The Light of Unmediated Experience: an interview with Freedom Matters
‘Just experiencing the moment was enough. The trail helped me to remember that a sunset is beautiful – and an experience is real – even if you don’t Instagram it.’
Earlier this year, I was delighted when an email pinged into my inbox from the folk behind the Freedom app. They’d read about a few of the things I’d been up to, and were keen to feature me on their blog and podcast. I’ve used the Freedom app for well over a year now to help build better online habits.
Our resulting conversation covers a variety of topics in the general sphere of intentional tech use, but is really about the simple philosophy I explore in my upcoming book, The Farthest Shore – being present, being receptive to the natural world, noticing more. These are the priceless lessons learned on my two long-distance trails of 2019: the Cape Wrath Trail in winter and the Haute Route Pyrenees. I also detail some of the habits I’ve formed to keep the internet in its place.
These days, Twitter is my Kryptonite. I have a love/hate relationship with it. On the one hand, it’s where most of my audience is, and I find it essential for connecting with both readers and clients. On the other hand, it’s a black hole for attention, and I find it frighteningly easy to get sucked in. Spending too much time on Twitter in a day leads to what I can only describe as an anxious, restless brain fog that does major damage to my ability to concentrate.
One thing I find interesting is that the interview questions were originally about controlling distractions in order to achieve peak productivity, but I’ve tried to reframe my answers a little, because I believe that the benefits of this way of seeing the world transcend our usefulness as elements of the economic system. For me this is about embodied experience – about living in the way I want to live. Of course, there are productivity benefits too!
I find that photography is an inherently mindful activity, whereas modern computers are filled to the brim with potential distractions and are poorly designed for focused work on a single deep task. When I’m looking through the lens at a subject, my mind is focused and calm; I find it meditative, particularly if I’m shooting something I love, such as local wildlife or mountain landscapes.
I gush a bit about the Freedom app in this piece, even though I’m not sponsored by them and they haven’t paid me to gush, but for good reason – it really has made a big difference to me. I can highly recommend the app.
A podcast with Jenny Tough
In my talks with the people at Freedom, they mentioned that they were also interested in featuring me on their podcast, and that they were looking for other people in adventure to join the conversation. I immediately thought of my colleague Jenny Tough. Jenny is a member of our team at Sidetracked, and is an adventurer with a long list of accomplishments to her name (some of which involve running across entire countries and/or mountain ranges). We’d chatted before about our approach to tech use in the mountains. While I often have to go out of my way to keep offline in the hills, Jenny’s adventures take her to places where there simply is no communications grid.
The podcast episode is more or less halfway between a group interview and a freeform conversation, and I think there are some really interesting bits and pieces about differing attitudes to technology in the great outdoors. Well worth a listen!
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