I recently returned from a two-week trip with my wife and partner of 25 years, and decided in advance to forego electronic communication with the outside world. This is how it was when we met in 1995, cell phones mostly unknown. When we left our houses, we were adrift, not having news, email or text messages. I wanted to revisit that atmosphere. I did not once in those two weeks turn on any device to communicate with the outside world.

It was cleansing, and difficult.

I took the above photo from our ‘front yard,’ the area between us and the Gallatin River near Big Sky, Montana. We stayed in an AIRBNB advertised as a “tiny house on the Gallatin.” It was just that. It had amenities such as fridge, microwave and stove, and comfortable beds in a loft. It was really just a trailer worked over to generate some revenue by the clever man who owns this property. We paid too much, happily.

We spent two days. On the first, we visited the nearby Flying D Ranch, now owned by Ted Turner and used to raise bison. Turner, by prior established right-of-way, is forced to allow traffic through his land to the nearby Spanish Peaks Wilderness. There is an assumption about that he does this due to being a public-spirited man, but I doubt it. Once established, a property easement cannot be voided by a new owner. I imagine Ted resents every one of us trespassing on his land. There are signs warning passers-through not to stray off the road.

WaxwingOn the second day, we merely stayed on the river, reading, relaxing, napping and sitting and watching the water. I had trouble trying to figure out the birds that were busy catching bugs. I am not a skilled birder, and so was surprised to learn that the odd-colored birds that I thought must be flycatchers were really Cedar Waxwings. I thought these birds, which I’ve only rarely seen, lived on berries. Not so. They were all about and acting like swallows grabbing bugs out of midair.

The fisherman above and his son passed through. He was a nice man who actually asked permission to fish on the public river that happened to pass by our waterfront. I cannot imagine a father-son bonding experience that exceeds the harmony that must result from fly fishing with one’s son.

That day went by slowly. We had hammocks, chairs, and as the evening cooled, a fire pit. I had no distractions, no emails to answer (I don’t get texts). I did not access the Internet at all, not even to check weather in our home town. I finished my books and my wife offered me hers, Mountain Time: A Yellowstone Memoir, by Paul Schullery, Bozeman resident. He tells tales about being a ranger in Yellowstone in the 70s and 80s, delightful. Funny how it grabbed my attention then, but not now, back in cyber world.

I wish I could say it was totally enjoyable, but it was tedious. Just as with Frodo, who had to leave at the end of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy because the ring had affected him, I am jaded by access to the cyber-world. I now expect it, and living without it is a new experience. It was not easy.

I want to do it again, and soon.

19 thoughts on “Cybervoid

  1. My wife is so tied up in her phone…
    I swear IF the house caught fire – she wouldn’t notice.
    I gave up facebook years ago and never tweeted. All I have now is email and wordpress (with an occasional text).
    I don’t NEED it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Though I’m not in a position to set it up yet, I’m envisioning and working toward a future where cell phone and all other internet-connected devices are kept in an office away from my home and only used during certain hours, while my home is a refuge from all of it. The older I get, the more aware I am of how endlessly distracted and divided within myself I am. I’m an ex-drunk (I hate the term “recovering alcoholic”), and as such feel particularly aware of and sensitive to the normalization of addiction. We are meant to accept, and even be amused by, our slavish addiction to TV and Internet and cell phones, with all their endless distractions separating us from our true nature and power. I yearn to get to know the person I am supposed to be, but I know it won’t just be a matter of setting these distractions aside. I’ve been sober 12 years and rarely even think about alcohol anymore, but there are days when I become nearly as self-centered and crazy as I was when vodka was the center of my life. Mark, I love that you were able to caputrefy the beauty of your time off the grid without romanticizing or idealizing it. Your honesty and self-awareness are deeply appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am looking into burners, and will try to purchase one today, only if they do not demand my name and ID. Barbm says that burners are no longer rogue in Germany, and I don’t imagine the Land of the Free Home of the Brave is far behind. Otherwise, i do without. I suppose I could nest it in a tree house on our property here. It would be a pain to go out there to use it.


      1. Go to a Walmart and get a monthly totalwireless card and pay for it with cash. Get a new cheap android phone too for about fifty bucks while you’re at it. Ditch your current number and don’t use WiFi at your home or shop online with it. The phone card is unlimited talk and text for twenty five bucks. I’ve been using them for years. I do it to be a pain in the ass. I can’t win though seeing as the reason I graduated from a dumb phone to the Walmart burner option was I needed a smart phone to download the bar code to board cheap airlines(the airline obviously know who I am)that hate to print paper fersomefeckinreason.


          1. Yep. If they don’t have total wireless cards any other prepaid card will do. I just use total cause I’ve never had any issues with them.


  3. Is it not a solution to just leave one’s phone at home? I’m a little unclear the specific issue people are having or trying to avoid.


    1. That’s a good point. For me, as long as they know I own that phone, they know where I am at or at least where I live. I know I am nobody and that it is all done by computers, but suppose I get in trouble, say rob a bank, which I don’t do anymore, they can, using my smart phone, track my activities backwards to build the case.

      Anyway, I would like to carry a phone with me, if for no other reason because my wife and I want to stay in touch while out and about, and a burner to me is the best approach. No contact tracing, no tracing period.

      BTW, I watch a lot of TV crime shows, and they are blatant about tracing people via their mobile phones, and then their call history. We are supposed to think it is OK because they only use it on bad guys, but it’s all of us.


  4. Please. Mark, more posts like this.

    I have been thinking about getting a Faraday bag for my cell phone. Something to frustrate the contract tracing BS that is going to get deep any minute now.

    Unless someone around here has some DIY ideas?


    1. I want to do more posts like this, Maarten, but the spirit moves me otherwise with our current state of martial law imposed. I do have a post I will do this weekend about a hike we did to Lady of the Lake, which I did for my first time in 1960 at age 10. I’ll give it a shot.


  5. It’s a very good point that you make. I have always said that part of the reason that I have shunned most modern tech in my personal life is that I do not want to ever become dependent on it as I see in others. Convenience too easily turns into dependence and the only real lasting solution is strict self discipline. The Amish with their telephones in an outbuilding or basement know this well, I feel.

    When I step away from the computer and the rotary phone that sits on the desk in my house, I’m not connected at all to the outside world apart from what I’m experiencing in-person and cell service (with a prepaid dumb phone) on the job ONLY. If I weren’t still working for a living, I’d personally quickly either ditch the cell completely or pay the minimal amount possible for just enough prepaid minutes to make true emergency outbound calls and the phone would then be in a vehicle’s glove compartment with the battery removed until needed.


  6. Also, I meant to mention that yes, as mentioned by SMJ, in the US at least it is to-date pretty easy to get cellular phone service in any name you can make up. I’m not sure if you can do it through the big name companies (Verizon, AT&T…) directly, but if you go for just about any third-party prepaid service, you can assign any name you see fit to the account. Simply purchase any old cell phone that handles 3G or 4G service (well, 3G is going out the window in another couple of years, but you get the idea) and then walk into a store that sells compatible prepaid plan SIM cards and pay in cash for said SIM card (about $1) and the service if you don’t want the possible connection to your name through card transaction linking. You can find them in dollar stores, WalMart or other big box retailers, even some service stations and the like. When you register the service, just put some combination of letters in as a name, et voila.

    I use an H2O Wireless plan and the name associated with the number is an alias.


    1. Once I had the clerk get very pushy about registering the burner phone themselves, and I could see she had a little notebook where she kept all the information she could. Not like I couldn’t have told her to kiss my ass, but I found it very strange and intimidating.

      This was at a Walmart. So choose your store wisely. It’s almost like they try to get extra eyes on the people using the burner method.


      1. That’s interesting. I think it’s predictive programming from crime shows that show burner phones are used by murderers and make people think that. The cashier probably thought they were helping catch criminals. Of course that fits TPTB’s agenda.


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