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A Roadblock to Immersion: Technology

July 10, 2012

In 2011, I set forth on my once in a lifetime journey to Orvieto, Italy. Our group of twenty five American college students arrived in the mile-long, hilltop town in Umbria without the slightest knowledge of the technology situation. We soon discovered that we had gone from one extremity to the other – the United States, where Wi-Fi is accessible almost everywhere you go, to a town where the internet could only be found in two cafes. We immediately went into panic mode. For the Millenial generation, life without internet was like trying to breathe without air – impossible.

So my stubborn self trekked to a café every single day, sometimes twice a day in order to get my fix of internet. My priorities were out of line. I feared losing my friends and significant other if I didn’t contact them every day via Skype, Facebook or email. What seemed like the most important thing at that moment now seems incredibly foolish. The use of technology was a hindrance on my overall experience. The internet kept me inside four walls, isolated, adventure-less and trapped within my culture from the United States.

The locals never wasted a second of their time on the internet. Instead, they chose to stroll down the cobblestone streets, enjoy a cappuccino with a friend, throw confetti in the air, indulge in gelato or sip on some wine to pass their time. I didn’t take the opportunity to invest myself in their culture and live the simple Italian life. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I don’t think I fulfilled that proverb. I continued to practice my comfortable American lifestyle while studying and traveling in Western Europe for three months. According to my calculations, I spent at least ninety Euros on café-related purchases in order to have access to the internet. What a waste. The internet was one of many roadblocks to my immersion in the Italian culture.

I’m not saying that all use of technology is bad, and it should be forbidden during an excursion abroad. It is nice to have that comfort and know that you are still connected to people although you are across the world. It gets lonely sometimes, and you have that support system available by simply flipping open your laptop and logging in. My point is to use your time extremely wisely. There was a whole other world just waiting for me to explore and instead of taking advantage of it, I just walked right on by. Live up each second there, so you can return from your journey honestly saying that it was the best time of your life.

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