Years ago, my sister-in-law, who was a Dominican nun, took road trips home with a few other nuns. Since Sister Sue took a vow of poverty, she brought no money along, except a pocket full of dimes, in case there was an emergency and she needed them for the pay phone.
She used to say she "traveled lightly."
When I was in college in Boston, I would hitchhike to New York City for the weekend to see a friend, a budding dancer with Martha Graham. I would take $20 and my driver’s license (often the Connecticut Highway Patrol would harass me and a DL was necessary). There were no cell phones and no credit cards then.
Recently, I was sitting in my living room and my son poked fun at me for the stack of devices sitting neatly on top of one another: MacBook Air, iPad, Kindle and iPhone. The little pyramid of modern devices fed the stereotype of the prosperous yuppie that my son’s generation generally despises.
This past Sunday, I resolved to travel lightly on a daylong trip. I took my iPhone, my metro card and my sunglasses — nothing else. (I put my apartment key under the mat and left my wallet at home.)
I bought coffee with a mobile payment, walked to Central Park and with my iPhone read the digital version of The New York Times and the New York Post on a comfortable green bench in the shade. I then hopped on the 5 Train from 86th and Lexington to Wall Street, where a friend of mine had recently rented a new apartment.
On the train, I read my latest e-book, "Cross Dressed to Kill" by Andrew Lucas, a hilarious English crime thriller.
My friend was out shopping in SoHo and my visit was impulsive, so I awaited her return in a nearby Starbucks, where I bought another coffee. I read my e-book and chatted up a young surgeon (specialty: plastic surgery). She asked how I liked reading books on the iPhone.
"When it is a good book, I love it; when not, I hate it," I explained.
My friend showed up and we looked for a lunch spot that would take a mobile payment. No luck, so I was treated to lunch. That was not in the plan, but she said it was her turn.
For a couple of hours, I tagged along as she did furniture shopping. We ended our time together at 23rd and 6th Avenue, where I caught the F Train to 63rd and Lexington. From there, I walked home, stopping along the way at Nespresso for a hot chocolate. When it was served, I mumbled, "Oh shit." After explaining I had no money and realizing they would not take a mobile payment, my favorite barista said, "It is on me, you are a generous customer." (I do have pictures of my driver’s license, credit cards and passports on my iPhone, but they were useless in this particular situation.)
Lessons from the day:
1. I tapped into simple pleasures.
2. I read more.
3. I was less tempted by consumption experiences.
3. I spent less money.
4. I felt free, younger and nomadic.
Earlier this year, I bought a new MacBook Air, which prompted me to downgrade the size of my suitcase and my computer bag. All told, I shaved at least 15 pounds from my load. Lighter, but not light enough.
Mobile is here — get on with it. Liberation.