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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Unplugging in the Parks

Ouzel Lake in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park

Ouzel Lake in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park

Last week my travel blogging buddy Traveling Ted posted about wi-fi coming to some Canadian national parks. He and I had a short exchange, which you can see in that post, that got me thinking about my habits when visiting national parks. Oddly enough as a blogger who tends to stay as connected as possible, those habits result in me becoming as unplugged as possible. Here’s why…

Each day I’m at the office I spend more or less nine straight hours on the computer. Sure, I get up and walk around – grab a Coke, go to the bathroom, talk to a coworker or two – but I’m pretty well plugged in that whole time. When I’m at home, I’m also logged in; between my phone and computer, each weekday I probably spend an additional two hours on the computer. That adds up, easily enough, to a total of 11 hours Monday through Friday.

How about the weekends? Considering I’m wrapping up my graduate degree, I put an estimated additional five hours each weekend day on the computer writing, researching, and just poking around in some mindlessly distracted manner.

So, let’s add all that up…

There are 260 work days in the year.

Subtract 33 days for vacation time.

That equals 2,497 hours for the work day year.

Add that to 52 weekends in the year with 10 hours of computer time.

Math so easy I can still do it: 520 hours of weekend computer time.

Add that to the previous hours, and that’s about 3,000 hours a year spent online, whether it’s at work, on the phone, or on my home computer.

Take that amount and divide it by 24 hours in the day, and you get 125 days.

Yes, that’s 125 days in a year – over a third of my annual life – spent on a computer for one reason or another.

Enter beautiful scenery…

The creek leading from Ouzel Lake

The creek leading from Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Why would I want to spend more time online when I can look at things like that? Or these. Heck, why would anyone want anything electronic when they’ve got that? My extreme is to even turn off not only the computer and television, but also the radio. The phone is on, but untouched unless someone calls.

While I know my computer numbers are a bit more than some people, I wonder, nonetheless, even if someone has a quarter of that number, why would you want to spend any more time on the computer? It’s unhealthy. Unnatural. And simply not right. Especially when surrounded by such spectacular beauty as a national park.

To be fair, though, let’s look at the opposing point of view…

Why would it be good to be able to stay plugged in while in a park? First off, safety. But in order to be safe – whether while it’s on the trail or in case something happens back home – do you really need wi-fi? Nope. Not at all. Basic cell service would be sufficient. So why else would wi-fi be beneficial? To keep plugged in to the latest news? Sure. I can see that. After all, you never know what might happen.

But it’s doubtful that’s why anyone would really be logging in while in a park. I then wonder how many national parks have televisions in their rooms. I’ve stayed at a handful that do, but by and large they tend to be pretty remote places that don’t get an over-the-air signal and aren’t about to spend the money to spring for satellite. That means no television shows or movies.

On one hand I sympathize with parents who need distractions for their children in order to protect their own sanity. But if that’s the reason, then the smart parent already has a portable DVD player with them for the drive. So that eliminates the need for wi-fi for TV or movies. There’s none. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

So where does that bring us? Yes. You know it. To Facebook.

Why oh why for everything that’s holy in this universe would anyone need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or anything else while in a national park? Seriously. Stop and think about it. You’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world to experience nature. So leave off the computer and enjoy the damn birds and the bees already – in how many ever ways you so choose, even! Just do so with everything else unplugged. There’s no viable reason to spend another day of your life online, particularly when you’re traveling to get away from all that.

So, there you have it. Now go. Get away. Enjoy some birds. And bees. And bears. And bighorns. And bats. And…all right, I’m running out of things that start with B. But – okay, just one more B – do it unplugged before you look back and realize you’ve seen your whole life through a screen.

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

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4 Comments on “Unplugging in the Parks”

  1. Gray Cargill (@SoloFriendly) May 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    LOL! Rant away. I’ve got to agree with you here. There comes a time when we all need to unplug and live life. If a person were in a national park and would rather spend time staring at their Facebook page than gorgeous scenery like in the photos above, there is just something seriously wrong with the human race.

    • Jason's Travels May 6, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

      I know I go to an extreme when it comes to unplugging in the parks, but why, when I travel all that way to see that place, would I want to stay plugged in? It makes no sense to me, thus my reason for going so far as to keep even the radio off for my whole stay.

  2. Dad May 7, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Nice story!

  3. Traveling Ted (@travelingted) May 10, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    I think the early info on this coming out was a little misleading. It made it sound like there would be a wi-fi umbrella over entire parks. I believe the plan is to install wi-fi in some areas around the campground, but most of the backcountry will still be unplugged. Thanks for the link and mention.

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