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The Day I Ditched Technology and Went Unplugged – I Learned an Important Life Lesson

Swedish Summer House

This week I got an email from a friend who has been my online mentor and teacher. She is visiting family in Finland, but she still finds time to write to her students and friends. She said she was getting ready to go spend the day at the “summer house.” Oh my, did that bring back memories! Let me tell you…

To The Top of the World

My daughter went to live in the north of Sweden right after college. Her reasons are far too complicated for the scope of this article, but she settled in a little village with 700 people, just 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. She soon became fluent in the language and she felt at home right away. This place was so remote you had to sometimes get out of your car and wave the reindeer off the road. I never understood her acceptance of such a radical culture change (she went to college in Dallas, TX), but she absolutely loved living there.

Her first summer, she would write to me and tell me about the “summer houses” also known as “stugas.” Seems that everyone has one. It’s usually a little cottage or cabin situated on a lake or other body of water, and it’s not uncommon for this summer house to have just one big room with some tiny little closet-like spaces for beds. They also usually come equipped outdoors with a sauna. Those stories you’ve heard about the Arctic people sitting in saunas and then rolling in the snow or jumping into cold water are not fiction.

The Invitation

So on with my tale…I went to visit several years ago in the beautiful month of September. It was unseasonably warm (in the 60’s) and there was still plenty of daylight. Of course, one of the families with whom she had grown very close, wanted to take me to their summer house for the day. I was thinking “activity” so I didn’t bring along my usual collection of writing supplies, books, and journals. I had no cell phone that worked there, and I also left my laptop in the house in the village.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into this one-room cottage and everyone found their way to sofas and rocking chairs and seemed to settle in. Soon my hostess, Elizabeth, had a big pot of something on the stove, and her husband, Joel, built a fire and there we sat…and we sat, and we sat. Elizabeth spoke almost no English, Joel’s was passable and he wanted to practice. My daughter promptly went to sleep in front of the fire, and there I was…with absolutely nothing to do except relax and chat a little.

Nothing to Do? You’re Kidding!

I’ll have to say, it took me a couple hours to really relax. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually had a day with no agenda. There was absolutely NOTHING I was required to do. Finally, I asked Elizabeth if I could help with anything (Please, say yes!) and she let me walk with her in the forest to collect lingonberries for the fresh sauce we would make for the reindeer sausage-stuffed potato dumplings that were cooking.

After that was completed, it was back to the rocking chairs, and the warmth of the fire finally made me totally relax, my crossed leg stopped keeping time with some internal rhythm heard by no one but me, and I finally moved to the sofa and fell asleep alongside my daughter. After a nice long nap, we woke up to have a very tasty traditional northern Swedish dish called “pault.” After dinner, we had another walk in the woods and I found a whole rack of antlers on the forest floor. They were too big to bring home as a souvenir, but I thought about it, for sure. We stoked the fire, played a board game or two (that was interesting, given the language differences) and then enjoyed perfect Swedish coffee and ice cream. I learned that the Swedes eat more ice cream, per capita, than any other nationality. With the temperatures below zero half the year – go figure!

When it was very late, I didn’t want to leave. Had it only been 12 hours since I had walked in, taken stock of the situation and become fearful that I would die of boredom? My daughter still laughs about that day. She had learned already that it’s a good thing to just get “unplugged” and enjoy doing absolutely nothing. It took me traveling more than 8,000 miles to the top of the world to figure this out.
Here’s What I Learned

Ever since then, I make sure that I have some days without an agenda. I don’t get to do it often, but now and again, it’s a necessity for me to be at my best for the rest of my very busy life. Whatever you do, learn to relax, at least once in awhile.

Leave a comment and let me know how you handle your technology overload.  Do you take a regular break?