I love technology and the access to information and education, online entertainment and inspiration, remote working capabilities, and communication benefits it provides. However, as technology encroaches ever more on our lives, I’ve found the need to push back. I can’t help feeling the days of owning our devices are slipping away, and we’re increasingly becoming ‘screen slaves’.
The pandemic has arguably accelerated this process, as Covid restrictions limit our human interaction/experiences, and instead, we’re encouraged to stay home and consume digital content. As a dedicated tech user, I’m as guilty as the next person of occasionally ‘doomscrolling’ and pursuing that next digital dopamine fix. But over the last few years, I’ve come to realise this can’t go on. I feel like I’ve been gorging on junk food for the longest time, and at first, it was a treat, but now I desperately long for something healthy. I want to shoot film photography, indulge in Zeppelin albums on vinyl, play guitar, sketch, keep a journal, play board games, enjoy good conversation with friends/family, and most importantly, completely immerse myself in nature. Bikepacking is one of the best ways to reconnect with the great outdoors, to leave the digital world behind, and take back control of your life.
Digital escapism is not exclusively afforded by bikepacking, and any conscious effort to get away from your devices will have a profound positive impact on how you feel. I make daily choices to leave my phone on my desk, replace a TV show with a walk/ride, play guitar rather than watch YouTube, etc. In other words, you can take incremental steps to reduce usage on a day-to-day basis, and I recommend giving it a go. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Sometimes I need a complete reset, and that’s when a multi-day disconnect works wonders. Again, this doesn’t have to be cycling. I often explore in my van, take the kayak, or hike into the mountains for a campout. However, for me, bikepacking has always been the ultimate digital detox. It was during a cycling adventure in Germany’s Schwarzwald or Black Forest that I realised all I needed to be truly happy could pack down into a few bespoke bags; almost everything in my life was a luxury item. It’s a liberating feeling. Moreover, very few of these essential belongings were tech. The sensation of completely existing in the moment was sublime.
I can only assume that in such an instance, we’re offered a glimpse of what life was like for our distant ancestors, a taste of a human ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. The relentless bombardment of consumerism, media, finances, and all other responsibilities of modern civilisation disappear, and I’m left with an existence that is so pure, so real. I’m instilled with a childlike curiosity, excited to see what’s around the next corner—when I’ll stop to eat, where I’ll camp. All senses are heightened through the lack of distraction, and I’m constantly reminded that we’re all part of this delicate ecosystem and that nature is everything.
Life in the saddle is simple: awaken with the sunrise; sleep at sundown; enact a daily routine dictated by food, water, and destination. On the bike, you exist for the moment; it’s beautiful. Moreover, two weeks of bikepacking feels like a month due to your mind and body being in such a positive, stress-free, and present state. However, I want to reaffirm that this experience is not exclusive to cycling and can be achieved through any active steps to disconnect from tech/devices and explore nature.
Technology is not to be completely demonised. In some respects, it’s bolstered my relationship with the outdoors, e.g., the use of GPS to identify hidden trails, using digital resources to plan trips, become inspired, etc. There’s real value online, and I’m grateful for the opportunities it bestows in our lives. That said, like anything, it’s all about responsible, balanced consumption, and I think most people would admit they’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to their devices. The more we rely on tech for fulfilment, the further we distance ourselves from the natural world. This is happening at a time when reconnecting and understanding the fragility of the planet is more important than ever. Ultimately, we’re animals, reliant on nature, and we’ve not evolved to live virtually.
I’m an avid tech user with lots of devices I use daily, and my perspective is that of a technophile, not a technophobe. The intention here is to stress the importance of owning your devices, rather than the other way round. John Muir said it best: ‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.’
| Photos shot on Leica M6 & Kodak Portra 35mm film |
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