Bruce Feiler makes the case for taking advantage of digital resources while on vacation in Our Plugged-in Summer:
I concocted a scheme. During weekends this summer, I would pursue the opposite of an unplugged vacation: I would check screens whenever I could. Not in the service of work, but in the service of play. I would crowd-source new ideas for car games and YouTube my picnic recipes. I would test the prevailing wisdom that the Internet spoils all the fun.
It’s a hard balance to strike. On the one hand, the digital world offers lots of great resources to help you with your adventure: maps, apps, web sites galore, all just a click or a tap away! But on the other hand, the screen can be a distraction from the moment, a barrier between you and the fun in the real world that your kids are engaging.
Feiler’s struggle in his summer of digitally-enhanced fun was to keep work from creeping in. When your e-mail is just a click away from the app that identifies trees from photos of leaves, when the latest news is so easy to check when you look up the map to that great donut shop you heard about, it’s easy to drift away from vacation. Using your computer or phone to orchestrate your adventure may actually require more discipline than just turning off the Internet while on vacation.
I admit to being a digital junky while on adventures. Without Twitter, I would never have found the Powderhorn Park Art Sled Rally, and I love trading adventure tips on Facebook. I even post pictures of ‘smores while at Scout camp (which has actually been a pretty good recruiting tool for new Scouts). It’s great to be able to check the hours of a museum while on the run, or to find a slice of pizza in an unfamiliar area when your kids are on the verge of hunger-induced meltdown. But I also recognize that there’s a lot of fun in going with the flow, letting serendipity guide your discoveries, and it’s hard to be surprised when you’ve scanned the environs with Google Maps, Foursquare, and Yelp!, and know the lay of the land as well as a native.
Fortunately, Dad’s Eye View comes in both a wired and non-wired version, both of which are geared toward serendipity and surprise. For the traditionalist, there’s the book, which fits easily in your adventure bag and is there to send you in the right direction without getting in the way. I think of it as like my old Boy Scout Field Guide: always in my bag in case I need to look something up, but mostly out of the way. And there’s the iPhone app for the connected-on-the-go Dad who wants to check the map for nearby locations, browse for an adventure while out and about, or maybe crowdsource the fun with a quick Facebook or Twitter post. (That digital Dad could also upload pictures of their adventure to the Dad’s Eye View Flickr group while on the run).
How about you? Plugged in, or unplugged?