As the summer months come closer and closer and summer vacationing planning begins to unfold, there are sure to be many who are cobbling together itineraries to get them into the great outdoors. Whether you’re exploring a National Park, a State Park or even just the hills in your backyard, getting outside is the chance to reconnect with nature and disconnect with the modernities of life.
Or is it?
The outdoors is often our chance to unplug. We’re removed from the comforts of home, often camping and cooking breakfast over a stove, in the heart of wilderness, or at least very close to it, and get to experience life at a different pace. But even parks aren’t immune to the impacts of modern life.
In the United States today, there are many states that offer Wi-Fi connection in their state parks. The chance to check your email while your morning coffee is boiling. As the State of Missouri claims on its website, “On your next camping trip, you can get away from it all and still stay connected with free WiFi.”
But state parks aren’t the only ones. In a bold move, Parks Canada recently announced that it plans to bring Wi-Fi access to National Parks in the country. Banff, Jasper, Glacier? While the places that will get a Wi-Fi connection have yet to be determined, they’re all likelihood. Even in the United States, there are groups pushing for the National Parks to be Wi-Fi accessible.
Those who support wireless in the outdoors argue for the ability to stay in touch with work, friends and home, and the ease of being able to use Internet as a resource while visitors are away from home.
There’s also an argument for safety; that in remote places where there is no phone service, an internet connection could be used for emergency calling, checking a map to help with location or even looking up wilderness skills. But others say this could just provide a false sense of security, prompting less education about wilderness and more people depending on an Internet connection to keep them alive.
In the modern day and age, having access has come to be the new normal. Most of us can’t even spend a weekend without glancing at our email, and even vacations, no matter where they are, are studded with check-ins and status updates. When was the last time you took 24 hours completely off from your devices? Whether it’s a computer, a phone or a tablet, we use our devices as resources, look information up when we need to and connect to a map to tell us where we are.
While those who argue for having Internet connection in remote places remind us that just because it’s there, doesn’t mean we need to use it, there’s something about never being able to escape a connection. For many, parks and campgrounds were the last place where the rush of modern day society couldn’t reach them. Unable to check their email, they were forced to spend time with their families, go on a hike, or simply sit on a park bench and contemplate.
Certainly, if you want to avoid a connection, you can always keep your phone turned off, but as we become more and more addicted to the Internet, even doing that is becoming hard to do. When you can connect at any time and any place, the only thing stopping you is your personal willpower. Instead of taking a picture and saving it for later, we’ll be able to upload it immediately, distracted from the natural beauty around us and more concerned with which filter the mountain looks better in.
Do we need Wi-Fi in parks and outdoor spaces? You can make the argument for access, but I can’t help but feel that the more we’re connected, the more we risk losing in the process.
Some places should stay remote and for a reason: because there’s a part of us that needs complete and utter disconnection from the modern world. Even if it’s only for 24 hours.
Photo Credit: Pascal