“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Allan Bader.

When last were you disconnected? And I don’t mean like on a Monday while you consciously avoid everyone’s postings on Facebook about the latest episode of Game of Thrones that you are so anxiously waiting to get home and watch!

I’m talking about truly being disconnected. From your phone, from your laptop, tablet, even electricity? Guessing it is a long time for most and never for a smaller sample of our younger mates and readers.

This past weekend the CN&CO guys went on a boys’ weekend to a little farm in the Welgevonden region, just north of Pretoria, past the little town of Modimolle. The farm is owned by St Stithians and has been developed by former teacher Piet van Tonder, or Meneer, as I’m sure most Saints Old Boys who attended the school between 1983 and 2013 know him. It is very rustic. There is zero electricity and what I found best, zero cellphone reception and zero predators, just plains game. We knew about all of this before we went, and a few of the boys were a little apprehensive about it. But hey, let’s do this! As my colleague Rob Christian says, just get on the bus.

Along with no electricity or signal, we would also be camping. Three tents accommodated two of us each, with two sleeping in the kitchen area.

Camping is probably best not advised on one of the coldest weekends of the year. But anyone who knows how Carel and CN&CO operate, we planned this excursion two months ago. No turning back just because there was a cold front coming. We would have fire to warm us up, and a donkey-boiler contraption to heat our water. A donkey is basically an old-school way of heating water for the dishes and shower. Oh yes, we had running water! This actually was cool. No having to venture into the bushes trying to avoid any evidence of toilet paper sticking out the ground. There were full ablutions. Capped off with an open air…. shower. This shower, as stated, had hot water from the donkey, provided you kept the fire under it going. “But whatever you do, do not make the fire too big or it will explode,” cautioned Rikus to us in the bus on the way there.

So what did we get up to? Well, frankly, not much. But that was the point. We were told to bring a book to read and do what we wanted to. I decided to take my laptop along so I could start my I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME…blog that is due this week. I was hoping I would draw inspiration from something that happened, or at least have the time to jot down some words that would hopefully lead to something. Needless to say, the laptop stayed in the bus the entire weekend, along with my cellphone. I left it in the backrest of one of the seats on Friday as we hit the sand road and lost reception and didn’t look at it again until we got back to the tar road on Sunday afternoon.

That’s not to say I didn’t have moments of brilliance for topics. Admittedly, most of them were after one or two drinks or one or two rounds of a card game where, for no apparent reason, Carel decided to pick on Kurt and me. Naturally, the rest of the boys followed suit (if you’ll pardon the pun).

One such potential idea was the stars. When did you last look up at the night sky – really look at it, without the city lights to dim most of it? Not that I had my phone with me to take a photo, but the photo probably wouldn’t have done it justice. Much like trying to take a photo of the moon, I just doesn’t come out as spectacularly as the real thing.

So what am I getting on about here? Well, basically, we did all of this without any devices and we survived. Yes it was only just shy of 48 hours but it was simply magnificent to be disconnected and not worry about emails, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Admittedly it took a little time getting used to reaching into my pocket and not feeling a phone and being able to check if any notification had come through. But eventually I stopped doing that and simply enjoyed the conversations around the campfire, or perching on rocks on the side of a bitterly cold stream discussing why there was a perfectly cleaned carcass of an animal on a farm where there are meant to be no predators!

A bunch of souties deserted in Modimolle by their Dutchmen friends? Or a boy band album cover in the making?

I remember my first trip to the US in 2010. I went to Burning Man with Carel and then travelled the US for a month after. I didn’t have a smart phone. I’m sure the Nokia I had at the time could’ve been connected to the interwebs but I wasn’t smart enough to do it. Only being in contact with family and friends once a week via Facebook was great. A 2011 boys trip to Mozam was the same. I didn’t even put sms roaming on. But in 2012 when I went to the US for Burning Man again, this time with a smart phone, and in 2015 to the UK and Ireland to visit family and friends, I was connected the entire time. And it didn’t feel right. Can you really go on holiday yet still be connected and feel like you can truly switch off?! That remains to be seen.

In just over two months’ time I’m heading back to the UK and Ireland. This time for a mate’s wedding in the latter country and to see my sister, BIL, nephew-slash-godson and to meet my beautiful niece in the former. With CN&CO being a #LifestyleBusiness I will be available for urgent queries and will even dial in for our bi-monthly teamtalk, but I will also be 100% offline for a few days in the middle to spend quality time with the aforementioned amazing family of mine.

Just like Rob challenged us to get on the bus, here is my challenge… see if you can truly disconnect. Maybe start off with just a night. Spend it with your significant other. Spend it with mates. Heck, spend it on your own reading a book or going to the movies – and see how you feel. I guarantee you will feel better for it once it’s done. Then maybe you can move on up to a day, or even a weekend camping in the freezing cold with great mates!