Bill Kaelin

Bill Kaelin: Unplugging and conquering hate with love

My job can consume me 24 hours a day. My hours are flexible because I am my own boss, but with the invention of the iPhone I usually work in some capacity almost seven days a week.

I have become a part of the culture in which my phone is always in my hand. It goes everywhere I go and documents my every step, becoming my digital diary, and I can literally feel lost without it.

It was important, when my boyfriend and I decided to take our first real vacation together, that we went to a place where cellphone service would be spotty. We wanted to tune in to each other and tune out the rest of the world. In order to truly go off the grid, I challenged myself to completely turn off my phone and disconnect from all social media for five days.

Shawn and I have a lot in common. We enjoy hanging out with each other and normally don’t have any problems communicating, but vacations can take togetherness to a whole new level. Social media and smart phones have become a sneaky way to secretly disengage, so I wondered if we would still feel the same way about each other without our wireless devices as a distraction in the very secluded Sedona, Arizona.

Disconnecting to connect with my BF was initially pretty simple due to the 360-degree views of towering red rocks that are among the seven wonders of the world. You feel like you’re on Mars. The canyon formations that are said to have special energy transmitters, called “vortices,” that inspire feelings of strength and can help with your spiritual connection instead of your internet connection. Out of habit I wanted to take photos of what I was seeing and share them with the world, but instead of hitting the “like” button to express our approval, we let our heads shake in silent disbelief.

Our trip was filled with adventures that we shared with each other instead of sharing with the world, including horseback riding in the mountains of Flagstaff, an off-trail 4-wheel-drive jeep adventure, yoga and Southwestern food that was fantastic even without posting the foodie pic on Instagram.

For our final adventure we set off to hike to the top of Bell Rock, which looks like an awkward but gorgeous big blob and reminded us both of the mashed-potato sculpture in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

The Bell Rock is fairly easy to climb, with edges wide enough to make a person who’s deathly afraid of heights feel somewhat secure. The magnificent beauty makes you realize how insignificant everything is in the grand scheme of things; including my need to constantly update my “friends” on Facebook about my experiences.

The cliffs to the top are sprinkled with man-made mini red-rock pyramid sculptures that magically stay in intact, thanks to the magnetic energy exuding from the earth. Along our way to the heart-dropping crest, I was in awe of the handcrafted art until I saw that hatred can exist in the middle of nature as well as in a “newsfeed.” Shockingly, standing out like a sore thumb was a swastika built from the same sacred red stones we had walked on.

Instinctively, I wanted to blast out to my 5,000 followers about my frustration with the injustices of the world, but instead, without a word we dismantled the hostility with our own hands and used the same stones to create our own “comment” with one simple word: “LOVE.” It may not have become a meme, but our message was loud and clear to anyone who came across our non-digital footprint.

Ironically, the power I felt from this poignant moment allowed my acrophobia to subside, giving me the strength to climb higher. When we finally reached the summit, instead of posting a selfie, I took a deep breath and soaked in how love can conquer hate. When I tuned in by turning off, I learned how to use my own internal hardware to store and process the best vacation ever, forever, in real time.