By Michael Schibel, Founder of Travel With Meaning
You can find Wi-Fi almost anywhere in the world. I met a man while traveling who had never seen, sent or received an email, lucky him.
I’ve personally found service in off-the-beaten-track restaurants, coffee shops, and random taverns in third world countries. Sure, it's trendy these days to unplug from Wi-Fi, but let’s face it, that’s because so many of us are constantly online and addicted. It’s rare to find anyone in a first-world country who has a job, earns a living that has never seen, sent or received an email. Then, I found him, Dingo Dave.
In 2010, I visited Fraser Island off Australia’s Eastern Queensland Coast. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island 120km (75 miles), a stunning, magical environment. A wondrous place to take in the serenity of nature, go for long walks, and unplug. There was no Wi-Fi on Fraser Island.
As part of my excursion I signed up for a two-day guided tour to have the full experience and knowledge of the island. This is where I met our tour guide who called himself, Dingo Dave. Dave was a true rugged Aussie bushman in his mid-to-late forties. He had a kooky personality and genuine smile. Dave was a vast treasure of knowledge of the island. Sure, he could have made up some of the details he was sharing, but he was so convincing it was hard not to believe him! In between his island knowledge, funny stories, and crazy off-roading skills, he also shared a few made-up raps. It was clear he loved what he did for a living. His passion for the environment and enthusiasm to encourage people to slow down, look around and appreciate the lessons we can learn from nature was better than any National Geographic program I had ever seen. He wanted us all to be present to the magic and beauty that was in front of us.
Dave is hands down one of the most memorable people I have ever met on my travels. Dave was also an email virgin. He told me he had never seen, sent or received an email in his life. I was floored by this revelation! I wanted to be that person to introduce Dave to the world of email. I also saw it as a monumental opportunity to bring Dave into the 21st century.
As I dove deeper into his background he shared with me that he had been a tour guide on Fraser Island for over twenty years. On our tour, we stopped for lunch at a local resort where Dave and I found one of the only working computers on the island. It was an older computer with a dial up modem, but I was able pull up my email and show Dave my inbox.
The anticipation and excitement on Dave’s face as the email uploaded was hilarious. He did seem a little uncertain about the entire thing, but played along in the typical Dingo Dave fashion. This was uncharted waters for him and something I will probably never experience again. When my emails finally started rolling in he seemed overwhelmed and amused by it all. He was cracking jokes and playing off the entire experience.
Though in some odd way, I thought I was doing Dave a huge service by introducing him to the connected world through email. In my mind, I wanted Dave to embrace what I was gifting him. I really thought I was doing him a favor to help expand his online presence and elevate his business.
I wanted Dave to be excited to start using email and social media as a way to stay connected with former guests. I told him with minimal online interaction he could share his tours and stories with people all over the world. I even gave him some basic tips as I had done with many clients in the past. I was use to clients eating up any social advice I could offer to help grow their business and elevate online reach. Dave listened to what I shared, but did not seem one way or another to have interest to implement any my suggestions.
The truth is, looking back at this experience it was Dave’s way of life I wish I had embraced more. He didn’t have to unplug since he never plugged in. He never had to go through his inbox or have a care what was being said on Facebook. Things a lot of us wish we could turn off and life could be simpler. Dave was extremely happy giving tours on Fraser Island, sharing stories of his home and meeting people from all over the world. Sounds like a life some of us would LOVE to have today.
Not sure what happened to Dingo Dave after I left Fraser Island as I never got his email. I wonder if he ever decided to tap in to the internet, get an iPhone or even use social media. Does he send emoji’s to friends? Is he addicted to social media now like the most of us? Or did he laugh off the experience of seeing my email inbox and has never gone back online again. I doubt he still doesn’t have email, but maybe. Part of me hopes he never did.
Meeting someone today who has never seen, sent or received an email is as crazy as saying you’ve seen Big Foot or even a Unicorn…I found a unicorn that day on Fraser Island.
- Click here to see the video of Dave seeing email for the first time
A funny thing happened to me as I was finishing this blog. I was looking to find a way to be able to show what my takeaway was from Dave. How did this man’s happiness and contentment of not being so depended on email/social relate to all of us. Then something happened to me. My iphone died on a Friday afternoon. It literally just turned off and was frozen. I tried everything from resetting the phone to call Applecare, who’s system was down and was unable to support with my phone issue. I was able to get an appointment at the Apple store, but not until late in the afternoon the following day. Now having my phone die and not being able to get it work for a full twenty-four hours normally would have driven me crazy. I would have been annoyed, frustrated and pissed off. I wasn’t. I just rolled with it. Instead of getting up first thing Saturday and waiting outside the apple store to be seen, which I have done in the past, I took my dog for a long walk and then went to yoga before heading to the Apple store to deal with my phone.
It didn’t hit me until I was looking over this story while waiting at the Apple store how at ease and good I felt for the past twenty-four hours without my phone. I didn’t miss any important calls, texts or social media updates that would change the course of my life forever. Everything was ok.
Technology is a wonderful gift that allows us to connect with people all over the world, but it also creates a false sense of dependency on what we deem important.
I learned from my forced digital detox it’s necessary to unplug at least once a week. We may want to all embrace ways to separate from our phones for a few hours a week. Perhaps consider putting your phone in the other room when you sleep on the weekends or not checking social media an hour before bed.
I’m working on releasing the need to check social repeatedly and limit the time I spend not being present of what is in front of me. Being present to the awesomeness of the day and your surroundings is how Dingo Dave lived his life. I really want to email Dave and say thank you.