I pulled up in front of Starbucks the other night and parked next to a woman sitting in her truck, her face illuminated by the electric light from her laptop. I opened up my own laptop, logged on to Starbucks' free wi-fi and, bathed in my own electric light, found myself on a new fringe of society. I am now a technomad in search of wi-fi hotspots. For the first time in nearly 15 years, I do not have round the clock access to the web at home, and I have to say - I love it.
I'll admit, it was hard the first few days after I pulled the plug on the modem. There were tears and tantrums (not mine) and symptoms associated with cold turkey withdrawal - shaky hands, restlessness, nausea (all mine). Every five minutes I'd think, I need to check my email, but I couldn't - and I really didn't need to.
Being part of Habit last month helped me realize my own bad habit. I've spent way too much time on the internet these past few years. Finding the wonderful world of blogs and creating my own blog was like discovering a magical land - a land where time went by a lot faster than it seemed. I'd sit down to check my email, thinking it would just take me a few minutes, but responding to a few emails and checking a few blogs, I'd easily lose a half hour - or more. Writing a post could sometimes take hours. Because I was spending time online, my kids were spending time online. I found it hard to limit their internet time without being a hypocrite.
When I called the phone company to cancel our internet service, the operator was taken aback.
"I don't get many calls like this," she said, offering alternatives such as parental controls.
"It's not just the kids who have a problem," I said, thinking about alternate meanings of the phrase "parental controls".
As a parent, I took control. I pulled the plug, not just for my kids, but for myself. I took back the clock in the magical land I loved even before I discovered the land of blogs - home. Without wi-fi, time at home has slowed down. We're creating time instead of losing it. I'm more present in each moment, I'm more connected without internet connection.
This is not to say I'm leaving this space. I'm unplugged, but not disconnected. I'll continue to blog and post pictures to flickr, read and send emails, visit the spaces of virtual friends, just not as often, and not while sitting on the couch or laying in bed. I have a feeling the kids and I will be making more frequent trips to the library with our laptops and iPods tucked in our book totes. I'll escape early mornings or late evenings to Starbucks, where I won't spend a dime, but I'll get more than my money's worth eavesdropping on college students while I tap into free wi-fi.
Who knows, perhaps being a technomad will give me even more to write about, and more time to write.