Before travelling to Thailand, I asked my wife what it would be like not to have the Internet for a month. I couldn’t find out if there were any wi-fi hotspots in her family’s part of town, and I knew that bringing a laptop would just be something extra to carry if there wasn’t. I decided that, since we were at her family’s house, we could use their computer (if needed) and possibly an Internet cafe. I basically needed the computer as a transfer device to take photos off the camera and onto my iPod for storage.
What I think is surprising is that, yes, we can go without the Internet (and without a cell phone) but it’s a bit like returning to the horse-and-carriage days. You can get there, but it’s slow going. Thailand seems to have one of the worst middle-of-the-road problems for telecom–a poor landline infrastructure to support any local (home) growth, so no DSL or local wi-fi hotspots provided by kindly homeowners. This also means that we’re dependent on public stations which, seemingly, are as poorly maintained as a few years ago. I’m having trouble uploading my photos and the connection keeps crashing (and is shared by lots of folks like myself who want more bandwidth than we’re given).
Of course, this means a more hands-on experience with the world. If you want something, you have to figure out a way to find it and to get it. Asking someone for directions, remember that? Wondering about price comparisons when shopping? That’s right. Buying something used? Check your local newspaper or fliers on walls. Want current news? Use the tv (and watch the same footage over and over and over in the same hour, with only three major stories) or read the paper (actually, the Bangkok Post print version is probably the only paper I know of that is qualitatively better in print form than Internet!). What time is that movie showing? Go to the theater or call and ask. Want to use your favorite web-based application (Skype, etc.)? Gotta find out someone who has it installed on a public terminal–good luck.
Life without the Internet is not all that bad. I’m reading a lot more. I’m happy not knowing about the news (though I miss the current events happenings). It’s a bit lonelier, the world is, but I feel little more like people see me and I see them too.