Until today, all the blogs I have written for thirtyseven4.com have been geared toward online security, and informing website visitors on how to better equip and protect themselves against today’s top malware and cybercriminal behaviors. And while computer security awareness and education is ever-important in today’s battle against evil doers, I wanted to share a strange phenomenon that I experienced earlier this month, and quite possibly something I haven’t felt in (maybe) 15 years.
The month of July brings a lot a fun for my family, and hopefully yours too. Warm weather means splash parks, picnics and sports camps. In the food arena, we get to enjoy juice-down-your-elbows watermelon and salty-sweet corn on the cob. Towards the end of the month we begin harvesting our home-grown garden vegetables and tomatoes. Another aspect of July that we typically look forward to is the Annual Summer Vacation. For this year’s adventure (BTW: I am a bit of a Clark Griswold when it comes to family trips), we decided to team up with my wife’s side of the family and head north into Canada to a fishing camp in northern Ontario. This would mark my first time there, but our children carryon the 5th Generation on my wife’s side to vacation and fish at this lake. It is important to note that my passion for fishing equals my passion for computers/software/and keeping them safe. I was looking very forward to the vacation.
As we embarked on the car trip and minutes slowly turned into hundreds of miles (please remember that we have three kids in the backseat: “Are we THERE yet? Are we there, YET?”), we eventually crossed the United States border into Canada. After passing through customs (why is that so stressful?) and entering Canada, it wasn’t long before we noticed that our cell phone service (including calling, texting, data usage, etc.) was no longer valid. As the owner of Thirtyseven4, anytime I leave the office (within the States) it is very hard for me to stay disconnected from the office long---and I don’t: I check in often with the Office and my email. So losing cell phone service completely was a bit unsettling. But I have to give Office Cred to my amazing employee’s, whom I put full trust in while I am out (thanks, Guys!). Hundreds more snaking miles northeast later, we arrive at our fishing camp.
While checking into the camp’s office (aka. the owner’s home), I asked the owner where I might be able to get the best Wi-Fi signal on their premises. (Keep in mind I had no intention of spending the entire vacation online (family first!) but I did intend to check into the office regularly, especially now since I had no cell phone service). So after I asked the Wi-Fi question, initially all I received back was a dumbfounded stare. After a few awkward moments of silence she followed up with: “do you not understand how much campsite wide Wi-Fi would cost me?” I did find out from another family that I would be able to get Wi-Fi at the “local” Tim Horton’s Doughnuts…40 miles away. Please note: I am in no-way a workaholic. But I DO run Thirtyseven4, successfully fighting for every sale against the big dogs in my market. I have to admit, it took me the better part of the day to wrap my mind around not having instant access to the Internet or any way to communicate with my Thirtyseven4 Team and customers, hundreds of miles away. But a note to self (and reader): God is always working.
Just as it took me a little time to adjust, I also really thought it would take my oldest son some time to settle-in to “no technology” as well. I have one son who loves to be active, outside and playing (we knew he would love the camp) and I have another one that likes computers, video games and all things T.V. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no couch potato, as he loves scoring goals and 6:00 AM bike rides through our neighborhood while daddy jogs beside him. But Wow, he loves his “media” as well. However, we were a family on a mission for quality-time by the lake, and so his video game console was left at home, and in addition to not being able to escape to watch his favorite Super Mario video’s on YouTube or play his educational games online (given the Wi-Fi situation), there were also no working TV’s in any of the cabins. (I know that some of you are hyperventilating at the thought of this. Breathe. Breathe.) Please keep in mind that one of the “best parts!” of past family vacations for this son has been the access to Hub or Sprout or some other fancy/premium kid’s cable channel that we don’t subscribe to at our house.
As the days went on without our digital luxuries, I really witnessed something beautiful…all three of my kids outside joyfully playing with each other and with all the other campsite kids from dawn to dusk. There was no mention of T.V., video games and computers, instead the concerns of the week turned to when the next kickball game was happening and who was on whose team, when everyone was heading down to the lake to swim and who was creating the next obstacle course challenge.
And as I sat in an Adirondack down by the lake with my wife, watching the pastel sunset and the camp’s Canadian and American flags flap fiercely in the breeze, I realized that I personally was experiencing something that I haven’t felt in (maybe) 15 years…100% digital security. As a father, I had no concerns that my kids were getting purposely re-directed to malicious or obscene pages by accidentally clicking on the wrong thing. I wasn’t worried that apps were being accidentally purchased on my Tablet because of child-focused marketing efforts. There was also no anxiety about someone snooping on me, logging my keystrokes or collecting my login credentials as I checked our bank statement online due some undisclosed, yet-to-be-discovered zero day exploit, etc. Nor did I have to worry about any digital security breach while swiping a credit card at a local retailer (again, nearest town was 40 miles away). I didn’t have to invest in multiple cutting edge technologies or develop my own to experience this freedom for myself and my family, but instead all we had to do was to get away and unplug. I will repeat that, and I also encourage you to try it: Get away and unplug! This technical situation was not by choice but I praise the Lord for allowing us to experience the 100% freedom that it provided.
While security tips and suggestions for keeping safe while online are always a very good thing and should be followed (because we can’t remain unplugged forever), I do highly recommend unplugging yourself and the family for a day and enjoying the freedom that it has shown us. There is something old-fashioned, healthy and cleansing about “un-plugging”. Try it, eh?