Truly aimless: Three days without a smartphone

On Day 46 of this adventure, I saw two incredible things. First, I hiked to Susan Creek Falls which became one of my favorite waterfalls of the trip. Then, I watched salmon swimming up the rapids of the Umpqua River. How cool is that?!

Alas, I have no photos from Day 46. I was without camera after my smartphone went swimming in Medford.

If you think about it, that last sentence would have made no sense just 10 years ago. Back then, a phone was just a phone. Today, a phone is a camera … and myriad other essentials. It’s the Swiss army knife of consumer electronics, and three days without one revealed just how reliant this traveler is on one.

Salmon at Cabela's

I didn’t have a camera when I saw salmon swimming up the Umpqua. Thankfully, I found these dead ones mounted at Cabela’s.

No camera. The loss of my smartphone compounded the damage done when I drowned my digital camera in Mendocino. Most alarming to me was the threat to my Facebook photo-a-day effort. This caused me more stress than it should have, so Best Buy was one of my first stops in Eugene.

No internet. When I left the Umpqua River bound for Eugene, I realized that my host’s address was in my email. So, I had to stop at the library in Roseburg to look him up. Later, as I played tourist in Eugene, I was rudderless. How do you find a coffee shop with free wi-fi and a vegetarian breakfast burrito without Yelp?!

No phone and SMS. Instead of texting my host with my ETA as requested, I had to email him from the library. Not a big deal, as long as he checks email. Also, I check in daily with my folks so they know where I am and that I’m alive. This’ll come in handy if my arm gets wedged behind a rock in a remote canyon … but only if they’re expecting texts and don’t receive one within 127 hours.

No social media. What’s the point of being this funny if you don’t have Twitter? What’s the point of looking this good shirtless without Facebook?

No music. I’ve been in love with Spotify for over a year now, but didn’t pony up for the subscription-only mobile version until this trip. With Spotify, I didn’t think to bring CDs. Without Spotify, I was listening to myself think … a lot.

A peach in Oregon

No camera? No smarmy pics of me enjoying PNW peaches.

No map and GPS. I wrote directions to my host’s house on a little scrap of paper. With a utensil called a pen. Crazy! Did you know that written directions don’t reroute when you miss a turn? It took me 10 minutes to circle back on the I-5 to start over.

No notepad. Speaking of scraps of paper, I used a lot of them in Eugene. Even on sabbatical, I keep a ton of lists in Evernote. Little tasks and to-dos. Addresses for post cards. Things to journal about. Without a smartphone, I was relegated to weighing myself down with an actual notepad.

No answers to life’s little questions. Here are a few questions left unanswered sans smartphone: What time is it? How far did I just run? Should I get out of bed yet? No smartphone means no watch, no alarm clock, no stopwatch, no odometer, and no answers to some of the more trivial questions of my life.

So, that’s an overview of what I lost in the bathroom that morning. Oh, what, I didn’t mention that I dropped my phone in the toilet?

Well, before you get any unclean ideas about me, I’ve developed a bad habit of carrying expensive electronics in my hoodie pocket. That’s how I lost my digital camera in the tide pool in Mendocino. And that’s how I lost my smartphone in the toilet in Medford.

So, yeah, the phone fell out of my hoodie pocket while I was standing. Not that I’m above toilet tweeting …

Thankfully, I now have a camera and a phone. Check out a new photo every day on Facebook.


  1. So was not having your smartphone a generally liberating experience, or a frustrating one?

    • It was definitely frustrating. I’ve done a nice job (by my standards) of disconnecting when desired in nature. For example, in Yosemite and Redwoods NPs I only used my phone to check in via SMS with my folks. But to be phoneless in a city was definitely a drag.

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