My unsettling experiences of lacking WiFi are mirrored with my friend Amelia’s, as I’ve said in my previous post. But despite our difficulties in finding a connection, this isn’t a regular occurrence in America: there’s a Starbucks at every corner, free WiFi in almost any cafe or fast-food restaurant. Amelia didn’t buy a SIM card for her smartphone whilst she was in America and is an exception. In the Facebook group for that semester’s exchangees, with over 70 members, there were several posts debating which phone provider to use, sharing family plans, which phone plan would be best; to the best of my knowledge, very few people didn’t get an American SIM. In our conversations throughout the time we’ve known each other, Amelia’s mentioned that it was challenging to go without one and only have to rely on free WiFi – she would feel stressed when she went outside her “safe” zones of the campus and town of Chapel Hill.
During some of my travels, I came to view free WiFi as a blessing; specifically during my holiday to Yosemite. Yosemite and my hostel received absolutely zero reception (at least for my AT&T SIM). I relied on free WiFi completely for three or four days. In addition to this, my monthly plan needed renewing and I could barely find a place that received even one bar of connection in the park. I stood on top of a bench for five minutes whilst calling my provider to renew my pre-paid SIM. I would say this this moment was one of the most terrifying of my life: I had only a small window of time to call AT&T to renew my plan or I would risk not having data and minutes for another two or three days. That the last bus of the day was to arrive at any moment during my call had me shaking with worry that I wouldn’t be able to renew my plan in time. This heavy reliance on Internet has me worried for how I’m to travel to other, more remote places in the world. My talks with my tutor revealed that people used to travel and not keep in touch with their friends and relatives, whereas now we stay tightly connected to everyone back home and are constantly updating people on our journeys. I simply can’t imagine not having the ability to let my loved ones know where I am in the world; where a lack of connection worries me, people used to revel in it!
Knowing Amelia and I went through the same trials together gives me a modicum of reassurance, that I’m not the only one so attached to the Internet. Even now, we rely on the Internet to talk, regularly using Facebook messenger and Skype to talk to each other. Amelia’s said she even uses FB messenger to chat to her friends at home in England, even though she’s got her English SIM back and has been home for some time now!