Kenya Believe I Went to Africa with No Worry of Email, Biz, Social Media

Last year—before the world went on lockdown because of a virus, my husband and I got to go to Kenya. We went with a small group from our city in support of Innov8 Africa, an organization that provides Kenyan school children in marginalized areas access to practical innovation and education. The two-week trip was a beautiful blend of African adventures and time spent with the children. We returned home with new friends, bigger perspectives, and deepened appreciation for this big, beautiful planet.

On my long list of places I want to travel, I’d never included Africa. I had the idea that Africa was too other worldly and risky. However, within the course of a year, I received a few bellwethers all pointing to Kenya. My husband and I were invited on another Kenyan trip that didn’t fit our schedule. My nephew went on mission to Kenya. Then, I connected with a couple who are based in my city and lead Innov8 Africa, as they needed branding and marketing assistance. In the course of working with me, they presented the opportunity to participate in a trip to Kenya—and, yes, there was room for my husband to come along, too. At that point, I looked to Heaven and admitted it was time to go!

You know here on this website, I focus greatly on sharing ways to stop struggling with the same stuff over and over, cut the clutter in your life and mind, and finally make room for the good stuff. My trip to Kenya is a great example of all that I hope to share with you.

When the opportunity for this trip came, I was able to plan for it and go without hesitation or worry that being so far away and off the grid for two weeks solid would leave me drowning. As an independent business owner, I had spent many years overwhelmed, burdened, and unable to truly get away from work. However, that all changed once I digitally decluttered my life. Once I conquered the craziness that had been my digital-social-mobile stuff, I was liberated to finally enjoy time off without feeling crushed by things undone before I left or buried by new things that came in while I was gone. I went to Kenya without a flutter of concern about work, and that made the journey even more wonderful and amazing.

I let clients know months in advance that this trip was upcoming; they had the dates, and I was clear that I would be completely inaccessible during that time. I enlisted my team members to take on “Irene” roles while I was gone. My team is comprised of just a few folks, but I trust them and knew they would be able to fill in all the blanks while I was out. I completed any tasks I could ahead of time (still kinda amazed that I cranked out three editions of that weekly client newsletter before the trip!). I unsubscribed from select email lists. Because I live a notification-free life, I didn’t have to take time to turn off any of that kind of stuff; I knew I wouldn’t get pinged while out on safari!

My time in Kenya was not technology-free. I basically brought a mobile studio with me, and my smartphone was a centerpiece. I captured video and photos of everything. I used the voice memo app on my phone to record conversations and the sounds of hippos grunting as they splashed in the Mara River. I and my travel mates traded images and video with a shared photo album on iCloud and used WhatsApp to message each other during the trip. My husband and I also used WhatsApp to check in with family and the dog sitter a few times. On occasion, when I had good wifi, I would check email.

Before you cringe a little, thinking I checked email out of obligation, fixation, or concern, let me set you straight. With my digital life in order, I can check email anytime I so choose without being sucked into a vortex, or I can ignore email altogether without quietly obsessing about what might be in the ol’ inbox. This relationship I have with email is one of the most notable transformations I achieved when I digitally decluttered.

First of all, when the inbox isn’t filled with thousands of emails that represent decisions not made or tasks not done, it’s really not so scary. Secondly, with a great system integrated into the operating system of my life…I call this my 4-D Inbox approach…I can ‘wapow’ through emails like nobody’s business. And by tapping into now hard-wired life skills, I can also opt to not ‘wapow’ through any emails if I don’t have the energy or time, knowing I can come back to them whenever I’m ready—no problem. Email is my tool that I use on my terms.

While I usually keep no more than 50 photos on my phone at any time, I knew that standard could not be held during this trip. I usually rely on wifi to move photo files one-by-one while out and about to my preferred cloud storage app or in batch via device-to-device sharing once I’m back on my laptop. Of course, I came back from Kenya with hundreds of images and a few hours of video content, but I had planned accordingly knowing that would be the case. I included two business days in my allotted out-of-office schedule so that I would have undiluted time to get my files in order. That was not only really helpful; it was incredibly fun to be able to pore over all the captures from the trip and put them in their proper places (‘proper places’ include cloud and hard drive storage, as well as posting to private albums shared with our travel mates on Facebook, in case you’re wondering). The files are really well organized—by date and with good nomenclature—so that I can function like my own search engine and get to whatever file I want anytime and almost anywhere thank to mobile apps.

At the time I’m writing this blog, it’s the one-year mark since this amazing journey took place. Thanks to my easy system, I’ve been able to quickly access photos and videos each day to remember and reflect about where we were “on this day one year ago.” It’s such a gift to be able to have these special files readily available to me and so simple to share.

One thing that surprised me about Kenya was how much technology many people do have access to there. The wifi connectivity was much more extensive and reliable than I expected; it was surreal to be on safari in the middle of the Maasai Mara, snapping pics of a lion and lioness, and have five bars of cell power (ironically, I rarely had that kind of juice at the hotels where we stayed)! Most adults have smartphones (not the brands most common in the U.S.), and many of the Kenyan friends I made have Facebook profiles. I love how international my Facebook feed is now that we’re all connected there! And I’m thankful I can use Facebook without it feeling oppressive so that I have a very simple way to keep in touch with all my friends.

As I traveled to Kenya with an organization focused on bringing technology to school children so that they have the chance at brighter futures, I’m once again reminded how vital it is that we all learn to use technology to our advantage. We must be intentional with digital-social-mobile tech to be sure it enhances our lives and advances our opportunities without overtaking us. It’s a small world, after all—and it only gets smaller as technology expands. May we use the connections to truly be more connected with each other!




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