I’ve been out of the habitat for several weeks now and have been lucky enough to have a small sampler platter of the western world – some time in the U.S. (Hawaii), France, and the U.K.
Surprisingly, seeing people on exit-day itself was not as overwhelming as I had expected. Instead, my time re-entering the world has brought contrast to the life I lived in the habitat and the one I have ahead.
When returning to a home country after living abroad for a while, it’s natural to try and hold onto the parts of the culture that you felt were fulfilling. These inherently clash with social norms at home, making pulling this off quite difficult since you are ultimately left with two options:
- Integrate back into the culture and only talk about the differences as an idealistic impossibility
- Alienate yourself to a degree and keep behaviors that conflict with your society
Coming back from HI-SEAS isn’t much different. We developed out own culture and rules/behavioral norms for life inside the habitat. We were restricted in our resources, which in turn influenced how we conducted ourselves. After our release back into the wild, there is one thing that is abundantly clear:
There is a lot of input to be had.
Our schedule was booked with media appearances as soon as we left the habitat : radio interviews, t.v. spots, and podcasts. Newspapers released their own interpretations of the mission. One of my favorites was a doodle about us:
I left for 8 months. Just 8 months! I don’t know what the heck you guys did, but this is why we can’t have nice things.
My first experiences included traveling around Hawaii and rediscovering Facebook. The sentiment communicated in this doodle was echoed by those around me. “Thank God you were in there, and missed everything!” people would say. “Everything’s falling apart out here…”
Social media was all noise. Each morning I would fire up the app in hopes of catching up on my friends’ and family’s lives. Instead, I was met with political statements and articles/videos that helped solidify their stance. My feed was now made up exclusively of advertisements and reasons why no one should have guns, why everyone should have guns, or why trump was the worst or best thing to ever happen to the U.S. I wondered how long it had been that way.
I lived in a habitat, but it seemed that everyone had been living a bubble of their very own.
I wouldn’t recommend to anyone to be uninformed about what is going on. However, what I now notice is how much we are affected by constant input and relentless media from our respective bubbles. The resulting angst and frustration is plentiful, but conversations rare.
Within a few weeks, I already began finding myself slipping back into mindless zombie mode- scrolling through the same Facebook posts several times a day, or checking my phone whenever there was a small lull in a conversation or uncomfortable silence.
Recently, I was traveling around London with a friend. They used their phone’s GPS for finding and navigating everywhere. It proved to be quite useful – guiding us from place to place in a busy city. Then, my friend left and I found myself without the same modern tool. Instead, I went back to the stone age – looking up directions, writing them down on a piece of paper, and asking strangers when I lost my way.
Surprisingly, I found that I made it to places much more efficiently. I began getting to know my surroundings and subtle cues. I began to understand how neighborhoods were ordered and work out bus stops and street layouts within a few minutes. I realized just how much information was lost by relying on the devices.
I had walked all throughout London, but my sightseeing was 95% made up of an iPhone 5.
When you tell someone that you’ll be going on this sort of simulation, the typical response is something along the lines of “you’re crazy”, or “I could never do that.” The average response from space people is “How do I sign up?”
After finishing the mission, people ask what you missed while you were inside, or how it is to suddenly have all the freedom.
The truth is that I’ve been spending my time thinking about how to keep some of the restrictions I had in the habitat. How do I find balance between being informed and filtering out noise? How do I make social media and technology a tool, rather than a distraction?
Despite a packed schedule, my HI-SEAS Mission V experience was one of the most productive periods of my career, in no small part because of a lack of distractions and an abundance of attention to my surroundings.
I’d like to recreate this environment to the best of my ability outside the mission. Between tv, streaming services, constant connection, social media, texting, etc… we all need just
need less input.
An aside – I am offering talks about my experience at HI-SEAS and life lessons learned. If you know of an organization looking for a unique speaker, please feel free to reach out to me at: