I have a message for some of my colleagues (none on the Rider staff, thank goodness). I noticed something very disturbing on my last overseas press junket, and I need to get it off my chest.
Quite often (and especially in these times of tight budgets), overseas press junkets have itineraries that are more like marathons. Fly in Day 1, arrive Day 2, ride and shoot Day 3 and fly home Day 4. Just about the time you get your appetite back from the plane “food” and learn how to use the weird fixtures in your bathroom, it’s time to go home. Not much time to see stuff except what you can gander from the saddle–and that’s if the weather cooperates during the 8 hours you’re let outside.Sometimes, though, after a long flight we’re allowed a bit of free time to explore the wonders of the exotic place to which we have been whisked. I really appreciate a few hours to shake off some of the jet lag before riding, and explore an often new and different culture on foot, even if just for half-a-day. It’s a tourism opportunity people at our typical salary levels aren’t likely to get very often on their own. At last count I’ve traveled on five continents to 21 different countries on the job–many of them more than once, some many times–and I can’t remember when I didn’t enjoy and appreciate at least part of every trip. The best part is, I can remember something from ALL of them.
On my last overseas junket, this one to Japan, we had a little free time–on a Sunday no less–but a few of those on the trip unbelievably passed on the opportunity to sightsee. Very disturbing. True, these days if we’re not on a print magazine deadline, we’re often trying to fill the bottomless pit of our new digital responsibilities using only an iPhone while simultaneously shooting video and blogging…at every stoplight. With our left hands. So a chance to get something done in the room uninterrupted can be tempting. For many, though, the email, FaceTwitting and texting has become an addiction even after the job is done (does Betty Ford know about this? Maybe someone should send her a text).
Some of those who did join us may as well have stayed at the hotel, too. I spent hours with colleagues who I swear never looked up from their electronic device, whether we were walking, on buses, in taxis or even on ferries, where a false step could land you in the drink. And when they did look up, it was to discuss some technical fix or app or connection method they had just discovered that is new or cool or whatever. The Dalai Lama could have ambled past on an elephant with Paulina Porizkova in a bikini riding on its trunk and they wouldn’t have noticed. Later the only way many of them even remembered where we had been was to look at the photos.
Fellow journalists, some of you have a wee digital monkey on your back. When the work is done, that little voice of reason needs to chime in. Sure, fulfill your responsibilities, keep your job…and then back away from anything with a screen and lift up your head to the real world around you. Be in the moment for a moment. You’ll be gone someday, but that dang screen is not going anywhere soon.