on WhatAapp or Wickr or Threema or Signal or Telegram — there’s a gazillion of them — or indeed if we have a FaceTime call, then all that the telco can see insofar as it can see anything is that my device has had a connection with, say, the Skype server or the WhatsApp server … it doesn’t see anything happen with you … It’s important I think for journalists to remember.”
The Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who provided his own circumvention tips during the Senate debate on Tuesday, said Turnbull’s explanation indicated data retention could be a “$300m white elephant”.
The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has previously described data retention laws as “a very important piece of crime-fighting equipment” and necessary to avoid “a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals”.
Abbott cited technological change — and specifically referred to Skype — as part of his explanation of why the laws were needed.
Like the FTTN NBN, this whole thing never made sense in the first place. Now they’re seemingly proving it themselves.
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