You know we'll always get in touch in the end. Amelia's response to When kids go offshore & offline...
The night's thunderstorm has left Bratislava with a heavy hangover of gale-force winds but they don't stop the city warming up on the walking tour. It's thirsty work complicated by the Slovakian capital's almost cruel lack of public toilets — hydrating is only for the strong-bladdered.
The only logical conclusion? A beer and traditional lunch with a brand-new buddy from Hong Kong, but just as the conversation turns to the Trans-Siberian Railway, and my goat's cheese and dumplings arrives, my phone buzzes.
A text from Mum: she's fed up with spending $3 a day on feeding an "invisible cat" who only shows up at meal times. Albert and his story about Russians drinking vodka in tracksuits is silenced as another world crashes into focus and I remember Barney the family cat, his long absences, and Mum's wanting him to be needier.
When I zone back in, everyone is laughing and I've missed the punchline. I'll reply later. But then I forget about the cat in favour of finding cheap eats, campsites, and where to go next.
Three days pass. I'm in Hungary and my phone buzzes again. Mum wants to know if my sister and I will watch the solar eclipse. This time I'm not just pulled from reality but awash with guilt because I haven't replied to her last message.
Don't colour me ungrateful for today's technology. Being more connected than ever has its ups — at the tap of a finger, I can command Google Maps to make a detour to pick up a pain au chocolat, research everything about anywhere and type up an opinion piece about my social media silence while lying lakeside in Austria. But it's no secret that Millennials are more stressed than any other generation, which I chalk up to constantly being in contact.
If we're travelling, online profiles have to be updated constantly with pictures of us in sunflower fields, laughing while holding a gelato, or perfect in bikinis to prove our wanderlust is worthy.
Loved ones want to be constantly updated on our OEs — and fair enough. Being a naturally nosey person (can you blame me? My own mother cyber-stalks me), I love knowing what my friends are up to every day and it warms the cockles of my heart they're happy. But I find doing that draining, and not the reason I chose to sink my pay cheques into travel instead of a mortgage.
Opting to travel "70s-style" wasn't a conscious choice. When I set off on what turned out to be OE: Episode One, I set up a blog to keep people (read: my mother) abreast of my adventures.
I stuck with it for almost a month before beers on the beach, a scooter ride to a waterfall or a cooking class with a new friend won over crouching over a computer screen.
But that's just a fancy way of saying I got lazy. An email with just "I'm still alive" in the subject line does not a good daughter make.
An earlier version of this piece drivelled on about how constant updates took the fun out of recounting those experiences a few weeks (read: months) down the track, although really, there's no excuse. How hard is it to send a text?
There is a child in front of me right now, taking a photo of a sandcastle on his iPhone, which I bet he's instantly sharing with his friends.
If I were to throw my slothful self a defence, it would be my developing what I've dubbed "backpacker brain". This is when that other world almost ceases to exist except for sudden flashes in the form of texts, emails and engagement announcements or news alerts.
Then my ever-growing list of to-dos (email Mum back; write a TripAdvisor review for that great walking tour host; vote) briefly surfaces — and then is as instantly swept aside and forgotten in favour of whatever adventure, or pastry, currently lies in front of me.
A note from Mum: Despite promising a rapid response, Amelia took 10 days to deliver this, in the form of photos of her laptop screen emailed from her phone because she couldn't get the computer to connect. Maybe she's not a real cyber-smart Millennial after all.
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