Wales Without WiFi

by Joe Shaw

I’m sure I can’t be the only one guilty of this but when I trawl through countless comparison hotel websites trying to find the best deal for a weekend away, I find that the most important question I’m asking is “does this place have Wi-Fi?” Forget about the great breakfast that travellers scored 8/10 or the new stylish and modern bathrooms. I need to know if this place has Wi-Fi! Recently my partner and I booked to go to Wales for a couple of days. He had warned me that we would be in the middle of nowhere, completely enclosed in the mountains of Snowdonia. Nope, no internet connection at all! He said. I didn’t believe him, of course, because this is 2016 and there’re hotspots everywhere, aren’t there?

Snowdonia National Park. Photo by Joe Shaw. 

Snowdonia National Park. Photo by Joe Shaw. 

The day arrived and we set off on our next adventure. As we drove deeper and deeper into Wales, the road signs were no longer in English (I mistakenly thought there was actually a ‘Wrexham’ and a ‘Wrecsam’) and as the towns became smaller and the mountains started to rise my signal started to dip in strength. As we entered the Snowdonia National Park, I was unaware that I was about to check my last Snapchat for a couple of days, the picture of somebody drinking their third cocktail of the day disappeared and ‘No Service’ appeared on the top left corner of my phone. I admit I started to get a little anxious but we weren’t at our hotel yet so I was confident I was going to see my friend’s fourth and fifth cocktail soon.

We were now closing in on our destination, and the road became much narrower as it wound its way around the rocky landscape. Our hotel was just ahead. After parking and collecting our belongings we made our way to the check-in desk. It’s at this point where you examine every detail to see if you’ve got it right. A couple sat chatting over a glass of cider at the bar, a young girl read a paperback in a grand leather armchair and the hotel staff were sharing a joke with each other. I was taken by the atmosphere and felt excited about my new adventure, consequently I couldn’t even hear the receptionist tell my partner that there was no phone connection or Wi-Fi – wait what? I’m pretty sure my stomach flipped when I heard this, even more so when we were told that the only contact with the outside world was an old payphone at the end of the hall.

Upon arriving at our room, I usually throw my suitcase down, run to the desk and reach for the room service menu, before ripping open the hotel information pack and scanning the pages for the Wi-Fi password. I then enter the magic words into my phone and have my Facebook news feed explode with statuses about going to the gym or new selfies. Instead, I placed my suitcase on the floor and started to feel really guilty about my attitude so far. Guilty because part of me felt like I couldn’t cope without internet for a few days as if it was as essential to me as food and water. I walked over to the window and looked outside; greeting me was Mount Snowdon - towering over us with epic grace. The summit could not be seen because it was above the few clouds that floated in the fresh spring sky. Despite it being a warm day there were patches of snow on the faces of the cliff. On the road a hoard of cyclists rushed by and families were leaving their cars with every piece of hiking bric-a-brac you could imagine. People were eating sandwiches on the comfiest rock they could find and birds were flying overhead. This image communicated to me the sheer magnitude of the beauty that surrounded me. I wanted to join them!

Joe Shaw in Snowdonia National Park.

Joe Shaw in Snowdonia National Park.

As soon as we were unpacked, we left the hotel and started exploring the Snowdonia landscape. We climbed over rocks, struggled to cross streams without getting our socks wet and sat and watched people rock climbing up the much bigger rock faces. It was enough to give me vertigo just observing. In the evening, we chatted about our day while drinking a delicious chardonnay. We almost never do this at home because there is a film on or we’re too busy looking at our phone screens. We then played scrabble over our dinner of fish and chips. Can you remember the last time you played a board game? No, mobile Monopoly does not count! To finish the night we strolled down the road to a nearby clearing. It was silent. There was no hustle of city traffic or the loud music of your upstairs neighbour - just silence.

Snowdonia is an International Dark Sky Reserve, which means there is no light pollution. I looked up and saw a plethora of stars scattered across the night sky. I haven’t seen as many before, and the sky oozed with natural beauty. We could see people further up the mountain with flashlights, making their way back from their day of hiking. We were all lost in our own little worlds miles and miles away from civilisation, our own state of equilibrium not ruined by a desire to take a picture and share it on Facebook for everyone else to see. Instead, it is a memory I will cherish forever. 

 

 Joe Shaw is a creative writing undergraduate student from York St. John University. He currently writes for his travel blog thejourneyofjoe.com. His style focuses on finding the alternative story, which is why he is particularly interested in places that are off the beaten track. 

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