live in the present


I’m so sorry for my radio silence this month!! A cluster of silly but unfortunate events all came at once (as they often seem to do). 


I accidentally left my laptop charger in Berlin, and apparently many countries don’t sell Microsoft Surface Pro chargers. Shipping a new one would have taken almost the time I had remaining in Europe anyway, so I decided to venture forward laptop-less. “I can still post and do work on my phone, it’ll be fine.” I reassured myself.


Then I dropped and broke my phone. It was a very bad time, since it was a borrowed phone from a wonderful friend in Berlin since mine was locked and could not use any other SIM cards, and I felt horrible. Thankfully my original phone was still working, so I could search for repair stores with Wi-Fi.


But again, branding is definitely an issue. I was told by 3 store owners that “We don’t sell OnePlus phones in Croatia.” So no one could help. It felt like every other brand was present, except the ones I needed for my laptop, and now, my borrowed phone.


And on top of all of that, my travel companion had just split off onto a different path as well, so that also took some adjustment. No extra set of eyes, mind to bounce ideas off of, or someone to commiserate with during the bad times, like now. We had mostly been doing our own things, working on our respective dreams, but the simple passive support of someone you know and trust close by was a luxury I took for granted until it was no longer present!


I collapsed in one of the couches at the mall and had a good cry. It was cathartic and I highly recommend them. This all happened in the span of 4 days, and I felt like the Universe was trying to tell me something, although I wasn’t sure what it was.


In hindsight, I see it as a sign to be more present, and to remember all that I do have. I didn’t realize how tied I was to technology until I lost it. I felt like I had lost two limbs. I was so used to having a laptop to designate “work mode” and took for granted how easy it was to type with a full keyboard for blog posts, journaling, emails, etc. 


Even outside of work, I was dramatically affected as well. I was so used to a bigger screen to watch videos that it was blearily painful trying to use my phone. That’s one of many reasons that I’ve never owned a television—once you get used to a huge screen, it’s hard to go back. For nomads or for people who know they’ll be needing to move around a bit for jobs/school, I highly recommend a projector. Big screen, but lightweight.


Then there was having a data plan and the Internet at your fingertips at all times, which I lost when I dropped the phone. I started worrying about getting lost while exploring or not being able to contact my AirBnB hosts when switching accommodations.


Thankfully, I learned to adapt, and can now say it’s entirely possible to travel only with Wi-Fi. It just takes a bit more planning and effort. 


If you ever find yourself in this situation or don’t want to buy a SIM card for mobile data, here are some tips:



1. Download Offline GoogleMaps of your city/town, and GoogleTranslate.

It’s amazing how much information downloads – some restaurants even have their ratings on there! Your phone’s GPS doesn’t need Wi-Fi or data to work, so you can always see where you are.


It’s important to note that you can only look up driving directions on Offline maps, NOT public transit or walking. 


Still, you can look at the roads and figure out a walking path, and take screencaps of the buses/trains you need to take. This requires fully planning out your day before you head out, unfortunately, but it’s doable. You might get lucky and find a cafe or restaurant that has Wi-Fi while you’re out, or stumble upon public city Wi-Fi, which is offered in many cities surprisingly.


GoogleTranslate is also an amazing tool that lets you download a whole dictionary of any languages for very little space on your phone! You can then look up any word, although the camera feature can’t be used offline.




2. Always make sure to take down the phone number of your AirBnB or accommodation host.


Do not rely entirely on messaging within the app, which requires Wi-Fi or mobile data. Confirm their address and number as well. I’ve had the wrong information before, and it was a giant headache. Most people in the world are kind and helpful, and will let you use their phone to call your host when you’re outside their door. Some strangers will even offer to help you if they see you looking lost.


Along that note, if you want to be really savvy, you can look up buildings that offer Wi-Fi before you even head out, and plan your day only up until that point. This allows for some spontaneity of travel. It can be hard to find or verify that the Wi-Fi is working, so always have a back up plan and know how to get back home.



3. Consider tour groups.


You don’t have to think or plan anymore once you book one. Although they’re a little more expensive than doing an excursion by yourself, they do offer value that you can’t get on your own, such as commentary from a native’s perspective, a place to store extra bags, or even an extra side excursion that would have been hard to get to on your own.


They’re also great for solo travelers, especially if you’re feeling a bit socially-deprived. For me, they gave me a sense of community and peace, a temporary family who cared about and looked out for me, even if just for a day. I particularly bonded with a mother-daughter pair from the UK. The mother was so sweet and kind and took me under her wing/pseudo-adopted me! It was very comforting and reminded me that I’m not alone, that the whole world is my family. 


In just this week alone, I’ve met so many amazing people!! I also attended Meetups, Couchsurfing, and Facebook local events, which I highly recommend. Unless you’re in a really remote place, there will always be other travelers and locals for you to interact with. I didn’t stay at Hostels since I was paranoid about protecting my belongings after the theft incident in Morocco, but those are a great way to meet people as well. I’d recommend getting a lock, or at least a zip-tie for your bags, no matter where you stay.



4. Download entertainment in advance.


Did you know Netflix lets you download certain movies/episodes?? That was news to me, and it’s made long bus rides a lot more enjoyable. Songs, games, e-books, there is so much accessible entertainment if you have any piece of technology.



5. Learn to do more with less.


We didn’t have all this technology until very very recently. I didn’t have a phone until college, and then it was a flip phone without Internet accessibility for quite a few years. I’ve had to adjust back to those times. I’ve been drawing more, savoring my food without distractions, and getting out there talking to people and connecting organically, rather than just networking online.


It was a good reset, a retreat from technology (albeit forced). I’ve grappled with this issue for a while. I hate being tied to social media, or taking so many photos that it distracts from the moment. But at the same time I understand that for my desired digital nomad lifestyle, I do need a certain amount of connection to technology. This has been an interesting lesson in finding that balance.


It was also a reminder that when it feels like your world is crumbling from so many bad things are happening, especially all at once, stop and remember all that you do still have. I felt so silly for getting so worked up about those losses. I still had all of me—my health, all my senses, my mobility, my sanity, my memory, my skills, my relationships, food and shelter, and so much more. 


Thankfully this story has a happy ending. One day I happened to pass a phone store, and decided to make one last-ditch effort. They still didn’t sell OnePluses, but they had just received a shipment of their screens and parts!! Bless that man, I am convinced he’s a miracle worker. He fixed the phone in just a few days!!! So I now have one limb restored to me, though it’s funny that it happened after I had gotten used to being without it. I can now appreciate it anew, using its data consciously and mindfully.


My laptop is still out, and sadly I can’t post pictures or draw anything on the tablet for a while longer. But I see this as an opportunity for me to learn to work in new ways and to spend my time differently.


It’s best to be fully immersed in what you’re currently doing, to fully enjoy it and experience the most happiness. Technology is one of the many distractions out there, and studies have down that it has decreased our attention spans!


Analyzing the past or worrying about the future is just a waste of precious time and energy. We don’t know what life is going to throw at us, or when our last day is going to be. I have seen and known so many people whose lives were cut off prematurely, from an aggressive cancer, to a fatal bus accident.


Fully being in the present and making the most of each day is truly the best way to live!


live in the present


Addendum: Well unfortunately I had reeaally bad luck and caused a minor crack in the new phone screen while hiking, which I brought back promptly for repair again. But phones cannot handle being repaired too many times…and the screen died randomly on its own today while I was using it. This will be a funny story in the future…and hey, I get to gift my friend a brand new phone to say thanks for everything!

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Who am I?
Hi! I'm Dr. Toni, a carTOONIst. I empower, educate and advocate for women and minorities through my art and coaching, while traveling nomadically. I help others also follow our hearts and live true to themselves, no matter what others say!
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