Slowing it all down

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Let's face it, we live in a media-powered, high-octane, "what have you done for me lately" driven world. It's ironic that I type this for consumption on your mobile device for your subway ride or that long awaited daily lunch break. However, the mediums for communication have changed, and we like to move pretty darn fast in this world, don't we?

Last January, I had the opportunity to travel on a mission trip to El Salvador. From past vacations filled with beaches and piΓ±a coladas, this one was quite a change of pace. Sure, I used my iPhone take pictures and videos of my experiences, but from the onset, this was unlike any other vacation I had taken in my 26 years on earth.

We were there to help build a house and take in the El Salvadorian culture along the way. My first mission trip lasted a week, but it felt as if I had been living in the Central American nation for over a month. Each day, I checked my phone once for updates, emails and texts. After returning from our working sites, our group often enjoyed some cold beer and reflected on our long day in the sun. While some folks checked social media and their email inboxes, others caught up on everything happening here in the United States.

When I look back on my journey, a few things instantly come to mind. The first being that I only checked my smartphone once a day.

One time a day.

A little different from life in the states, no?

Second, time moved so differently in El Salvador. From cherishing the small moments enjoying delicious coffee every morning, to embracing the El Salvadorian culture, it was as if 24 hours in a day finally made sense. Sure, my routine was a bit different, but we still worked nine hour days and by the time 9:00 pm rolled around, I could barely keep my eyes open.

However, by turning off my phone and slowing down the world every evening, I learned some valuable lessons:

1.) People are pretty great.

Sure, everyone has their moments and we see the dark side via social media at times, but I can't remember coming closer to a group than I did during this trip. Instead of sitting around in a circle and checking our phones, we taught a group member how to play Euchre, had real conversations and shared some of our biggest fears and ambitions.

2.) Smartphones aren't everything.

Checking my phone once a day helped me see just how dependent we've become of our mobile devices. We are on these things 24/7 and I know I have my own struggles with the obsession. Put the phone down for a couple of hours every night. You won't regret it.

3.) Step Outside of your Comfort Zone.

I took a chance on my El Salvador trip and it was one of the best payoffs of my life so far. I met folks in which I had much in common, and others in which our lives had taken completely different paths. It was the best decision I've made. Step outside that comfort zone and find what it really is you are looking for.