Imagine not being able to access Facebook or any app that is accessed through Facebook? Imagine not being able to read news on Flipboard, Pulse or Feedly. Thanks to the Great Firewall, that’s what happened during my 2-week vacation in China recently. For someone who is connected at all times, to say that this was inconvenient is a gross understatement.

There was much grumpiness and grumbling at first.

But as the activity-filled days went by, the compulsion to check the news, check-in, etc., receded. By the time, day #4 arrived and as I was climbing the actual Great Wall, the urge to be up on the chatter on a daily basis was almost gone. The ability to be in the moment increased with the decreased urge to be connected. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was undergoing mild withdrawal symptoms and a social media detox of sorts.

My time in China without social media and the Internet allowed me to refocus on what was immediately in front of me. I got to live in the moment. And the side effects of this: I got to soak in the visually stunning scenery of the Chinese countryside, revel in the 3000-year history behind many of the magnificent architectural structures still standing and in the people and their culture. The Chinese classical gardens of Souzhou, also known as the Venice of the East would not have been as stunning. The magnitude of the society that produced the highly sophisticated bronze ware 3,000 years ago and housed in the statuesque Shanghai Museum would not have been as poignant if I were constantly checking in, tweeting and sharing. In other words, it was nice to be able to “sit, stare and reflect.

The sights, sounds and people were just that much more vivid in the absence of the noise that 24/7 news and connectivity can bring. I returned to the United States rejuvenated and able to enjoy this holiday season. And for this I thank the Great Firewall.

It took a forced disconnect from “the grid” to help me get back in touch with a more reflective state of mind. What about you? What are you doing to give yourself the chance to re-charge?

Image courtesy of Lost LaoWai

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