Microwave - and other forms of electromagnetic - radiation are major (but conveniently disregarded, ignored, and overlooked) factors in many modern unexplained disease states. Insomnia, anxiety, vision problems, swollen lymph, headaches, extreme thirst, night sweats, fatigue, memory and concentration problems, muscle pain, weakened immunity, allergies, heart problems, and intestinal disturbances are all symptoms found in a disease process the Russians described in the 70's as Microwave Sickness.
With a job titleof digital audience manager, I get paid to be better than most at being digitally connected.
I am the satisfied owner of an iPhone 6, a MacBook Pro and an iPad 2. I have an active account on every popular social media platform and I manage my entire life through Google Drive.
While I am an advocate of the newest technologies, I acknowledge that being over-connected in my personal and professional life is a new reality I'm up against.
That realization is what led my husband and me to our 2015 resolution to get off our technology and into the great Florida outdoors more often. We agreed we wanted at least 24 hours of complete digital detox — no Netflix to watch, no pressuring work emails to answer, no Amazon shopping, no social media, no Internet at all.
We knew a camping trip to one of Florida's State Parks would be just the thing to truly get off the grid, so we booked two nights at Manatee Springs. My husband and I figured the home of West Indian manatees in Chiefland, clocking in at about 9,000 years old, was a perfect escape from our modern world of dinging phones, touch screens and binge-worthy television.
We packed up his Tacoma with three coolers, a six-person tent, two bottles of bug spray, our Ultra Plush Queen Airbed and drove two hours north of Tampa to Suwannee River territory.
As soon as we passed through the campground's threshold — lush with a canopy of maple trees, red oaks and March sunshine — I lost service on my phone. That first moment of disconnect felt like something from an episode of the Twilight Zone. It brought the classic opening monologue to mind — You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination — and I was ready.
We checked in with the park office and arrived at our campsite. Before we even set up our tent, a gathering of deer approached to check us out. Right after the deer showed up so did a park ranger, whom we dubbed Ranger Rick for the remainder of the weekend. Ranger Rick asked that we please not feed the deer, which is why the deer are chummy with visiting campers. So, no trail mix for Bambi.
After the tent was set up, we made fire. Well, I didn't make fire. The couple that came with us worked with my husband to make fire. They grabbed some wood from the park office and combed around the red oaks for the best logs to burn.
Deer? Check. Fire? Check. Tent? Check. No cell service? Check. We were officially camping.
The four of us lathered up with bug spray and spent the rest of day one exploring the grounds. We eventually found the waterfront public park and saw the turquoise reflections of the clear water spring, exclaiming in agreement, "We're jumping in tomorrow!"
That evening, we all fit in the tent comfortably and snoozed on our two blowup mattresses, falling asleep to the buzz of crickets and waking up to the chirping of birds.
In the morning, over a breakfast cooked on a portable gas grill of scrambled eggs and bacon with a side of fruit, we talked about shows like True Detective and Empire and who had seen what. We noticed a side effect emerging — whenever we had a question about an actor or show, we couldn't Google it. We had to use our thought processes to figure out an answer. The exercise actually made for more engaging conversation.
Soon, we were all suited up and strolling to the spring for the afternoon. The waterfront park area was bustling with college students on spring break, a baby shower celebration set up by the playground and throngs of families with kids in goggles and teenagers laying out on beach towels.
Over at the spring, some visitors splashed about while others searched for bravery to enter the tempting water. They squealed with different types of fear — fear of cold water, fear of snakes and fish, and the fear of swimming in general.
My friend and I decided the only way to get in the spring was to leap in off the steps. We wanted to get to the center of the spring as fast as possible to avoid the small snakes swimming close to the edges of the reservoir.
As the sparkling stream washed over us, we were refreshed and appreciated the lack of saltiness. We splashed around together and relished our surroundings of moss-draped cypress trees and their enchanted knees.
As a group, we spent a lot of time over the weekend proclaiming how the modern world escape was making us feel — calm, peaceful, cleansed and magical. We became intoxicated by the natural beauty we were lucky enough to share and it was palpable in how present we all were as we swam, hung out barefoot and talked in the red-fire dark while making s'mores.
There was no reaching for phones or compulsions to instantly share photos. No checking in on sports scores or online games.
After 48 hours at Manatee Springs, my brain began to mirror the clarity of the spring we swam in and I felt more connected to myself than to any digital device.
Contact Amber McDonald at email@example.com. Follow @Amber__McDonald.