Update: I finally didn’t take the taxi back, but enjoyed my first Shanghai Metro ride. And here is the video Teemu had mentioned:
As I sit here in a Starbucks somewhere in Shanghai, I feel home and free at the same time.
The past few days were filled with traveling from New Zealand to Hong Kong for a couple of conferences, then flying late into Shanghai before visiting one of our business partners in Hangzhou next day early morning and going back to Shanghai the same day where I now am for further business meetings.
Travel is glamorous. For those who don’t do it.
— Mark Suster (@msuster) April 11, 2013
For the rest, it’s often a busy and stressful time. What really caught my curiosity this time is that with all the travel, I have – accidentally or incidentally – disconnected with a bunch of people, be it friends, family or business partners.
„Dis-connected“ in the sense that at first my SIM card didn’t work properly in China and I had no internet connection. Once I could access the internet, there was no official access to Twitter, Facebook and other communication channels.
On top of that, before attending the last meeting, I realized I wouldn’t have enough cash to pay the taxi driver for my way back (I had tried the hotel lobby, 2 banks and 2 ATM machines without success).
So after the meeting, I decided I’m up for a little adventure and rather than asking my business partner to help me out, I asked for directions to the nearest ATM and simply started to walk. After about one kilometre I eventually found an ATM that accepted foreign credit cards, got some cash and decided to take rest in a Starbucks nearby.
While I’m not a dedicated Starbucks fan in western countries, I have to admit that this Starbucks in the middle of nowhere and far away from home gives me a feeling of „connectedness“ through a brand I’m familiar with. It is only now that I realize: nobody knows where I am – heck, I even don’t know myself where I am.
In this moment, I feel free and independent. Just like when I was playing somewhere in nature (without a GPS tracking device) as a child. Other than having to be at home for dinner, there were very few restrictions for us as to where we’d play as children and there was no way for our parents to truly know our whereabouts considering how naturally we roamed around in our area.
With my connectivity significantly limited and people not knowing where I am, I sense I’ve just opened myself to the wonderful world of „un-location“. It’s a powerful world that sharpens the senses, increases the feeling of independence and freedom and most importantly, opens a whole space inside of you that a Tweet, skimming through your FB newsfeed or email messages would destroy in an instant. It is this inner space, full of tranquility and creativity, in which I think true innovation can happen.
While a check-in on Foursquare can help with that impromptu meeting or to connect with friends you’d love to hang out with, having „location based tracking on“ all the time, is destroying a very powerful and calm place inside our minds. With the experience I’m currently making and by relating it to previous memories in my life, I’d like to experiment a bit more with it and find out how I could consciously create such environments in which this inner world can be given some space to unfold.
Some ideas for such experiments could be:
- On the weekend, go to the airport and buy a stand-by ticket. You don’t know where you’re going and nobody else will. Call it a weekend-adventure.
- Or, shut of the phone, laptop anything else (or better, leave them behind) and go into a room in your house without anybody noticing that you went into it. Even just an hour will do. When people are calling you and there is no sense of emergency, don’t respond.
- And why not make use of the many great buildings all across the world, whether it’s a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. Say you go for a walk without mentioning a specific destination, but simply entering the calmness of a historic or spiritual place can also help bring about the Power of Un-Location.
I grew up in a generation that placed great importance on the different factors of freedom. And yet, I see us wasting the privileges given to us by our forefathers and throwing this freedom away all to easy. Simply by tapping into the Power of Un-Location, we could easily recreate some of that which we’ve lost along with the rise of the convenience of new technologies, the desire for hyper connectivity and the urge to self-express all the time. Turns out, there are many people noticing this and the blogosphere buzzes with posts about taking a step back, for instance:
As for me, I’ll sit here for some more time before taking a taxi back to the hotel, powering up my devices, connect them to the internet and publish this post. And I’ll make it a point to „dis-connect“ regularly, not only communication wise, but also location wise.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions or recipes for discovering the power of Un-Location? Or, perhaps, made a similar experience?