Eva Bradley: Reconnecting with reality

By Eva Bradley

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I rediscovered the lost art of asking for directions. Photo / Thinkstock
I rediscovered the lost art of asking for directions. Photo / Thinkstock

It's hard in today's connected, catalogued world to go off grid and be intrepid. Unless you're prepared to go to some fairly extreme lengths, "adventure" is almost a historical noun.

In the past I've been lucky (or unlucky) enough to clock up one or two genuine adventures. Making my way to the Pacific Islands under sail and spending a year dodging the various perils of life on a small yacht was definitely one of them.

But that was when I was young(er!) and with the passing of time comes the accumulation of responsibilities that make adventures less possible and less desirable.

That's why I got a little, bitty buzz yesterday when I climbed into my four-wheel-drive, headed for a commercial shoot on a remote hill country farm tucked beneath the monolithic Te Urewera National Park.

Everything I needed to know about the who, what and where was efficiently filed in what I like to think of as my "brain extension" - my iPhone 6.

Due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances that involved a handbag, a drink bottle and my toddler's newfound passion for unscrewing lids, my iPhone had spent the previous night in a puddle.

The sales rep at Spark cast her trained eye over it and issued a technical diagnosis: It was "poked".

With a loan phone in hand I hit the road hard to make up time and felt fortunate to have quite accidentally had the farm address written on what was now a soggy scrap of paper at the bottom of my bag.

What I hadn't anticipated, however, was the loan phone failing and leaving me in the middle of nowhere without Google maps or the slightest idea how to find what was already an incredibly remote location.

Fortunately, not being a man, I was able to stop and ask for directions. And that's when I began discovering the sort of "connectedness" that has nothing to do with digital technology and everything to do with community.

Even though I was a long way from the backcountry track I was searching for, the first farmer I stopped had a vague idea of where I needed to be and drew a rudimentary map for me on a scrap of paper.

Clasping it tightly like Hillary might once have clasped his ice pick, I drove on for 30 minutes with a vague optimism that I was heading the right way.

The next farmer I approached confirmed I was making progress but still had some way to go.

He then rattled off a series of directions that included the phrases "up hill and down dale" and "turn left at the cattle stop". I'm pretty sure the crisply enunciated voice on Google Maps has no such directives in her repertoire.

Interestingly, despite asking him to repeat himself, I found myself quite unable to log his directions in my short-term memory.

It was as if my brain had permanently switched off the capability to remember a series of simple driving instructions because I'd outsourced the requirement to Google. What also amazed me was that when he asked who I was looking for and I confessed that all I knew was it was "Jim who grows lucerne", he knew exactly who I meant even though the two men lived 45 minutes apart.

One more farmer on the way confirmed "Jim who grows lucerne" was "just around the bend" and sure enough, I found myself where I needed to be.

Thanks to the sort of connectivity you can't find on your smartphone, I'd made it to my destination on time.

I had got as close to an "adventure" as I felt likely to get any time soon and had been forced out of the bubble technology normally allows us to live in.

For a person who normally considers a day without my phone to be a disaster, I felt I'd done rather well indeed.

- Eva Bradley is a columnist and photographer.

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