10 September 2014

The power of disconnecting

I call it "expedition style".
Petra was starting to understand what I meant by that; it was not the fact that we were now on our third week of 5 paddling and camping in the Swedish archipelago, it is more the state of mind that comes from being away from everyday life.

My highlights of any given year are usually my trips.
I love being away from the confinement of 4 walls and a roof, plugged and connected to the increasingly demanding "social media".
For 5 weeks I wanted to not think about others far away from the place I was in.
At the risk of offending and being called selfish I cherish the being away from others.
The islands we were travelling through had slightly more traffic then last year and on occasion my first choice of campsite was already occupied: we could not have the whole island for ourselves.
It was however prime holiday season for Sweden and realistically we were not that far off shore to think we could be really alone.

Evening shore walk_c

I prefer to travel with as few tools as possible that keep me connected to my usual world. I had to have a mobile phone with me so my friend Johan could text me the weather forecast. Honestly I would have preferred not to have it. I chose not to bring a GPS even tho Sweden would be one place where I could really use it as "geographical confusion" had its moments.
In a spur of the moment decision we started our trip too far South along the coast where we had no map for it. Interestingly enough the initial concern quickly drifted away since I knew I just had to keep to the right of the big islands but not too far out to be in totally open sea.
The fellow paddlers that we met and chatted to shook their head when we told them that we didn't have a map for the first days' journey and ultimately planned to reach Finland.
I now laugh at myself thinking that we might have come across a bit bizarre: we had the right gear and our kayaks were of the latest style but not having a GPS or even a map? now that is odd...

Vögeln camp_c
On my last local paddle in Australia before my Scandinavian trip I was in company of other paddlers that elected to use way-points to reach an island in my bay that clearly needs little navigation aid to be reached, in my opinion. I prefer the "navigation by sight" style where things become clearer as I get closer to my destination. And if I paddle a few minutes longer, I regard that as bonus time on the water.
There are times and places where electronic navigation does come in handy, but in reality often common sense still helps me out where I paddle.
Somehow there is a primeval sense of connection to the land or sea when I don't rely on too many external aids to travel in a remote place, a sense of achievement and discovery that I deem electronic devices can take away from me. I could have mapped my journey way more efficiently and searched online for "the best spots" to then have my GPS guide me along, but that is not how I like to travel.
I could have many websites tell me what the weather was going to do (rarely accurate tho) but I would have not engaged in conversation with the occasional sailor asking him for the wind predictions. I often ended up spending some times with them and had additional local knowledge shared with me, something that many websites can't offer.
Petra even scored the odd cookie or piece of cake from strangers once they discovered that we were travelling far.

And in the evening I was glad that I had no social chore of updating my site (I never did buy into the Facebook thing) and keep my fans fed. I spent my time running around the granite shores, sometimes taking pictures or just laying on my back on the warm rock, concentrated on the clouds passing by above me. I had time to talk to Petra; talk like there was no rush to say things as there was plenty of time. We did not bore each other with mundane trivial facts of who is doing what in the world.
We cared about our world: right there and right then.

Dinner at Lost Island camp_c
Did I miss out on something?
Yes, I did.
I did not hear the news for over a month; I did not hear of air disasters or wars, Royal babies or rock stars deaths, no scores of games and no updates on championships. And it felt so good.
The simplicity of being able to focus on what really matters can only be achieved when I disconnect, anything else just muddles my head.

Tara Jacoby:
You know that naked feeling you get when you realise you’ve forgotten your phone somewhere and have to go an hour or (gasp) a day without it? Rather than rushing to cover up that nakedness with a nearby tablet or the iPhone of a passerby, embrace the freedom a little. Enjoy the fleeting moment of not being tethered to a device that can tell you anything about anything at any given time. ...
Just be present and live in blissful ignorance, if only for a moment.

04 September 2014

Photo: The German camp

As we were paddling close to the cliff line when we rounded the corner their camp came suddenly into view. We found the Germans again.
We met on the water the day before and briefly chatted, then saying goodbye and hoping to meet again.
Myself and Petra have been on our paddling trip for 3 weeks already and wanted some company: time to talk to some new paddlers. It was late in the afternoon and despite having only paddled a short distance that day we saw no reason to paddle past this great little bay along the cliff faced Northern shores of the Åland islands.

The rocky granite ground was a bit bumpy in places but enough flat glacial-polished spots could be found for our tent too. A few showery looking clouds made sure that we searched for a location that would not pool under out tent in the middle of the night.
We spent the evening talking with our new friends, me in English, Petra in German (while I do understand "school" German the fast-talking locals leave a bit behind at times...).

Sunset finally approached and the light went "magic".

Reflection of Ǻland_c

The higher ground above the bay was graced with little ponds making the landscape a delight for an evening walk.
The glacial sculpting of the last ice age was particularly interesting here: the layers of the rock were tilted allowing the top edges to be of a baby's-butt smooth finish.
It felt great to run the hand over the shiny rock, reminding me of soft leather.
We laid down, our backs onto the warm granite and looked at the passing clouds in the sky, now no longer threatening rain. We knew real darkness would not come here as the sun was rising again way before we would.