LESSONS FROM LOSING MY PHONE IN BALI
All photos by Miranda Pranoto for BOBBLEHAUS
A photo essay of pre-pandemic bliss
It was one of those nights: the air was hot, humid and windy. The sound of the crashing waves accompanied my night, as did the big, full moon and endless blinking stars. It was serene and entirely poetic… until we decided to get tequila. And if you know, you know that tequila is satan’s liquid earth form. I’ll cut to the chase here: I lost my phone in Bali.
Had I been looking forward to the trip? Yes. In fact, I had set such high expectations for my weekend in Bali, I couldn’t think of anything else two weeks prior. Was I crushed? Absolutely. But was it a complete, irreversible disaster? Not entirely.
The four days my friends and I spent in Bali could have been absolute bliss. It could have been a time to rewind and relax. A time to forget reality (I put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign to any and every uni task). It should have been time to be with my friends… had I been more careful about my belongings. The remaining days I spent in Bali with the greatest company (minus the phone), were different, to say the (very) least. But the phoneless, (near) desperate, painful 50 hours taught me so much.
As a gen-Z myself, I think it’s safe to say that we grew up to have a very close relationship with technology. We often forget how much it distracts us from reality, what’s in front of our eyes. I’m not trying to sound like I’ve just finished a 2-year social media cleanse here. But here are a few little (but essential) lessons I learned from losing my phone in Bali.
1. Watch over your belongings, always
This is the most obvious lesson, though clearly some of us need to learn it the hard way. Hell, I’m probably writing this just because I’m scared that if I don’t, the universe might put me in some kind of shit spell and make me lose some other belonging of mine. So, kids: always pay extra attention to your belongings. Also, if you’re going to be partying, make sure you ask a friend to look over your belongings, too.
Bag tip: handbags and purses go along well with most outfits and give your look extra attitude, but crossbody bags are more convenient for dancing so you can dance the night (and your worries) away with free hands (except for glasses of rum and cola but that’s your call). From my experience, it’s better to always have your belongings as close to your body as possible (have I mentioned belt bags?). Leave your wallet; only bring with you enough cash, a debit card, and your favorite lipstick shade.
2. Be more present
This year I’d come to realize that I found it hard to be ‘present.’ Sometimes I’m not even sure what that means or feels like, so I can’t tell if I’m doing it correctly. But I think I’ve found at least part of the answer on how to be present. It’s not quantum physics, it doesn’t require weeks of practice, but it isn’t easy: turn off your phone. Or in my case, lose it (jokes but also sad cries).
Being without my phone for even just a few days showed me how accustomed I’d gotten to relying on the comfort of my smartphone. When you encounter an awkward situation: phone. When you’ve run out of topics to talk about: phone. When you’re bored: phone. When you’re busy: phone. When you’re actually having a good time but aren’t used to actually enjoying it: phone.
I can’t even tell you how many times I almost instinctively looked down at my hands, expecting the convenience of a phone would entertain me. It happened at least fifteen times a day, no matter where I was or what I was doing. And truthfully, I was having a great time. We went to wonderful beach clubs that served great food and soy lattes. I was around an amazing group of friends with an even better sense of humor. Yet I didn’t know how to properly enjoy the rare gift of distraction-free, genuine companionship.
I’ve struggled to ‘be present’ before but now I know that it requires time away from your phone and anything else that might prevent you from being fully attentive. You need to fully absorb your day, without the fake rush of gadgets clouding your unconscious. I realized I enjoyed my trip in a way I’ve never before by truly observing everything around me. I paid more attention to the decor of the beach clubs and the beautiful, warm orange sunlight that blanketed the white marbles of the pool tile.
3. Find time for silence
Spending the last days of our trip in Bali without my phone didn’t just mean I was off social media. It also meant no contact with my parents (who weren’t exactly thrilled), friends, no music and no stories or posts for the Gram. We can get so caught up in the web; we tend to only show the glamorous, polished, perfect life through our many accounts even if the reality is far from it.
We may not always realize we do it, but in this era where we’re glued to our smartphones, we open and close different apps endlessly. Not only does this decrease our attention span, being on our gadgets increase our hyperactivity. We see and hear more things that we need. This pollutes our minds and causes us to get detached from reality. We’re constantly chastised by older generations for being total digital zombies, but I think the more meaningful, thoughtful critique of being so plugged in should come from ourselves. We were born into the digital age; we’ve never known a life free of screens. But when we choose to (or, in my case, are forced to) explore a tech-free side of life, the impact is profound and entirely unique to my generation.
I’m the type of person who listens to music all the time. From morning shower one-woman shows to relaxing “nature rainforest birds chirping soul-healing” playlists to put me to sleep, I rely on music to heighten any moment. Being without my phone meant I spent more of my day in silence. Instead of booming 80s disco or slow jazz in the shower, I listened to the sound of the water running down my skin. Instead of filling my head with preconceived assumptions about others through chats or their posts, I was fully absorbed in the moment.
You need silence as a part of your day, no matter how small or how short. Whether it’s a silent shower or a quick five minute meditation, solitude and silence will help you focus on your day. Just like your body needing sleep, I’ve found, your mind needs and might even crave silence.
4. Listen to your friends
Do you find it annoying when you’re spilling your guts in front of a friend and they can’t seem to listen wholeheartedly to you because their phone keeps vibrating? Maybe they don’t mean to seem uninterested, and maybe they’ve got something actually important happening elsewhere. Nevertheless, being around your phone means you can’t focus 100% on other things.
I encountered many moments when I wanted to talk about something but all my friends were on their phones. It made me realize how often we do it without realizing, and how sad it is to waste precious moments with your friends thinking and taking care of things that are elsewhere. Prioritize the time you spend with your loved ones. Be present. Nothing else matters as much as what is in front of you.
5. Focus only on what’s real
The last time I tried to back up my lost phone, I ran out of memory on my laptop. So I only have photos from January of 2019 backed up. This meant that with losing my phone, I also lost all the 20,000 photos I’d taken this year. I found this to be the most heartbreaking part of the accident.
I’ve had so many incredible memories and moments from this year that I always get caught looking at my photos. I always reminisce because it makes me happy to remember the good that has happened in the past. Losing all my photos from this year taught me to look forward instead of constantly looking back.
Also, I’m so thankful I still have my photos that were shot on film, as they were saved in my laptop. Another reason to love analogue photography: you have a hard copy of the photos in film format so if you lose the digital scans, you can re-scan the negatives anytime.
P.S. Always. Back. Up. Your. Files.