I’m happy to introduce to Pip, a writer and photographer based in Tasmania, Australia. I’m sure most of you will be able to relate to Pip’s account of wi-fi obsession on the road and the importance of disconnecting to really see and understand where you are. Travel used to be a wonderful excuse to put up the out of office message and disappear from the internet but now, with wi-fi everywhere, it’s much harder to do this. Pip’s afternoon in a wi-fi free rice paddy led to one of those travel moments that will surely stay with her forever.
Featured Writer: Pip Strickland
I feel like i’ve entered a future world where wireless internet just hovers in the atmosphere above us, keeping us eternally ‘connected’: logged-in and detached. I’m in Ubud, a little town blessed with sprawling rice paddies, red-roofed Balinese houses, and gnarled trees enveloping Hindu temples on an island of Indonesia that has become a playground for the rest of the world. It’s peaceful setting and ambiance being descended on by truckloads of tourists who come to experience it’s beauty spas, yoga schools, arts and culture that radiate from it’s tour operator/money changer-jammed streets, teeming with motorbikes, scooters and smart phone-weilding ‘bules’. And there is wi-fi everywhere!
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a bit of wi-fi when I’m travelling just like the next backpacker. I couldn’t write this post without it. But I don’t need it at every establishment I visit: breakfast, lunch and dinner. But in tourist towns like this where competition for business is tough you have to have all the pulling power you can – it used to be banana pancakes but these days it seems to be wi-fi. Everywhere I went people were attached to laptops, tablets, smart phones – doing who knows what but totally disengaged from the country they were visiting and it’s people.
I went on a short trek out into the surrounding rice paddies and stopped to drink fresh juice at a restaurant where the wi-fi code was plastered in chalk across a blackboard. Every patron was engrossed in their screens. A few meters away farmers were harvesting their rice, laboring in the late afternoon heat, looking over occasionally at the white people and their devices. I left and hiked further until the restaurants petered out and the villas faded into the distance. I crossed a muddy path and walked along the edge of rice paddy and plonked myself down on the terrace, hidden by the stalks of rice that sprouted either side of me. It was stunning, peaceful and wi-fi free. An old farmer spotted me and walked over, squatting down beside me, his scythe wedged into the back of his shorts. He smiled curiously and questioned me in Balinese. I replied in English, not understanding what he said but presuming it was along the lines of ‘What are you doing here? There is no wi-fi you know’, and we continued back and forth like this for a bit, translating nothing but somehow understanding. It is moments like this that make me love travelling – when you connect with people based on a mutual intrigue rather than a business transaction in an area of supreme beauty. A friend of his joined us and my presence in this rice paddy brought much amusement and curiosity once again. As the sun set they returned home and I left my oasis of tranquility to return to the teeming streets of Ubud. And then I turned on my laptop, connected to the wi-fi and wrote this post.
Pip is a photographer and writer based in Tasmania, Australia. She is addicted to travel: unearthing places – their cultures, people, music, art and issues. Literature, art and music not only offer portals to destinations when she is home, but educate, inform, and inspire her to explore further. Travel opens everything up and keeps things in perspective. She blogs at The Adventures of Pip.
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