By Maggie Lancaster

So somebody dropped their phone in the water today, and while that may seem really insignificant, it made me start thinking. A combination of this trip and the work I am doing this week in AP Psychology (Smartphones, Mental Health, and You) have really forced me to stop and think about how strongly connected I am to my phone and how much that is hurting me overall. So many people thought that the phone would be either lost forever or that it had fallen wrongly and been cracked to pieces on the rocks. How would that have affected someone, though? People in modern times seem to carry their whole lives around on their phones (photos, contacts, text messages, maybe even the last time they heard from a loved one). However, it is so much different here. Only in the most “westernized” and least traditional Guatemalan towns do you frequently see cell phones, unless they are held by people who are so obviously tourists. It is never the locals who faithfully guard their precious cell phones though, as they are too busy living their lives in the moment and connecting with the people around them. While I’m not saying that phones are a bad thing, as they are capable of perpetuating communication between people worldwide, giving us access to unlimited instant learning via the internet, and so much more, they are distracting us from the lives we are living, as well. 

The lake incident wasn’t the only one that made me really think about how much phone usage takes me out of the moment. I remember last year, my phone was my security blanket, as everyone was so completely and totally new to me and I felt such extreme discomfort that I was incapable of coping with it. Getting COVID and getting stuck in quarantine definitely exacerbated the phone addiction (constant WiFi access and the dreaded isolation that I felt). However, this time has been different. I have been distancing myself from my phone way more. We even left our phones at home for like half a day once, and the anxiety I thought I would feel just didn’t exist. While simply having the weight of my phone in my back pocket still brings me comfort, I am realizing I don’t need it to survive.

A big reason people do vacations and tourism (or at least what I think one of them is) is photo opportunities. This idea of everything needing to be social-media-ready really perpetuates the need for cell phones. People need pictures of everything. It is the whole idea of “pics or it didn’t happen” that makes people feel the need to document everything. It isn’t until we as humans realize that not everything has to be publicized and shared with everyone that we can start living in the moment and experiencing life how we were probably meant to. I think that might be why everything feels so much more relaxed and homey in smaller places like Cerro de Oro because people are so connected and intertwined in their community. Maybe that is why I have more of a tendency to borderline fall asleep sometimes. It feels safer in smaller places where you can trust everyone and nothing will happen to you, unlike bigger cities where tourism reigns supreme and there is a constant push from vendors and shopkeepers for you to buy things.

So, since I have been trying to let go of my phone more and live in the moment as much as possible as the locals do, I haven’t necessarily been able to document everything. For example, that half day I didn’t have my phone when we were in San Lucas Toliman really allowed me to step outside of my shell and embrace everything. We had to figure out how to order pizza without any help from any sort of translation tool, and really interact with out environment. In going down to the waterfront, Fiona and I were forced to model shawls by an elderly lady who desperately wanted us to take photos in them (something we were not able to do without phones). I remember we were just going off our own gut instinct, doing whatever felt right instead of whatever would look best on a Snapchat story. Additionally, I had to try and go retrieve butter from the van alone on my day as a leader, and while it may not have been my smartest idea, I did climb up onto the wall and over the gate on the way back in because I was too scared to ask the ladies at the guardhouse to open it for me. Without my phone, I feel like I am more likely to try new things, because there is no permanent proof if I get it wrong. With all that being said, I feel like this is a good time to share a list of the undocumented lessons I have learned. 

Lessons From Guatemala:

  1. Don’t try and hop fences. You won’t land correctly, and it will hurt, and your knees will hurt, and walking will be horrific for the next few hours.
  2. Don’t sit near the front of the boat when you are going across the lake. You will get soaking wet (not the best feeling).
  3. People aren’t as scary as I think they are. Most of them are really nice, and I can talk to them if I stop and take the time to try.
  4. Just go for it. If you want to do it, and you’re allowed to, why not? You will form memories that will last forever, and maybe if you’re lucky, it will be one of those times you have your phone and get photos to prove it. 
  5. Sunburn hurts. Be careful where you get sunburned because backpack straps rubbing on sunburn is one of the worst things I have ever felt. I need to learn the importance of sunscreen.
  6. Just live in the moment. You don’t need your phone 24/7. You can survive without it, and not having to worry about it tying you down might just help you live your life to the fullest even the smallest bit more.

2 responses to “Cell Phones – A Tool for understanding”

  1. Darby Lancaster Avatar
    Darby Lancaster

    Beautifully written piece, Maggie 💚

  2. Haley Avatar

    Nice, Maggie! I am so glad you’re thinking about all of these ideas this year – I wish I was there with you!

Leave a Reply

Blog at