LONDON, ENGLAND – “Can I see your visa, please?”
It was 9 p.m. We were at the airport in Tokyo, checking in for our night flight to Vancouver.
“I don’t have a visa. I didn’t think I needed one to fly to Canada.”
“All passengers going to Canada must have an Electronic Travel Authorization.”
I was going to need one if I wanted to get on the plane…
Greetings from London!
My family and I just traveled around the world, visiting 29 countries over 18 months. We completed the trip in December. Now we’re catching up with our families – who we haven’t seen much of over the last couple of years. (We’re in London to visit my mother for a few days.)
If you’ve been reading these postcards, you know Kate and I got divorced in 2014. We have been a broken family since then… until this trip brought us back together.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll fly back to the States and begin our new lives as a family. I have no idea what these new lives will look like yet. We have no idea where we’ll live, for example, or what we’ll do with our time. We’ll see…
Anyway, over the course of the trip, we had to deal with many border crossings and visa applications. We never had a problem until we got to Tokyo last month and tried to board a plane to Canada.
Without a visa, I had to look for the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) application form on my phone. We stepped away from the check-in counter. I found the form on Google, filled it out, paid the $7 fee, and hit “submit.”
The form told me eTAs can take up to 72 hours to process…
I lucked out. My eTA was ready – and waiting in my inbox – in 20 minutes. We got our boarding passes, thanked the world for smartphones, and continued on our way.
This got me thinking about the “digital detox” I started last month.
I’ve been a heavy internet user from the beginning. But when smartphones arrived, the time I wasted online got 10 times worse because now I had a computer in my pocket with loads of new and useful apps.
I would check my phone between 80 and 100 times per day. (I used an app to measure this.) And I often wasted HOURS per day on my phone. (I measured this too.)
I wasn’t reading or learning or communicating. I was mindlessly “checking” the phone to procrastinate, to avoid feelings of boredom or – in social situations – anxiety. I’d check my emails. I’d check the news outlets for the latest headlines. I’d check my text messages. I’d check the gold price. I’d check Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
I’d be in a museum or having a meal with my family, and I’d still be checking my phone for new “gummies” to consume.
Not only did this waste hours and keep me disconnected from life around me, but I stopped responding to messages because I was only using email for the distraction of having new messages to read. I wasn’t using it to deal with the emails already in my inbox.
Last month, I decided I’d had enough of being a slave to my phone. As Bill Bonner puts it, I turned off and tuned out. I gave my phone to Kate one evening and told her to keep it away from me for a while.
She still has it.
(I’m writing this message to you by hand. Later, I’ll type it up on my “typewriter,” and Kate will email it to you.)
Tech-Free = Stress-Free
For the first couple of days, I had some cravings for my phone. But those went away. And now I don’t think about it at all unless I need it for something specific – for things I can’t do any other way…
Like traveling. We wouldn’t have been able to board that plane in Tokyo, for example, if I hadn’t had a phone.
Or navigating to an unfamiliar address. Or keeping in touch with friends. Or paying bills online.
Or looking up a statistic I need for these postcards.
In these cases, I’ve been asking Kate to pass me the phone or look up whatever I need. Even though we’ve traveled from Japan to Canada to Britain over the last 30 days, I haven’t needed to lean on Kate very often. Maybe once a day.
There are other things I enjoy using my phone for, but that aren’t essential for day-to-day survival. Like podcasts. And YouTube videos. And music. And e-books. I used to love lying in bed at night and listening to podcasts, for example.
I was a little sad to give these up, but I realize they’re mostly just entertainment, and I haven’t missed them, even though I haven’t found anything to replace them with yet.
As for the markets and the economy, I spent the last year or so intently studying the financial system. I know the fall in the Dow-to-Gold ratio below five is inevitable. I’ve placed my bets. It’s a waiting game now.
The bottom line is, it just wasn’t that hard to give up my phone. Definitely not as hard as I thought it would be.
In return, the days feel longer. And I find myself with SO MUCH extra time. I’m going to use this free time to write a book.
Also, I feel less stress and anxiety. My suspicion is, constantly checking my phone for messages, news headlines, and social media updates creates anxiety.
Kate can keep my phone.
– Tom Dyson
Reader question: I have enjoyed reading about your adventures with your family. You have written a lot about how the Dow is significantly overvalued with regards to gold, and how you put all your investments in gold. How would you recommend investing in gold at this time – physical gold, ETF, stocks, etc.?
Tom’s response: I’ve addressed this question here. My main recommendation would be physical gold, supplemented by ETFs, gold mining stocks, and silver investments, depending on your experience as a speculator.
Reader question: Tom, why did you fly to Mexico without any money or credit cards, even though you’d had a job shortly before?
Tom’s response: This is a good question and one I’ve asked myself many times since. The main reason I didn’t take any money was because I’d gone train hopping before – with money – and it got in the way. The reason is, train hopping is really hard and requires a lot of walking, sweating, avoiding police, and skulking around freight yards at night time. Money gives you a way of escaping… to the bus station or nice hotel room with a hot shower.
I didn’t want that escape in Mexico. I wanted no choice but to sleep outside and ride freight trains. So I left my wallet behind. I was like Hernan Cortes, who, upon reaching Mexico in 1519, scuttled his ships and left his troops with no choice but to fight the Aztecs.
Reader question: I look forward to your email every day! One question, though: Why didn’t you fly directly to Paris? You ran the risk of being murdered by hitchhiking to Mexico, etc. I’m sure you had a valid reason, because you are a very logical person. Take care.
Tom’s response: I already had a ticket from Mexico City to London. I couldn’t afford to buy another one.
Reader comment: I became a ship captain specifically so I could travel (too fat to be an airline stewardess back when I was young). Do you have ANY idea the kind of trouble a stowaway causes the captain and his ship? It’s HUGE. Because of that, some ships will just throw them overboard to avoid the hassle. You were lucky.
P.S. I used to hitchhike between Florida and Texas all the time, but stopped as soon as I could afford to get a car and drive. WAY too many dangerous/nasty people out there (though I did meet some really nice ones, too). I still pick people up when I see them hitching, just because I remember how nice it felt to get a decent ride.
Tom’s response: Thanks for writing in! Your messages are an integral part of this project, and Kate and I read every one. As always, keep writing us at [email protected].