A close friend of mine works for a multinational medical device company, and when her coworkers go to China, they bring special laptops with only what they need for that specific trip. Then those laptops get wiped when they come back. This is not a surprise given China’s reputation for having a complete lack of respect for intellectual property. Just look at the two “7-11s” I photographed. There were many, many more and real 7-11s too. Even though I’m a random nobody tourist, my friend’s stories and others I read on the internet about laptop confiscation and spyware made me decide to leave my laptop at home.
I wanted to bring my computer so I could work on my novel and some short stories because when it’s time to get serious about writing I simply can’t do it by hand. However, I really didn’t want anything to happen to my laptop. So what I did instead, was wipe my iPad mini and buy this nifty little keyboard for it. Well, the keyboard works perfectly but is just a bit too small to type for long periods of time, which meant I was barely on the computer at all while I was there. In addition, I didn’t bother with a VPN, so except for Shanghai where the entire hotel was on a VPN, I had no access to Facebook, Twitter, What’sApp, or Gmail.
This was exactly what I needed. I needed to escape everything. I live digitally. I’m constantly RSVPing for Meetups, scheduling workouts, updating my personal calendar, managing food deliveries, Tweeting, buying tickets and making reservations, dealing with financial accounts and bills, and writing, of course. Writing, writing, writing. For work and for pleasure. My eyes are glued to a screen probably 60 percent of my waking time, more so in the winter when I’m not out hiking and camping.
Even when I’m not in the matrix, the list of mundane life tasks I need to do never ends and sometimes it grates on me. I am 90 percent happy being single, but one of the things I miss about being in a relationship is having someone to pamper you and pick up the slack when you have a few days when you just can’t adult anymore. When you’re single, the dishes still pile up, food needs to be prepared, sheets washed, floors swept, the dog walked twice a day, the snow cleared off the car, garbage taken out, and your goddamn fingernails and toenails just keep growing and growing and need to be cut over and over and over and over. Sometimes, you just can’t do it anymore.
But for 12 blissful days, it was all gone. I had impeccable and swank hotel rooms, cleaned and made up for me every day. Someone else did all the cooking, sometimes even the ordering, and the washing too. The tour guides set wake up calls for me. I was driven around and all I had to do was sit back and relax. I basically didn’t even have to think for most of the time I was there.
I generally don’t go for the whole package tour thing—it’s been 6.5 years since the last time I did one—but I really needed it. All I had to worry about what getting my little body where it needed to be at the appointed time. My digital life went completely ignored for the first week. And as for my nails, well that’s what a manicurist is for. So here are some photos of happy, unplugged, carefree me. And yes, I’m totally wearing the exact same thing on three separate days because I had no reason to give a shit. Ahhhhh, freedom.
For the Christmas and New Year’s holiday in 2018, I spent 12 days in the People’s Republic of China. The trip marked the first time I had been to Asia in over 16 years. In these 12 posts, I share my thoughts, observations, and feelings about the PRC. For a highly readable, more in-depth account of past and future China from a westerner who lived there for many years, I recommend Rob Gifford’s China Road.