iphone tag

One Year Later

Last Wednesday, August 22, marked my one year anniversary of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. 

In it of itself, that is maybe worthy of a Facebook status.  This post is dedicated to reflecting on where my life, or more accurately, my mindset, has since gone.

I’m Back

When Michael Jordan made this proclamation in 1995, it was without question the two sweetest words any Chicago Bulls fan could possibly hear (and equally as bitter for the other 29 teams – suck it Karl Malone/Patrick Ewing/Reggie Miller/Shawn Kemp).

When I say I’m back, I mean it in the – holy fuck what kind of routine have I fallen into – sort of way.  When I say I’m back, I mean I’m back to working 60+ hour weeks.  I’m back to living in my inbox.  I’m back to sweating the bullshit – the same person who actively acknowledged that everything is the bullshit.

I knew I wanted to write this post – although I hadn’t a clue about which direction to take it (disclosure: that’s my usual formula).  Just before I sat down to open up the faucet of thoughts, my earbuds (which were attached to my iPhone) snagged onto my belt and subsequently yanked my phone onto my bedroom’s hardwood floor and smashed the screen into 100 pieces.  This was after a full day of mundane, administrative tasks and thankless chores (commonly referred to as “headaches”).  Needless to say, if there was a face within arm’s reach, it would have been punched.  The shattered iFriend coupled with the carousel of task oriented thoughts began pushing my internal PSI near the “WE’LL DO IT LIVE” meltdown zone.

It then occurred to me, if you were to take a Polaroid of the August 22, 2012 Zach Davis and contrast it to the 2011 version, it’s clear that much has changed, and I’m not just referring to the majestic fire beard.  The serene, unshakable, and eternally optimistic Badger has been replaced with his easily annoyed twin.

The trail hasn’t bestowed me with the gift of unconditional and unwavering joy.  But it has offered me a worthy consolation: perspective.

When confronted with a challenging day, the pre-trail Good Badger believed that life’s events were out to get him, or at the very least, were unfolding unfavorably.  Like magnets, bad events would seem to attract one another until I was a moving manifestation of Murphy’s Law.  The mental radio was playing 40 stations at once, gradually building into a cacophony of angry static.  And that angry static was the medium through which life was observed.

Today the angry static still has a way of finding this radio, but unlike before, I’ve located the “off” switch.  I’ve learned that life isn’t the DJ; I’m the one laying down the tracks.  And the only way to change the song is to stop singing along, but instead listen objectively.  The space between the radio and the radiohead is the happy medium.

To un-radio-metaphor the above: life doesn’t cause your unhappiness, you do.  My iPhone shattered and immediately my internal monolog responded with, “FFFUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKK WHY FUCK SHIT FUCK NO SHIT NO FUCK WHY”.  After the mini-internal tantrum, however, I was able to remind myself, that 1) it’s not my health (other than perhaps a slight myocardial infarction) 2) it’s not the health of a loved one, and 3) I HAVE AN IPHONE TO BREAK.  The screen on my pocket laptop is now a little harder to read.  They’re called White People Problems because they’re not real problems.  Nobody should feel bad about my smashed iPhone display, myself included.

The moral of the story is that my greatest take away from the trail – that real happiness is a mindset, not a set of conditions – is occasionally forgotten.  I still get pulled into my own bullshit factory.  But unlike before, I now have the road-map to find my way out.  And although it may take a bit to discover that I’ve strayed, this GPS is shatter-proof.

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Sidenote: I will be speaking at the REI in Charlotte, NC next week.  If you can, come say hello.

On Trial: Technology on the Appalachian Trail

Technology and the Appalachian Trail

I recently received the following e-mail:

“Hi, Zach

Considering that you had your iphone with you the whole time, I was wondering if you’d given any thought to how truly disconnected you were?  Or to how truly connected you were to nature/outdoors/the AT because you were listening to music and audiobooks while hiking?  I’m not judging, I’m just wondering what a different experience hikers from 10 years ago would have had with no option for those kinds of distractions or entertainment on the trail.

I don’t know if that was your intent while hiking (I came to the Good Badger late in the game), but was wondering if you’d thought about it.

One day, I hope to hike the AT.  It was on my to-do list for my early twenties, but life got in the way.

Congratulations on finishing, and I look forward to the book.”

————-

Not only is this a fair point, but I’m guessing some of you have had this same question.   I feel as though this is an issue worth examining because as technology improves, becomes more mobile, more affordable, and universally accessible, it will only become more prominent on the trail, and thus a more polarizing topic.

The Complainant’s Case

The Appalachian Trail is a unique experience.  The physical challenge associated with a half year’s worth of hiking is unlike anything most humans would ever fathom.  But even more unique Read more

The Future of Foursquare: Value or Novelty?

The Future of Foursquare

The Future of Foursquare: Value or Novelty?

Is it a revolution in location based social media, or the latest fad destined to fizzle out?

Any seasoned Foursquare user is familiar with the ebb and flow in interest with the application’s use. After initially registering for an account, the excitement that comes along with each additional check-in can only fully be understood by a fellow Foursquare user. Before you know it, you’re planning your lunch break based upon the likelihood of obtaining a new (or securing an existing) mayorship. Your nights out are swayed in the direction of adding to your collection of badges. You won’t even commit to where you grab a cup of coffee before scouting the other Foursquare users in attendence.

And then…

The check-ins keep coming, but the badges and mayorships don’t . “[Insert mayor's name here] cheats. There’s no way he/she is here more often than me. I live here.” The push notification to your smart phone alerting you that a quasi-acquaintance is at the grocery store across town is more irritating than informative. Your co-worker is the mayor of the cubicle next to you, bathroom stall number 4, his parents’ garage, his favorite park bench, and won’t stop bragging how much better at Foursquare he is than you.

The novelty has worn thin.

I now present to you, two possible paths for Foursquare. Path number one leads to an impending lull in curiosity and eventual demise. Path number two makes Foursquare the most important location based application your smart phone will ever need. The outcome lies squarely in Foursquare’s hands.

Read the rest of this post at TECH Cocktail.