“I had my phone stolen in Barcelona.” I have become the one millionth person to utter these words. How cliche. I knew better, I really did, but that didn’t stop me from running around the El Gothic district drinking too much wine and setting my phone down places I shouldn’t have. Nope, the warnings never much did it for me. I have always had to learn things the hard way. My mother just hates this. “Why can’t you just learn from my mistakes?” I have heard more times than I can count. To my mother (and countless other people that have said this to me): I really wish I could! I truly do. Wouldn’t that save me so much precious time and money? I just…can’t. Call me stubborn. Call me ignorant, but I always have to do things my way. I need to feel the pain to get the gain, if you will. For better or for worse.
Instead of heeding the warnings and staying conscious of my personal belongings, I went full force into the mess of Barcelona’s night scene with a nonchalant attitude. My phone was stolen at a techno club. What I was doing at this club, I couldn’t tell you. Techno isn’t my thing, but it’s huge in Europe, and you know what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do…” Okay. Count me in.
While at this club, I set my phone down for what must have been two minutes on the bathroom sink. I forgot it was there when I went to pee, came back for it and it was gone. Shocking! Not really.
I did what any sensible person would do and scoured the club for any trace of my phone. Maybe it fell on the ground? Picture me on the floor searching while people kept partying over me, spilling drinks. Maybe it didn’t make it to the bathroom with me at all. Maybe it’s still on the dance floor trying to “two step.” iPhones really can do it all, maybe that’s their next feature. (iPhone 100 will totally be able to do this. Just saying.)
“Maybe someone turned it in?” I asked the bartender. He laughed at me with a smile that said “You stupid girl. You think someone would actually turn over an iPhone 6 for free?” Yeah, stupid question. And I was a stupid girl- at least for the night.
What a nightmare! All my pictures and videos from the last couple weeks, gone. That video I took of my friend Phil’s sweet dance moves? GONE! All my notes (oh God, please whoever found my phone, please don’t read those). All those text messages and application downloads. I am in Spain (and headed to Paris next week) without a phone. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
To make it all worse, I hadn’t backed up my phone in the last six months. Grrreat. That means when I do log into my account and activate a new phone (after shelling out hundreds of dollars and customs fees to ship abroad) I will be time transported back to a time I would rather not revisit. Hello all data that was sorted and deleted, I’m coming back for you.
While this experience was really horrible and made things quite a bit more difficult (goodbye GPS), it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Actually, it was kind of a gift- in a total ass backwards, slap in the face, kind of way. Hear me out.
When I lost my phone, I gained my own attention back. I didn’t realize how much my phone was shaping my travels and how much of my focus I was really giving it. You know what they say, “You never know what you have, until you lose it.” Well this concept worked in reverse for me here. I didn’t know the piece of myself I was losing to my phone, until I got it back after my phone and I went separate ways.
Instead of Instagraming and Facebooking every place I visited, I stayed completely in the moment, unable to take pictures. I was seeing things with my own eyes completely, not through my camera and lighting filters. Instead of “checking in,” I completely “checked out” every new spot I visited. What’s that around the corner? A local store that sells bottles of wine for one euro? Yes! A street artist, a hidden cafe, a new park I missed during my walk the other day. Whoa. “Why do things look so fresh and new? I have been here almost a week already,” I thought to myself.
Instead of messaging people through WhatsApp, I went back to archaic emailing, from a computer, where the sentences actually take thought, and a bit more time for a response. What a concept! Instead of relying on Google Maps, I carried around an actual, physical map. (Hello locals! Yes, you guess it, I am a tourist!)
I asked directions and was forced to learn more of the local language. I improved my mind’s navigational tool. Who knew that was even there? Instead of using “Notes” to journal, I carried around my real journal and wrote with a pen. It was therapeutic.
Without my phone, I became more present, resilient and adaptable. I worked through every challenge without “Google.” And as I made it through sticky situations and figured out how to navigate myself around, I felt strong. Nothing beats the feeling of success I felt after roaming around, getting lost and finding my way home- all on my own. I did a happy dance every time I walked in the door of my destination. “I made it here without GPS!” I would tell whoever I met upon my entrance while they gave me a funny look. Hold your applause, I will celebrate on my own. This was a glorious personal victory!
I completely disconnected and reconnected with myself and my surroundings. This was a gift.
Yes, there were moments I would have killed to have my phone there. Not being able to take pictures of the amazing places i was seeing was the worst part. Also, feeling extra disconnected from my friends and family back home. Homesickness finally set in after almost a month of being gone and I cried like a baby a few times. I suppose it was about time. There were tough days, but I got through it.
My phone was replaced and I am now back online, Googling and mapping around. I am a bit less reliant on it though. I don’t freak out when I don’t have reception and can’t find wifi (or as they pronounce it in France “weefee”). No worries. I got this. Let me just tap into my mental navigational tool and access my common sense. I know how to get from point “A” to point “B,” always. I take pictures when something is spectacular- nothing mundane. I use my “internal compass” and my deep instincts as much as possible and try to use Google less.
I am more thoughtful with my responses to people I message from home and am still carrying around my physical journal. I have found a new kind of balance in the present. I am grateful to be able to stay connected as I continue this journey around the world, but I will never forget the time I spent completely disconnected and reconnected with myself.