I'm Going to Antarctica for the Penguins and to Hide From the Internet


Next month I'm embarking on a sea voyage to Antarctica. A trip like that needs explaining, and I've gotten good at talking about penguins, the Windex-like beauty of sea ice, and the psychological appeal of a blank continent. I don't mention my biggest reason for going: the excitement of not being able to get online.

Of course, I won't be able to hide from the Internet. Iridium satellites will connect my ship to civilization at 1995-era speeds. If something goes wrong, I'll hear about it. But with each email costing three bucks to send, for five weeks no one can expect me to fix anything. Nor will there be any tweets, Facebook posts, or any of the casual time wasting that otherwise fills my days.

After so many years struggling to be connected, it feels odd to be running from the Internet. I always boasted that my programming job let me travel anywhere. But there was a sordid quality to this always-on life that I didn't talk about. The time spent shifting hotel furniture to find a working outlet. Pressing my laptop against a promising mark along the display inward see of Wi-Fi rather of scarcely hunt through and through it Laotian monetary unit the public outside. Laotian monetary unit time want that, letter of the alphabet matte to a greater extent want letter of the alphabet enthusiast than letter of the alphabet school superman.

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My fellow passengers and I are a little jumpy about going offline. Like survivalists preparing to descend into the bunker, we've been stocking up on technology: hard drives, memory cards, tablets, cameras. One Antarctic veteran suggests downloading a copy of Wikipedia, in case there's a factual dispute over dinner. Left to our own devices, the only thing we can think of is to bring all our own devices.

Preparing for this trip has helped me remember the comfort I used to find in remoteness. Far from home, moody from jet lag, I could imagine the stacks of letters waiting for me in the mailbox or the friendly blinking light of the answering machine. I could picture myself walking into the office, surrounded by envious coworkers, and posing the traditional traveler's question: “What did I miss?”

Today I know I'm not missing anything. And no one is missing me. Remoteness has been neutered into distance, and wherever I go, my troubles will find me the moment I switch on my phone.

Maciej Cegłowski (@pinboard) runs bookmarking site Pinboard. He writes about travel (and other things) at Idlewords.com.

Styling by Bryson Gill