In a Pickle

Lately, I’ve grown rather tired of having to convey the hushed statement, “Yeah… I’ve never been to Florida before.” I recently moved to Baton Rouge, and now had no excuse to continue this lifelong streak, so my brother and I decided to take a four-day road trip to the panhandle in May, old school style.

No smartphones, no google maps, no social media. Just us, the open road, some CDs from the library (that we had to dust off), and a few books to keep us company.

The first destination? A glassy lake in Blackwater State Forest. To two sweat-drenched dudes forced to sit in a wheeled box of metal careening down the highway for hours, this was not a far cry from an oasis in the desert (the desert being the heat of the southern summer). The unpaved roads took us into the heart of a lush forest, but lack of elevation made navigation rather difficult, and it took quite a while to find our spot (several locals showed us the way).

After we parked our car at a pristine “primitive” campground furnished with a metal fire pit and two picnic tables, we quickly ran down to the lake and soaked our feet.

“What about a quick swim to the other side?” I asked Ben.

“So down.”

We popped our goggles on and began the 300m swim to the other side of the lake. Soon the shoreline behind us began to obscure, mimicking the weed-covered lakebed that receded into the murky depths out of sight.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what was down there? After all, we weren’t in Colorado anymore. I had heard stories of gators attacking people who encroached upon their territories, such as the infamous “Florida Man” who claimed he saw the inside of one’s mouth while fighting to stay alive (check out the story here).

I quickly steeled my nerves and continued to put one arm in front of the next for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, texture once again graced the bottom of the lake and I knew we were close to the other side.

Ben and I stood up once we saw the depth was no more than waist height and looked around. Locals at the far side of the lake must have been either in awe or simply laughing at two goggled, scared non-Floridians standing near the reeds, like some bewildered aliens on foreign soil.

As our eyes adjusted we noticed several black blotches contrasting the glistening water in the middle of the lake. They vanished several seconds later, only to pop up nearer than before. Thoughts ran through my mind of getting bit by a passing water moccasin (a deadly snake endemic to the south), losing a finger to a snapping turtle, or getting pulled under by the Florida version of the Loch Ness monster. To this day I have no idea what those creatures were.

We now had two options.

  1. Swim back and risk the above.
  2. Wade through the reeds and if we survive suffer through the long trek back around the lake to our campground half naked with no shoes.

We sighed, cried, high-fived, and chose option #1.

An eternity later and I was never so excited to see that olive green lake bed materialize from the depths. We clambered up onto the shore and swore never to swim in a swamp again.

I’m sure many of you have had encounters with the unknown before. It’s always a learning experience, isn’t it?

Exciting, thrilling adventures await you if you step into the waters of adventure, but be prepared for what may lie beneath its shimmering surface.

Bear Lake at Blackwater State Park in Florida. This was taken after survival.

Gone Light

Calibri-esque font spread across a surprisingly airy cardboard box.

“Light II”

I excitedly opened the package and found a small encouraging note underneath the front flap: “The Light Phone is for going light. It is a choice. How will you experience your life today? Appreciate your time, life is right now.”

And there it was. The small device that would inevitably change the way I interacted with the world for at least the foreseeable future.

So what is the Light Phone II?

It’s essentially a fully functional phone dipped in the nostalgia of simplicity. No internet, no infinite feeds, and no apps. Just text, phone calls, music (which you have to upload from an mp3 file), podcasts, and basic tools such as an alarm and calculator. The display is e-ink, so think baby Kindle.

I am now one month into “going light”. Below are some reflections of my experience:

What I enjoy

  1. The freedom! The first week was spent battling the PTSD of constantly checking my phone for notifications. On several occasions I literally felt the buzz in my pocket just to realize it was in my head. This jerk reaction faded around the two week mark and I began to notice how little I reached for my phone. Ahhh. I do feel more present and less distracted than I have in a long time.
  2. The size. The Light Phone II is almost half as big as my previous iphone. It’s less noticeable, doesn’t jut into my leg when I ride my bike (slightly exaggerating, but you get the point), and feels sleek in my hand. Not to mention the fun e-ink display tends to turn heads. I feel like a modern rebel when I use it in public. Fight the system of distraction!
  3. The catalyst to good conversation. Lately I have been able to have quite a few discussions with friends who are considering limiting their phone’s grip on their attention. This has enabled me to provide insight to the possibility of limiting phone use and offer a potential solution to their dilemma.
  4. The lack of Google Maps. Why is this in the enjoy section? Maybe this comment is lost and can’t find its way to the section below… But no, it is here for a reason. I must say I do enjoy getting to know the area around where I live. I can now get to more friends’ houses on the fly, know the quickest route to stores and restaurants, and have even had to ASK a fellow human to figure out where some places are. Imagine that.

What I miss

  1. The fast texting. As beautiful as the e-ink display is, when it comes to texting the Light Phone II feels like an old VW Beetle puttering down the road as Ferraris zoom past in the fast lane. It’s simply archaic. I really am starting to miss the quick messages I could send my friends.
  2. The music. Although there are murmurs of The Light Phone II partnering with Spotify, the current mess of downloading songs from YouTube and converting them to .mp3 files made me nostalgic for about a day. Laziness of not updating the phone has caught up to me and listening to the same four songs is giving me more sympathy for Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. If you want diversity in your music, you have to fight for it.
  3. The pictures, memes, and GIFs. I went on a vacation with my brother two weeks ago. We had a blast and returned with loads of stories, but alas, no pictures for our more visually inclined friends and family. I also miss the convenience of using the iPhone’s camera to capture great moments. Caveat: Moments must be worth capturing to use your camera…
    I also used to send and receive the occasional hilarious Lord of The Rings related meme or GIF with friends (you’ll get the gist here) and also have to wait to get to my laptop to receive pictures sent to my phone (it forwards pics to my email). Not fun.
  4. WhatsApp and Groupme. As connected as I feel in the present moment, I have noticed my lack of correspondence with some of the more physically remote friendships in my life. This is unfortunate and I don’t want some of these conversations to go by the wayside.

Recommendation

If you’re looking to really minimize your social media footprint, don’t care much for cameras, and want to simply disconnect for a while, get this phone. It has definitely taught me a lot about how I spend my time and what I prioritize. If you do have a lot of friends or family members around the world, travel a lot for work or pleasure, or enjoy jamming out to that “Discover Weekly” playlist on Spotify, I would shy away from The Light Phone II.

My takeaways and advice

Will I have this phone forever? Probably not. The Light Phone II is a cool concept, but they need to work out some kinks before I will consider this a longer term phone. Get rid of the lag, offer music options, and provide solid maps, and I might switch permanently.

My advice?

  1. Disconnecting IS possible. Please do it more often! Try to engage in good conversation on a daily basis without your phone. You’ll thank yourself for it.
  2. Learn to listen well. Many people can’t or don’t try to truly listen to each other. This will heal many wounds and solve many problems.
  3. Keep your phone out of your room. Charge it in the living room and leave your room as a space to read, process the day, and reflect.

I’m staying with the phone until August as a dual commitment with my brother, then will most likely return to my familiar Apple product. Though I like slowing down to enjoy the view from my horse drawn wagon, I’m excited to return to many of my friends in the modern era. I just hope to do it with a newfound perspective on digital minimalism.