I don’t mind telling you that it was rough, that moment when we discovered we were cut off from civilization!!! The first thing we did after we got unpacked was make the trek by foot to the top of the hill, cell phones held high in a desperate attempt to get at least a tiny whiff of a signal – just enough to check and send email … oh pleeeze dear Techno-god!!! But alas it was not to be …
We made our way back down the hill, twitching in withdrawal and growling unpleasantries beneath our breath while cursing the first born of the booking site we’d used that had promised the place had Wi-Fi. But we quickly forgot to be disgruntled when we saw the first intimations of the sunset above the sea. It was the beginning of the domino effect. As we descended the hill, for the first time we paid real attention to the tumble down ruin of a building next to our cottage, the ageing phone box next to it, the thistle in bloom, the hulking shapes of mountains under blankets of clouds. All the while the sunset just kept getting more glorious. Finally, a use for our iPhones! At least a hundred pics later and a nice glass of red wine in hand, we let the midges take over the great outdoors while we sat in the huge window seat in the front room and cheered on a pair of pipistrelle bats in their hunt of said midges in the court yard. By that time we’d nearly forgotten the lack of Wi-Fi.
We slept in total silence that night, something town folk rarely experience. There was no traffic noise, no people noise, not even any settling of the cottage, which I reckon was probably old enough to have been well-settled by now. Even the sea was just far enough away that we could see it well, but not hear it.
Long toward morning I awoke to find another view, something I couldn’t capture with my iPhone no matter how many photos I took — the clear night sky with no light pollution! None! I had no idea there were so many, many stars! The whole Milky Way was splashed across the heaven and, from the dormer window, I craned my neck to take as much in as I could for as long as I could. I stood shivering beneath the view certain I’d just experienced some seriously powerful magic. Everyone else slept and that moment, that glorious view was beautifully and intimately mine. That moment, one I could neither tweet nor capture on iPhone, was for me the highlight of a trip jam-packed full of jaw-dropping experiences. That moment, dark-night private and achingly beautiful, was mine to treasure.
In the morning we made breakfast together laughing and joking, planning and scheming with only the aid of maps and books. From the window we watched the swallows flit about and a charm of gold finches picking at the wild flowers and grasses gone to seed.
In the slow but magical disconnect from the internet umbilical cord, we saw things differently, shared things differently, spoke to each other more reverently, and everything felt more focused, more brightly colored, more three dimensional.
On our way back to the cottage at the end of day two, we punctured a tire. Up on a high cliff above the sea just as the rain was setting in and the wind was picking up, Raymond got out to change the tire, and my sister and I got out to cheer him on and offer what help we could. We had no way of calling for road service to take care of it for us, no way of doing anything but getting on with it. He had just barely got the spare and the jack out of the boot when a car pulled up behind us, and a young man hopped out to help. The older woman with him stood and talked to my sister and me.
We discovered they owned one of the farms in the valley below, and she had seen our hazard lights go on from there. Her nephew had been bailing silage in the field so she told him we were in trouble and they came to our aide. They had us all sorted and back on our way in just a few minutes. This was a very powerful reminder of how people live in community without Internet. They watch out for each other. I’m not so young that I don’t remember a time when that was the case, and yet I’d forgotten what it felt like in practice.
When our third day in Skye dawned wet and rainy, we drove into Portree and, while Raymond dealt with the punctured tire, we connected briefly to the slow, overworked Wi-Fi in the Cafe Arriba, ensconced with our coffee amid a gaggle of other wet tourists doing exactly the same thing. The connection wasn’t great, and we honestly didn’t mind. Once the tire was sorted, we were off exploring the Trotternish Peninsula in the rain. That night back in our cottage, as the sky cleared to display a resplendent waxing moon, we cooked dinner together, we talked and laughed and schemed and relived our memories of a damn near perfect holiday. We all agreed that we weren’t even a little sorry for our time without Wi-Fi.
The next night, down in Carlisle on our way home, we were once again in our own little Internet worlds trying to catch up while we waited for the waitress to bring our meals. It was jarring and a bit sad to feel that freeing experience slipping away. But here I am, writing this on my iPhone on the last leg it the trip home. I’ll email it to myself then put together my blog post once I’m home, and by Sunday noon, you’ll be reading it complete with pictures I’ve downloaded. I will have tweeted it and share it on Face Book and will be well and truly back to being my techno- dependent self. We all will. The truth is we’re the slave of our technological connectedness as much as it’s our servant. I’ll take me the better part of a week to catch up, but I’ll treasure those few days of intimate disconnection, and maybe I’ll be brave enough to disconnect on purpose from time to time now that I know that I can, now that I know that I won’t die from the lack of Wi-Fi, and especially now that I know the rewards are so worth the disconnect.