Spotlight ~ Three Takeaways from SigningOff Abroad

Originally published on February 7, 2019.

Simply put, I love to travel. The collection of stamps in my passport can attest to this passion.

Despite my extensive travel record, I recently had a trip that was unlike any other. This past November, I spent a week in El Salvador building a home with and for local community members.

Before leaving, I planned to fully immerse myself in my experiences with a new mindfulness and limited distractions. With this goal in mind, I decided to SignOff from my digital devices for the duration of the trip.

Disconnecting from the digital world proved worthwhile. It not only enhanced my experience, but also left me eager to take advantage of digital breaks more often.

SigningOff reminded me of three crucial points:

1: Your attention is invaluable

With only a week in El Salvador, I knew my time was fleeting. I wanted to make every interaction and every moment meaningful. This meant I needed to listen to every person I met- really listen. This trip was too important not to.  

Our devices can steal our focus, even when we’re good at hiding it, and I didn’t want to give my phone that power during this trip. With no phone to tempt me, I was free to offer the local people that I met, as well as my fellow travelers, my full, undivided attention.

In this, I learned what a gift attention can be. I had some of the most authentic and vulnerable discussions I have ever been a part of. When we are listening to people, free from distraction, people will respond. They will offer you their stories- heartbreaks, dreams, and all.

2: Embrace your present

When we are fully attentive to the people and scenes around us, we can become more appreciative of the present, with less concern about the past, future, or the lives of others.

There have been moments where I am in an amazing situation, yet somehow find myself sidetracked or concerned about missing out on another opportunity the instant I check my social media feed.

I did not want this to be the case during my time in El Salvador. I knew I had an incredible opportunity in front of me and there was no room for FOMO. With no means of comparing what my friends back home were up to, I had the ability to fully live in the present and appreciate my unique experiences.

3: Sometimes it’s worth waiting

Our digital devices have fueled our desire and expectation for instant gratification. At the tip of our fingers we can instantly order our favorite food for delivery or stream the latest movie. While the capabilities of our smart devices offer great convenience, I believe they have also robbed us of a deeper satisfaction and thrill that can come from waiting and working for results.

During my trip, I witnessed this truth through my photography.

Though I was without a phone or digital camera, thanks to an old school disposable camera, I was still able to capture the most memorable moments.

From the minute I took a photo until the time my pictures finally developed, there was a constant sense of anticipation to see how the images had turned out- a feeling that we no longer get to experience with our instant iPhone pics.

After patiently waiting three weeks for the pictures to develop, I felt like a kid on Christmas when I received the call from Walgreens that my prints were ready for pickup.

Nowadays, this effort to obtain pictures seems extraneous, but I was reminded that some things really are worth the wait.

I cannot help but think that without SigningOff, my trip would have looked very different. Had I kept my phone, I believe my full presence would have been lacking. I do not think I would have created the rich memories I did, and I believe I would have missed out on tiny, but precious moments.

The digital hiatus magnified my experience abroad and strengthened my intentionality. It also sparked a lingering desire to disconnect beyond my travels.

I’m now challenging myself to implement these takeaways on a daily basis. I’m challenging you to do the same.

Don’t miss the moments. SignOff.

🦋 Lauren Bozarth

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