It’s a small world … on my iPhone

Photo by Tania Conte.

Getting away used to be so easy. But in a world where even forest monks carry smartphones tucked inside their saffron-colored robes, it can be hard to get off the grid. My latest column looks at this phenomenon from the perspective of a recent trip to Thailand.

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — I’ve been checking my emails here only once a day, like it’s the 1990s all over again.

For many Americans, a great part of traveling in Asia is not receiving any messages during the day because almost everyone you know — halfway around the world, back home — is asleep. I wake up, read the overnight messages and forget about email. If only this could last.

Even that disconnected luxury goes only so far when almost half the world’s population accesses the internet , and even forest monks at a remote mountain temple carry smartphones tucked into their saffron-colored robes. Along a narrow canal an hour outside of Bangkok, we passed a small wooden shack with open-air windows — and a 60-inch TV mounted inside the front door. Neighbors had sealed up their homes and installed air conditioners.

Everyone, it seems, hungers for the same cutting-edge technology, instant connectivity and modern convenience. That drive holds exciting promise for bringing us together, and perhaps a little danger for our demands on the planet as well. Read more…

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