March 22, 2012

Here's why National Geographic's travel researcher doesn't own a cell phone.

It was the birds that brought us together. And by birds, we mean Twitter. And by us, we mean @tawkon and @marilyn_res. And by that, we mean Marilyn Terrell, Chief Researcher at National Geographic Traveler magazine.
\nWe were lucky enough to get to know Marilyn better with the following interview, where she explains the reasons she doesn't use a cell phone, more reasons she doesn't use a cell phone, and what life without a cell phone - gasp - is actually like.\r\n

Why have you chosen not to use a cell phone?
\nI don't have a cellphone because:
  • I don't like being available at all times
  • I don't like carrying extra weight
  • I lose things
  • I startle easily
  • I don't like the interface, looking at tiny buttons and tiny screen
  • I don't want to be one of those people who is constantly checking her phone
  • When I go outside for a walk I like to think my own thoughts, I like to look around and observe things, listen to ambient sounds
  • I don't like seeing everyone on the street and on the subway platform and driving cars checking their phones
  • I see parents with young children checking their phones while their children look sad
  • I am skeptical about claims that cellphones don't emit harmful radiation
  • I am concerned about non-biodegradable techno-waste, and the trend to throw out old phones (here's an EPA page on where to recycle phones)
  • I am already addicted to the Internet - I don't need to be connected all the time
\r\nHere are two recent articles that confirm my resistance to cellphones. The first is from the Economist: Slaves to the Smartphone. The second, in Boston Magazine: So Appy Together, which was written by my friend Janelle Nanos. In it, Janelle interviews MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who gave this excellent TED talk on the dangers of over-dependence on phones, and how people use texting to avoid face-to-face human interaction, which I think is a worrisome and dehumanizing trend.
Has it always been that way, or was it a recent decision?\r\nA recent trend? No, I've never owned a cellphone. It drives my other family members crazy sometimes.
What's life like without a cell phone? 
Life without a cellphone is tremendously liberating. I can leave my house with nothing in my pocket. I don't have to worry about losing it, dropping it, recharging it. I don't suffer from Phantom Phone Vibration Syndrome. I don't rush back home to see if someone has left me a message. I enjoy walking and thinking. I see and hear things that phone-preoccupied people don't.\r
\nWe'd love to hear more about the work you do with National Geographic...
\nMy job at National Geographic Traveler is to check the facts and catch errors in our magazine before we go to press, and on our website and iPad edition before we go live. There are actually four of us researchers at the moment, and one college intern who works part-time. I like finding out information, particularly when it's difficult, and I enjoy fixing errors. In my spare time I write for our blog, Intelligent Travel, and for the “Weird But True” column in National Geographic KIDS magazine, and I like connecting with the travel community on Twitter.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?\r
\nMost fascinating place I've been? Hard to pick just one. I loved waking up to sheep bells and church bells and roosters and braying donkeys on the island of Hydra in Greece, where cars aren't allowed. I love the Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island, in Rhode Island. In Taiwan I loved fresh hot dumplings and people doing tai chi in the parks. In Croatia I was impressed by the young energy in Zagreb, the magical Sea Organ in Zadar, and the ferry to Hvar. I love walking along the wild Costa Brava in Spain, and the extraordinary food. Bermuda is a place I go a lot, and I love the pink beaches, pastel houses, and the chance to see a sea turtle while snorkeling.  I love the spectacular harbor in Vancouver, and the way the city combines urban assets with natural beauty. The hush of cross-country skiing in Pontresina, Switzerland, and staying in a traditional farmhouse with livestock on the first floor. And the Fort Pitt Tunnel entrance to Pittsburgh is one of the most surprising ways to enter a city I've ever experienced. It never fails to delight.
There are tons more places I'd like to go, because I'm always learning about different destinations in my job. Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Slovenia, Brazil, and Ravenna, Italy, are just a few on my wish list.

Thank you, Marilyn, for letting us in on your world!
If you don't use a cell phone either, we'd love to hear your reasons! Leave a comment below or tweet us, and let's talk on.

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