Sunday, January 28, 2018

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

By James M Jackson

In two days I begin the Great Antarctica Adventure. I’ve read all the preparatory material—at least twice. My camera equipment is packed. Batteries charged. Clothing checked against my master list and set aside. Bird books studied. Google translate loaded onto phone (to make up for my nonexistent Spanish skills). Twenty-five days’ worth of medicine set aside. Passport and cash in wallet. Boarding tickets printed out.

I’m ready to go, already . . . except for one thing. I’m not ready to give up my connection to the internet. We’ll probably have internet access in airports and hotels, but for the nineteen days we are on the ship, it is unavailable—at least at a price I want to think about.

I’ve been working on curbing my obsession to the news of the moment. That’s gone about as well as when I tried to quit smoking by gradually cutting down. Something would happen and poof (or puff), I’d be back at my two-pack a day habit. I’m wondering if constant irritation over the news isn’t as dangerous as my smoking habit was. So, I’m going cold turkey. If there’s a newspaper available at port stops, I’ll catch up, but no more checking eighty-seven times a day to see what . . .well, you fill in the blank; I’d just get upset again.

I’m giving up Facebook, too, but only for the trip. I’ll go missing to my 886 friends (as of this writing), and they will go missing to me. I won’t experience three and a half weeks of their lives, because—and I’m just being honest here—I’m not going to check my friends’ back posts when I return. That admission may even cost me a few friends. You mean I don’t care enough about them and their cat Fluffy that I won’t check out each cat shot, each annoying GIF, each political rant. Yep, and I won’t be able to celebrate your book launch or new grandchild, either. When I return to Facebook, it might be like reading a Russian novel and discovering six pages from the middle are missing. I’ll just plow ahead. I’ll miss about 0.08% of each person’s total life. Sure, some important things will happen, but not many—the effect over my total friends is about 2/3rds of one life.

Admit it—you won’t miss my occasional math-geek or writer-geek post, either. Maybe I’ll schedule one or two, just to remind everyone I’m still alive. I have a Writers Who Kill blog due while I’m traveling, and I turned that in ahead of time.

I won’t waste a second mourning the loss of not having access to my Twitter feed.

Email is something else. I remember when all important communications were delivered by the US Postal Service. Back in those distant times, it might take a week or more for a letter to move from sender to receiver. Only businesses used express mail, and faxes were of low quality, slow (two pages a minute) and were sent over long-distance lines you had to pay for by the minute. Oh, and remember telegrams, with their pre-Twitter form of clipped communication as every letter was expensive. STOP.

I’m a writer – what will happen if an agent or publisher wants to contact me? Or a book club wants to schedule me for a meeting? Or someone wants to buy a signed paperback? I’ll employ an automatic responder: “Sorry, it will take me some time to respond to your email. I’m traveling to Antarctica. Be back on 2/22.”

That reminds me of the time my boss insisted he have a way to contact me while I was on vacation. I was whitewater rafting down the canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. I thought a while and then told him that I supposed he could hire a helicopter rescue company to track down our raft and airlift me from the sandbar or beach we camped at that night.

Today, however, we’re used to being connected 24/7. One might still be forgiven for not answering an email for a day or two if you’d just had quadruple bypass surgery, but otherwise, we expect immediate responses. Well, other than the automatic responder I’ll set up, that just isn’t going to happen. Unlike my days working for corporations where there was someone to back me up, I’m a sole proprietor. It’s me or it’s not.

If that costs me some book sales, so be it. I’m confident the potential loss won’t cause me any sleepless nights or worrisome days. To find out, you’ll have to wait for my return.


  1. Bon voyage! Till we tweet again. Ga

  2. Have a great adventure and take beautiful photos!

    Other than texting my kids while we were out of the country, I took a 2.5 week break from the news. Absolute bliss. We didn't even know Italy was out of the World Cup.

  3. Georgia Ruth -- Made me smile.

    Margaret -- my gear consist of about 25 lbs of clothing and 35 lbs of photographic gear!

  4. My husband just returned from 2 weeks in the Peruvian Amazon - 10 days without Internet/email/phone. He seems...happy. Have a great trip, Jim. Looking forward to your stories and photos when you return!

  5. You may find, Jim, that you enjoy being cut off. Have a wonderful time. If you have time to read a mystery set at the Antarctic, I can recommend "The Winter Over" by Matthew Iden. It will give you an idea of what it's like to spend a winter there. Bon Voyage.

  6. Julie & Grace -- I'm actually looking forward to the news blackout. I am bringing my Kindle with me (no paperbacks) and have it loaded with enough books to last a year!

  7. Have a great trip, Jim! I have friends who have been on the National Geographic Antarctica trip and they loved it. Can't wait to see the pix when you get back. And I'll miss your posts. They are always interesting, informative, and spot on!

  8. I bet you will return with material for writing that you would never have otherwise. Have a great experience.

  9. Thanks Kait & Warren. Travels always provide new material for writers and I expect that will be the case here as well.

  10. Jim, have a great trip in the Antarctica. I rarely go on Facebook only if it pops up in my inbox that someone I know is having a birthday. If it's someone I don't know I ignore it. I rarely go online on my vacations because usually I'm camping or I just don't want to bother with checking my emails. Like you I'm getting tired of hearing the latest news on you know who. I can't wait to read the blogs you're going to write about your trip. I'm sure you'll have enough material for at least three blogs.

  11. Gloria -- talk about pressure: I have to come up with at least three blogs from this trip? Oh well, we'll see what happens. At this point, we're holing up inside the house hoping to avoid any last minute exposure to the flu!

  12. Have a wonderful adventure, Jim!

    I've been out of internet range a few times in the last few years, and it never bothered me.