We've all heard the clichéd story before: a wide-eyed country girl leaves her familiar surroundings for the bright lights of the big city. I was that girl. To my horror, however, I discovered that on leaving my uni house on the outskirts of London to return to my parents' house on the edge of the Cotswolds, I had not only left for London two years ago, I had in fact, started to become a 'Londoner'.
I spent the last week of my time at home staying with a friend at his new livery yard in deepest darkest Oxfordshire, which, even for us country bumpkins, really would be classed as 'out in the sticks'. On arriving back at the house after a long day of riding the horses across beautiful landscapes, I automatically got my phone and iPad out, only to be rebuffed with a teasing laugh and a reminder that they didn't have Wi-Fi. I looked down at my phone to see the complete lack of 3G and signal (as it had been all day), and looked up again at my friend, hoping that I'd simply misheard.
In an attempt to fill the void of a twitter-free evening, I suggested we get a takeaway, only to be told that they didn't deliver, and we'd have to venture out into the pouring rain and collect (woe is me).
For a split second, I found myself wanting to utter the words I used to mock on Bridget Jones' Diary: "Does nothing work outside of London?!"
Shocked at my (internal) outburst, and in the absence of social media, I was given a chance to think. Since my removal from the countryside, it seems I had forgotten the feeling of surprise when discovering that in the city you could get public transport whatever time, pretty much every public place has Wi-Fi, and what was, and will remain one of the biggest shocks to me, you can actually have a sit down, restaurant meal in London at any time of the day or night!
The next day, we rode up to a high hilltop, where I gleefully got out my phone in the hopes of getting some signal. It dawned on me that I looked just like the Londoners I used to work for. They would come and ride their horses with their phone in one and the bridle in the other. I presumed they had very important 'London' stuff they were arranging: meetings, emails, and general 'work stuff'. Yet here I was, trying to get 3G to Instagram a picture of a hilltop to share with everyone the view I was enjoying but actually spending the entire time looking at my phone...doesn't quite add up does it?
I once tried to give up social media for a week, and after 3 days, 27 Facebook notifications and 33 Snapchats, I cracked. Yet here, in the deep countryside, I had no choice, I was forced to fall back in love with the countryside I had grown up in. And as a result, the next few days were some of the most wonderful I've ever had.
I'm not saying the English countryside is frozen in the dark ages, but it certainly provides a sense of relief from feeling like the whole world is at your fingertips, which can often be the case in a city like London. The countryside may always not have Wi-Fi, or delivery food, or even electricity at times, but what it does have, but to name a few of its delights, is homemade jams (it sometimes seems easier to make your own than driving to the nearest shop..), beautiful views, and people who will always stop and say good morning, because quite frankly, you're the only one they've seen for the past ten miles.
As I head back to my uni quarters, I realise I'm lucky to have the best of both worlds. I'm a 35-minute train ride away from London, with all the Wi-Fi, home delivery food and public transport I could want, but I'm also just a stones-throw away from the yard where I work, my own little haven of mud, friendly faces, and where incidentally, most of the time I can't pick up signal for love nor money.
A friend once told me that looking into a laptop screen and looking out over a countryside landscape are similar. When I asked her how, she said: "when you look into one or the other, you can see for miles and miles, it's just about choosing the view you prefer".
I'm not saying I'd like to be permanently unplugged, but sometimes, it's nice not to have the option.
I got signal on the hilltop: Image via rhicd, Instagram
Has anyone else had a holiday epiphany when it comes to social media? Could you live completely unplugged or are you a steadfast technology lover? Share your thoughts with me (if you're feeling particularly inspired by this post, opinions via smoke signals & string telephone will be appreciated)