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[at-l] Some thoughts on technology

I agree with the idea of hike your own hike. If someone is carrying a
computer, that's their problem, not mine unless I let it be.  But if
someone asks me before they begin thei hike, what I'd tell them is to
think about how the use of it will change the nature of the hike.  In
which world do you want to be immersed - the world of the trail or the
world back home?  The more you are in one, the less you wil be in the

Many years ago I had two opportunities to study overseas.  The first time
I lived with a family in a small town. There were no other Americans, so
I was completely immersed in the language and culture around me.  It was
hard, but I learned so much that year. 

The second time I went with a university program to a large town where
there were many Americans.  We mostly ended up talking to each other,
since the local students were not very receptive to our presence.  I
learned nothing about the local culture and very little more of the
language.  It was much easier to stick with the easy way - the American
friends and language that surrounded me.  The only real benefit I got out
of that year was when I went off by myself traveling, and had no choice
but to open myself to the local languages and cultures. 

In the same way, long distance hikers can choose to totally immerse
themselves in the trail and/or natural worlds, or to divide themselves
between the "civilized" world and the trail world.   It is doable, but
the experience is going to be different, and to my point of view, not
nearly as rich as it could be.  As has been pointed out, there are a lot
of forms of that crossover - not just computers, but radios, cell phones,
etc. Each takes you away from the present moment reality to the other far
away world.  If that's the kind of hike you want - go for it.  But it
won't be the same.   One of the gifts of the trail is learning to live in
the present moment .  Carrying a computer on the trail is like going to a
foreign country and refusing to learn the language, so why not instead
immerse yourself in trail culture, the people and beauty around you? 
It's amazing what you can learn.  

When I see people sitting in the park or walking down the street with a
telephone to their ear, I know they're not looking at the birds or the
flowers around them, they are far from the present moment life that
surrounds them.  I see them and laugh, and decide again and again not to
become like them, so dependent on technology they can't enjoy a simple
walk in the park without it.

I will sometimes carry a book with me on the trail. However I find that I
rarely take the time to read it, unless I am doing very short days,
because the world around me is so much more interesting than the most
fascinating words on a page.

Right now, as we sit perched between two worlds - so close to the trail
world we left in December and the new trail world we will experience in a
couple of months, yet living at the moment in the "normal" world of
technology and 21st century so-called culture, I know which world appeals
to me more.  After the trail, I don't know how I'll  distance myself from
that culture, but I think I will try.  I've seen a better world, why
would I settle for the "normal" world if I can avoid it?  

Maybe future hikers will all have their technotoys -- but then there will
always be those of us who prefer a simpler life and a simpler style, both
on and off the trail.  John Muir set a good standard.  The more you
carry, the more you distance yourself from the natural world.  Maybe when
I get really experienced, I'll be able to go with nothing but a blanket
and a handful of bread.  Sounds good to me.

My $ .02

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