It’s literally the stuff of my nightmares…
Fast forward. Day 1 in Cuba. Murray and I try to get online, but can’t. The connection is so bad we can’t even check email.
A momentary feeling of panic rises.
We could have done what we usually do: move heaven and earth to figure it out and get online, but instead, we decide to try an interesting (and, for us, scary) experiment…
We decide to just close our laptops, forget about what might or might not be happening in our business, and just enjoy ourselves… (I know, shocking!!)
That’s why what happened next kind of surprised me…
Well, while on one level, I felt a deeper sense of peace and relaxation than I had for a long time, my real takeaway was something else…
I realized what a lifeline the Internet is.
I realized how often I complain about my “always on” lifestyle and how I — in some ways — blame it for some things that I’d like to change in my life — a sense of isolation, a lack of community, a feeling of near-constant overwhelm.
But being in Cuba for a week has reframed a lot for me.
Roaming through the streets of Havana, it’s easy to imagine you’re in some sort of post-apocalyptic movie: Buildings crumbling into decay. People begging on the street for soap because they have to choose between feeding their families and buying toiletries to keep themselves clean.
They don’t have the freedom of choice the rest of the world has about who they want to be and what they want to do.
They don’t have the ability to access the world’s information and learn from history’s greatest teachers with the touch of a finger.
They don’t have the luxury of growing bored with the latest viral videos going around.
For now, the embargo is still keeping Cuba blocked from plugging into the internet cables that crisscross the globe, so the limited internet access they do have is coming through satellite. There isn’t enough bandwidth to wire the streets and cities… so access is sparse, slow and spotty.
But “those in the know” (and with the means) come out at night with their smartphones and crowd on corners outside of hotels with open internet access.
Each evening, you see a wall of people sitting on the curb in a few hot spots around the city plugging into an excruciatingly slow connection for a glimpse into the rest of the world. A glimpse into new opportunities. News. Entertainment. You name it.
The vast majority of the Cuban population, however, live life without internet and all the opportunities it brings.
So, my takeaway from our 7-Day Internet Cleanse?
A renewed sense of gratitude for:
– being born in this time and place of incredible opportunity
– a time when I’m free to send my message around the globe with a push of the button and literally change the world from my living room, and
– to do exactly what I was born to do and see the results of my work and the impact I’m having… every single day.
So the next time I find myself feeling isolated, or bored from having too much choice, or overwhelmed by too much, or just taking what I have for granted, I’m going to instead count my blessings and be grateful for the life I’ve been able to create by plugging in to the internet… and being free to use this technology to connect with people around the world — with you.
Thanks for reading… what are you grateful for in your business?
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Great experience for you. And looking back now, why would you want to take a moment away looking at a laptop screen while visiting Cuba? Last summer I disconnected from Internet and cell and all electronics for almost a week while vacationing with my kids. Rural Indiana with no cell phone (not even texting). And you choose not to get on wifi. It took 3 days for symptoms to start to fade. But in the end, it was the best vacation and I’ve never gone back to being connected the way I was. Now every summer I will disconnect for a week. Eventually I want to do it every quarter. Maybe even every month.
The “blockade” is US embargo on American companies doing business with Cuba. It does not apply to companies from other countries many of which sell Internet technology. Cuba has been doing business with the rest of the world and could acquire the technology from Europe or China if it chose to. The reason Cubans don’t have access to the Internet is because the government doesn’t want them to have it.
It’s so very true Marisa. I travel the globe myself and one city that has captured my heart is Sao Paulo Brazil. Like Cuba the poverty is overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people live in cardboard and metal shanty’s. Many are unaware of what is happening in the world and they don’t have access to the life-changing content that the internet is overflowing with. But on another level, many are learning to be at peace and grateful for what they do have. They live by a different currency or system. It’s called The Gift Economy. You share maybe your gift of cooking and cook a meal for someone so that you can in exchange have your roof fixed. It’s a much slower life but they look at each other in the eyes, smile and exchange real compassion and love that touches the heart of the other person with a tangible human being. We have the power to use technology but then we must remember to unplug and to “reach out and touch somebody) like in the old AT&T commercial. You were given a gift. A gift to get back to your roots, and a gift to realize the power you have been given to make a difference. Upward & Onward Marisa. Thanks for sharing your story.
I’m grateful that I took advantage of the internet, searched for almost two years through a sea of marketing offers, and finally found you, Marisa, and your gift of educating. In what other time would I have been able to do this? We are so lucky to be so global from the comfort of our homes!!
The socialist experiment failed primarily because it denied citizens the freedoms of thought, discussion, association and action, in the mistaken belief that this was in defense of the revolutions; despite the fact that these were some of the very freedoms for which the revolutions were fought. The results all over the world are that these governments as a whole have not been able to satisfy many of the basic and hierarchical needs, wants and dreams of their peoples.
Great post. I’m thankful every day that in my business I get to do creative things I enjoy that help make the lives of my clients better. As for being without the internet, my recent experience was on a rail journey across half the US. My computer worked fine, just couldn’t get online. And cell phone coverage was non-existent in many places. I got so much more work done and was able to spend time strategically looking forward to where I want my business to be in a year or 5 years! I came away recharged and energized!
Anything that makes us grateful is nice. People without Internet are not deprived. It is just that we cannot turn back ourselves. We all can make the world a better place where ever we are if we choose.
I agree that people without internet are not deprived. They simply live a different way. I also know that many Cubans desperately want to connect to the internet and have that window into the rest of the world. So it’s a matter of desire more than anything else — it’s hard if you want to connect and can’t.
I often have to disconnect on the weekends. I would LOVE to go to Cuba before it changes, but I don’t speak Spanish.
Many Cubans (including most in the service industry) speak English so you can get by pretty easy without Spanish. So go!
great article Marisa. I am grateful for the technology and I can imagine how different my relationship with it would be if I couldn’t access it whenever I wanted!