Haggerstone Island is a tiny dot situated 100 nautical miles from the very tip of Australia, arguably one of the most remote areas of the world.
ILLUSTRATIONS: THINKSTOCK; ART: KANOKTHIP KHUNTEERAPRASERT
It is paradise. Haggerstone has become a favourite getaway for the rich and famous, with a two-year waiting list. Former guests are a who's who of the business and entertainment world _ and this is where your columnist has been staying for the past week.
First of all I don't appreciate that knee-jerk ''scoff'' that erupted from your very essence, up through your throat and out of your mouth upon reading that last sentence.
I'll have you know I rub shoulders with movers and shakers constantly, and not just as I am hurriedly shunted past first class when all attempts at string-pulling for upgrades have proved futile.
How and why I ended up on Haggerstone is irrelevant. This column is not even about Haggerstone. It's about technology.
Like you, I've been slowly engulfed by technology over the past five years. There are now days I've stared at that little square smartphone screen longer than I've stared at any living being.
A couple of years ago I turned off my mobile phone for a week, and recounted what transpired in this column.
Anyway, the point is that for a week I was not allowed to use my mobile phone.
The upshot? Nothing earth shattering, and the most jarring thing I had to do was use a really smelly public telephone at Hat Yai airport.
But that experiment was in the olden days. So much has changed since then and so rapidly. In 2013, I am chained to my MacBook Pro and iPhone so tightly I am starting to resent Apple.
Next time you go to a restaurant, cast your eyes around. You will see families of four staring into their smartphones doing something really important, like uploading a pic of their dessert with a comment like ''Yummy!''
You will see otherwise attractive young couples on dates, texting away in silence, because that requires less social skills that having to communicate orally.
This is what we call the ''social network''.
When I first knew I was travelling to Haggerstone Island, I received a pre-travel email detailing what I needed to take with me, such as 30-plus sunscreen, sturdy sneakers, and Jackie Collins' entire back catalogue. Since I have yet to be subjected to a frontal lobotomy, I was not required to pack Fifty Shades Of Grey.
This sentence stood out the most:
''Guests are reminded there is no internet connection, and telephone connection is very limited.''
Oh, interesting. For the first time I would travel to and from Australia without my PC or phone. Technology and I were embarking on a trial separation.
And so, one week ago, I placed my iPhone and MacBook into a bedroom drawer, packed my bag and instructed my valet to call a taxi for Suvarnabhumi.
Goodbye, Thailand. Goodbye, Steve Jobs.
I'm back now. So how was it?
'WHERE'S THE REST OF ME!?' SYNDROME
You know how people who lose limbs often claim they can still feel them? Well that was me, only I wasn't itching or scratching. I was vibrating.
For the first two days of my experiment, my phone kept vibrating in my trouser pocket. This is despite it being 7,300km away.
This is the second time I've experienced this phenomenon. The last time was at the Thailand Open, which coincidentally begins again today at Muang Thong Thani.
At the time I'd gotten back into running after a relatively short lay-off (a running term for the years 2008-2010), so maybe it was just my leg muscles twitching and protesting at having to go back to work.
This week it happened again. At dinner in Cairns, for example, I interrupted a hilarious anecdote about the Thai government to reach down into my trousers to answer my vibrating phone. Only there was nothing there.
I now understand how people see ghosts or believe in deities. The human mind is a powerful thing. In two days my psychosomatic ailment passed to be replaced by something more physical.
Any visitor to Cairns last week may have spotted me strolling the streets, marvelling at all the herbal healing stores and didgeridoo shops that have sprung up there.
Had you spotted me, you would have seen me slapping my thighs in urgent fashion. Why? I kept getting sudden feelings I'd lost my mobile phone.
The slaps went in this order: Left thigh, right thigh, back trouser pocket. shirt pocket and the forehead. ''That's right _ I'm not carrying it.''
I ended up bruised and battered, all self-inflicted. There is even a hand print on my favourite Ben Sherman shirt, and it doesn't even have a top pocket!
How intriguing. My brain is now hard-wired so that wherever I go, I need that weight of a smartphone in my pocket, otherwise my synapses go ballistic.
I looked like a middle-aged man trying to dance, slapping his thighs, right to left, back to top, as if trying to keep the beat to a KC and the Sunshine Band song. I have Steve Jobs to thank for that.
MELTING INTO THE NOW
After phantom vibrations and thigh-slapping, I began to feel at peace.
My visit to Haggerstone was in a party of 10, and we were all offline.
We observed staggeringly beautiful sunsets without having to view them through an electronic screen, after which we could turn on an app to adjust the light on the pic so that it was perfect so that we could put it in a cutesy frame and instantly upload it onto Instagram with an accompanying caption like ''Picture postcard sunset!'' as if this new generation even knows what a postcard is.
Instead, we used our eyes to watch the sun fade over the far North Queensland horizon. We drank in the atmosphere devoid of apps, phone chargers and Dtac.
At night time over good wine and fish caught just an hour or two previous, we sat around doing something you would never be able to do with the aid of a purchase from the App Store.
It was really weird, and something the youngies should try if they get a spare moment. We looked each other in the eyes and told stories. We spoke of experiences and special moments. We asked questions and got answers.
And all this without ever having to look down every minute to see if anybody had sent us an email. There were no bleeps or four-second jingles bursting forth from our pockets, heralding the arrival of something Earth-shatteringly trivial.
That is what I am trying to convey to you _ how blissful this last week has been, and not just because of the deserted beaches and great sunsets. For a short time we had a network going there _ oh my God, a social network!
Alas, it was one that came crashing down when I stepped out of the taxi cab from Suvarnabhumi yesterday at 2am.
I admit it, dear reader: The first thing I did was flick on my PC and mobile phone. Bleep bleep bleep bleep. Welcome back to civilisation.
I have left a social network and re-entered the social network. Only in 2013 do we truly understand that sentence.
About the author
- Writer: Andrew Biggs