It strikes me that communication is vastly different from twelve years ago when we last did a big off shore trip. When we left the UK then, the world felt bigger. We were waved off by my parents in law who were stood on the roof of their south east cornwall, sea side home with a flash light, signalling to us until we were out of sight as we embarked on our big adventure, newly married. We were out of sight, we’d left our home port of Plymouth and were headed across the channel to France – eventually making it all the way to New Zealand. In those days, mobile phones were just talk and text. Using your mobile phone abroad was extortionate, even in Europe, so we didn’t. We had an email system on the boat which enabled us to send basic text only emails from anywhere, so that’s what we did. We sent ‘Sea Logs’ home telling friends and family what we’d been up to, and waited for people to respond – it was such a highlight to receive messages back, it really made our day.
These days there is of course still email (we do have a satellite phone email capability aboard, but this is strictly for weather routing, emergency contact and the odd email to patents to say we’re OK when we’re doing an ocean passage), but there is also social media – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Blogging and goodness knows what else. And they’re all accessible from your mobile phone, which isn’t really a phone anymore but a mini computer that can magically get you onto the Internet to use this social media or search the web from pretty much anywhere in the world – it’s insane, and it’s a huge pressure. We must all be contactable at all times and posting on social media immediately an event occurs. And of course our phones work in Europe off the same contract as at home, so it doesn’t cost us anymore to use them there than it did at home – we cannot escape the technology!
As a result, that precious message doesn’t have quite the same impact anymore – there is no build up and anticipation or waiting – it’s instant.
Heaven forgive us if the mobile network or wifi is a bit patchy and we actually have to make a phone call home – they all want to Skype or Face Time and to actually see each other. Often the conversation goes ‘press your video button so we can see you’ or ‘oh, you’ve frozen’ or ‘we can see you, can you see us?’. It can be frustrating.
Although I will admit, I do like WhatsApp – it has been brilliant for keeping in touch with girlfriends back home – it makes me feel like we’re not so far away. And it’s nice for the children to occasionally send and receive messages to and from their friends. It was recently my eight year olds birthday and for her to receive audio messages from her cousins and her best friend was really special – we all welled up listening to Mikayla, her bestie, sing her happy birthday!
But now we are outside of the EU – all of a sudden our phones are extortionate to use and we have to keep them on airplane mode so they won’t roam and generate a huge bill. So no more mobile data, no more instant messaging, no more googling from the boat, no more phones ‘binging’ with the latest message that’s popped through, no more checking your phone just in case you missed the ‘bing’! Now it’s more like old times, we are a little out of touch, we feel remoter, partly due to being geographically further away and partly because we have stepped out of that social network loop.
And you know…I really quite like it.
So now we can only use the internet if we have gone ashore and hooked up to wifi at a cafe or somewhere else where there is public, free wifi. Communication has become an event again – it is exciting to see what emails are waiting for us, who has posted pictures on Instagram and who’s Tweeting about what. I do miss WhatsApp, I miss my girlfriends and being up to date on what’s going on in their lives and the easy banter back and forth that WhatsApp facilitates – but I catch up with that ashore. The blog can be tricky, I can write off line of course, but to post it and to organise the photos I need good wifi.
The Cape Verde was our first destination outside of the EU and the wifi was not great – I spent a whole morning in a cafe trying to update the blog. But, I think maybe it’s better to schedule that admin time, rather than doing bits and bobs here and there and feeling guilty for being on the Internet when we should be out exploring and having fun or paying attention to what the children are trying to tell us.
Its going to be similar when we reach the Caribbean – we won’t be instantly contactable but I’m hoping the wifi will be faster when we do decide to check in on the mobile, social world, but…
On the whole I prefer I think, being a little less contactable. Leave me a message, I’ll get back to you when I pick it up, when we’ve finished having fun – rather than my phone pinging and binging and instantly disrupting the fun…