October 21, 2013

Letting An Unimportant Problem Derail My Plans

For someone who blogs, answers e-mails, pays bills on-line, and Facebooks (is that a verb?) having a dependable and fast Internet connection is important to my satisfying retirement. Not life or death important, but still something I count on. At home I pay for extra speed so we can stream HD Netflix at the same time someone is on the laptop or a computer. Rarely is there a problem.

But, there was one continuing glitch in our just-completed RV trip that threatened to put me in a permanent bad mood: lousy Internet service. Except for one park, the Wi-Fi service ranged from poor to unusable. All the campgrounds advertise its availability, but do not provide a robust enough service if many folks start using the Internet in the evening.

Forget streaming videos. These RV networks can't even handle loading a blog or e-mails with any consistency. True, I can make my cell phone a mobile hotspot, but that chews up my phone's data package very quickly so it is not an everyday solution.

I became increasingly angry at my inability to get on-line. I began to seriously question my willingness to put myself in that situation day after day for weeks at a time. I asked myself if blogging was important enough to sidetrack RV travel, or was it time to bring my blogging time to a close. Seriously, my frustration had gotten to the point where it threatened this trip and those in the future as well as this blog.

But, then, one afternoon, sitting somewhere cursing the crappy Wi-Fi I had an  flash of insight. The importance I was putting in my ability to connect like I can at home was silly. There is simply no way any RV park, a Starbucks, or even most public libraries can provide high speed service for everyone that wants it, whenever they want it. Wi-Fi is a bonus, a nice addition to an RV park's amenities. But, it is not what should make or break a stay or a trip.

A quiet campground, with plenty of shade and privacy, plus good water and electricity service are the essentials. Flawless Wi-Fi is no more a requirement than a fully equipped fitness center or a spa that is heated to 104 degrees and open until 10pm each evening. Many RV parks have them, but we don't skip places that don't.

I realized I was giving access to the Internet power over my happiness. I was on the way to building my life around something that wasn't that important. I stopped, turned to Betty and let her know I had reached an important conclusion: When I can get on-line I will. If I have to connect because bills must be paid I will use my cell phone's hot spot service. Otherwise, I will shut the laptop off and walk away. She sighed in relief. Watching me go nuts over the computer doesn't make her day, either.

Nothing is more important then the quality time Betty and I get to spend together in our motorhome, making memories and plans, sharing laughs, and enjoying each other's company with very few distractions. Unanswered blog comments, a post that stays on the home page a day or two longer than I originally planned for, or making a comment on Facebook or Google+ simply doesn't measure up. 

I had almost let something unimportant force a major change in my life. Luckily, I woke up in time.  I put my priorities back where they mattered. My satisfying retirement is back on track even if a reliable Internet connection is not.

31 comments:

  1. I ran across much the same thing when we toured Canada a couple of years ago. Where we traveled there were only mom--pop type places to stay and the wi-fi coverage was pretty dismal. I often found myself sitting on the grass outside their office as that was about the only place for any coverage. But, I guess I decided it was just not that important to get in the way of having a good time before you did.

    For travel in the U.S. there is always a McDonalds around the corner. They have great wi-fi. Get a cup of coffee and settle in for a while to post and read mail. I also have an off-line editor for blogging that can upload a post in a few seconds.

    And then sometimes it is just better if I forget about the web for a while. It is a nice change of pace from my ordinary daily life.

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    1. "Forget about the web for awhile" is the key for me. When I am home I grab the laptop first thing after a cup of coffee. My mistake is doing the same thing on an RV trip. I told Betty what I want to do is when I step through the door of the RV I want to adopt a different attitude toward my day. That will include leaving the laptop off until; later.

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  2. Agreed,Bob! We who enjoy your posts will always be waiting for when you return and catch us up! It's an exciting time of your life, where you and Betty have discovered the joys of road trips, the RV lifestyle, and being out in nature close and personal.WiFi will wait! I am so glad you'll keep blogging, and also happy that you will not interrupt the path you are on with Betty! We would all miss Betty's pictures,too ifi you stopped blogging! So, we'll count our blessings when you're here and know you're having a great time when you're not!

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    1. Thanks, Madeline. One of my problems is I feel a real responsibility to keep the blog current and on top. Even though it is just supposed to be a creative outlet and something fun for me, I put too much pressure on myself sometimes. The Wi-Fi issue is a good example. It is all about priorities.

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  3. Bob, Have you checked out the mobile hotspot thingys you can buy? Obviously my tech advice is limited, I am calling it a thingy after all. A co-worker has one for his home and rv and says it works great. Of course you can always work off line and then post when you get a good connection. But you definitely have your priorities right in any case, time together is far more important than time online.

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    1. The hotspot things I can buy works just like the hotspot already built into my smart phone. The problem is data use. A smart phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot can really eat up data quickly. With a monthly cell phone bill already about $135 a month, I am resistant to spending another $20-$30/month! And, yes, you are so right. I could write off line and post or comment when i can.

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  4. Internet connectivity, for those of us who are connected 24 hours per day, has become so commonplace we almost take it for granted. I, too, have had the same frustrations that you have, whether at hotels that have too many other business travelers banging away at their routers, or at timeshare resorts that have no or extremely slow setups. I would oftentimes let it get my blood pressure up, or worse. I have learned, like yourself, that the world actually did not end, hell did not freeze over, and the Cubs did not make it into the World Series, just because that Mail file wasn't able to be loaded. Shocking, but true.

    Glad you are still learning new tricks, Bob, to make an even more satisfying retirement. Now make sure this comment is posted immediately!

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    1. I'm home so the comment went up right away!

      When I was on the road continuously I only wanted the hotel to have a good movie selection! I didn't travel with a laptop because in the 90's they were huge and slow.

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  5. I'm sighing with relief with Betty. You said it in the second to last paragraph - "nothing is more important than the quality time...." Even if you were gone for a month with poor internet connections, we would all survive. Internet, TV (and why does this abbreviation need to be capitalized?), Facebook, Twitter, etc. - I do believe we have attached an indiscriminate importance to them all. And for what? To be updated on the latest trivia? Unless we're waiting for a transplant, I'm not convinced we need to be so connected all the time. It lends to a sense of urgency that I'm trying to steer away from in this beautiful life, especially retirement.

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    1. As I noted above, when I walk through the RV door I want to take on a different mindset from my normal, at-home one. That means the blog, the Internet and all that comes with it are not #1...or even #2 or #3. Frankly, that attitude change will take me awhile to master but it is important to my future happiness (and that of Betty, too)

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  6. Your post really spoke to me. Too often people are so focused on internet connection, that they let real life pas them by. Who hasn't sat at a meal or with friends to have them whip out their smartphone to check messages and text, not just once but several times. I have been trying to cut back - and I don't have a smartphone, just a big PC. To me, face to face should be just that - two people interacting without a screen.
    Great post = so glad you are enjoying your trip.

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    1. Thanks, Beverly. It really was an eye-opener. Betty and I both have to watch our Netflix dependency on trips, too. Since that takes a really good Wi-Fi connection to work properly, we can get grumpy quickly. One night on this last trip, we played Yahtzee and another night was Parcheesi night...a very nice change of pace and fun to play board games again.

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  7. We are in rural Iowa this week. While we do have wifi from time to time, our AT&T cell service is almost nonexistent. It has been a mixed bag doing without.

    Personally, I'd rather you live your life and check in when it's convenient.

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    1. Learning to adapt to whatever condition I find myself is the goal, a goal I have forgotten. Thanks, Linda, and have a great time in Iowa and eventually in your winter home in Tucson.

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  8. I took the family to Phoenix for the week and did not choose to be charged another $15 a night for internet. It was difficult at first. I survived :) Glad you are seeing that IRL sometimes trumps the internet.

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    1. What is IRL? Whatever it is I gather it is a good thing!

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  9. Good for you! Our laptops and internet seem to be taking over our lives. Hence my decision to (mainly) when I am at home do the internet in the afternoon and ignore in the morning. I've taken two vacations with nothign but a 4g phone and it was a blessing. Just a thought-I've never tried it but is it not possible to schedule posts in advance? Sure we'd like to see pics of your trips but those can be afterwards. Then you could really concentrate on vacation time.

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    1. I do schedule most posts in advance, but there are a few that I want to write while on the trip and post fresh pictures. There are also comments I don't want to ignore for too long...and overdeveloped sense of obligation!

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  10. Guilty! I had a good laugh remembering my own campground experience last month....I rented Miss Potter from Amazon Prime streaming and the movie kept stopping in our trailer due to weak WiFi.....I proceeded to take my tablet, blankets,pillow outside......at the ocean.....in the dark.....determined to watch the movie I paid for! A couple of days later Amazon sent an email to let me know they were refunding my $ due to the inconvenience I experienced while watching! Talk about not knowing when to quit :)......fortunately my husband found my behaviour vastly amusing......I can just visualize my very own copy of Miss Potter appearing in my Christmas stocking this year as a reminder of my crazy antics :).....great post Bob. Helen

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    1. Just to put your mind at ease, Helen, I have terrible problems with Amazon Prime even at home. Their streaming system is not very good.

      I like your story. I came close: taking the laptop and perching on a rock near the office of one RV park but it didn't help. The antenna was apparently on the back of the building aimed away from where I was sitting.

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  11. It's amazing how we take solid wifi for granted. We just spent a lovely weekend at a B&B in Cape May that even allowed our two dogs. Everything was going great until I discovered they had no wifi. AAGGGHHH! Then I settled down and realized it was perfectly ok to disconnect for a bit. We found a cool little bar/restaurant that had wifi AND a menu for the dogs! Imagine! It turned out great. We learned our crazy dogs really can behave in publlic, and we can survive on minimal wifi. Win/Win!
    b

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    1. Bailey has started to adjust to RV travel. Now, if Dad can just get over his Internet addiction!

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  12. Maybe I'm just showing my ignorance here, but can't you get an iPad or other tablet with 4G capability (I know you can get a kindle that way) and be connected all the time, no matter where you are? But, as you and others have pointed out, sometimes it may not be a bad idea to take a break for a week or so anyway.

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    1. Yes, I can be connected all the time with my phone. I can read and respond to e-mails and even blog comments, but it is not possible to write a new post or add pictures. I can review bills through my on-line bank app but I can't change the payment or add new ones.

      At some RV parks the best I can get is 3G service because of their remoteness and that makes Internet work tough. So, the best thing I can do is realize my world will continue without a great connection.

      It is possible to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot so my laptop can connect, but if I want to watch a streaming movie I'd have to pay at least another $40 a month to have a big enough data package.

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  13. BTW, if things look a little different I did freshen the look of the blog just a bit. I changed some of the layout and the overall look enough to give it a cleaner look, I think!

    I'm not wild about my replies to comments appearing in white boxes but I can't seem to change it, so I guess I will get used to it.

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  14. Sometimes it is important to "turn off" from the Internet. I use to be an "internet" addict but I've recovered. I now limit internet usage to only several hours a day and spend the rest of my time doing "real" stuff. Btw, awesome blog.

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    1. When we think of addiction we tend to think of drugs or alcohol or porn. But, virtually anything can become addictive, even that $5 Starbuck coffee every morning! The Internet can be a tremendous tool or a gigantic time and energy sucker.

      Glad you like the blog, Matt.

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  15. The favorite expression of one of my former supervisors was, "Sometimes a change is as good as a vacation." Seems you now will be combining both when you hit the RV trail. Like your new page layout.

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    1. Change is a powerful force in our lives. I think we determine, to a great degree, how that change affects us.

      Glad you like the blog change!

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  16. Like my favorite saying, when you are getting run out of town, get in front and make it look like a parade. Look what a great lesson you learned about happiness from an aggravating situation!

    When I am at my cabin, I know I have no service, but a few weeks ago, I lost my service at home for a couple of days when my router broke. Like you, I was in a snit for awhile, but then I just let it go and had some extra time to catch up on my reading. It's all good.

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    1. That expression does fit, doesn't it.

      There are plenty of studies and resources that say we are most apt to learn and grow when we are in an uncomfortable or aggravating position. I believe it. When I am comfortable I am not in the mental state to learn much. But, put me in a bind and.....

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