Cruise Line: Use ‘Shellphone’ Instead

We just love the new unplugged advertising campaign launched recently by Royal Carribean, the cruise line that takes travelers to sunny destinations throughout the Carribean.

In the advertisement, a young woman holds a conch shell to her ear. The shell presumably whispers of the sea and makes us want to get away from it all.

Viewers of the ad are encouraged to put down their cell phones and tune into “shellphones.”

A tagline reads: “The Sea is Calling. Answer it Royally.” Other ads referring to the “shellphone” inform readers that: “You don’t recharge it. It recharges you.”

Of course one doesn’t need a luxury cruise to get away from the hectic pace of life symbolized by our cell phones.

The next time you need to get away from it all, simply click the “off” button on your cell phone. You might even consider a cruise to someplace sunny – even if it’s only in your imagination.



The second-place winner in Unplug & Reconnect’s essay contest, Lori Quiller of Alabama, writes about discovering sights and sounds around her after she unplugs from technology in this essay titled “Unplugged.”


By Lori Quiller


I’m definitely an iPod girl. It’s like my wallet, cell phone, checkbook and credit card – I never leave home without it.

Music is soothing, or it can rev you up during the lull of the day. It can push out the minutia of not-so-white noise that can so quickly envelope and drown you when you are least expecting it. But, it can also be the blanket covering up some of the most beautiful sounds of our world that we have learned to tune out.

Where I work requires me to walk three blocks from a parking deck, down a hill, crossing busy intersections, and navigating vehicles filled with hurried drivers. But, there’s so much more.

When my iPod’s hard drive and battery died, I quickly ordered a new one thinking I just couldn’t survive without this little device I’d grown so accustomed to for the last seven years. (No, it wasn’t old. The tech at The Apple Store smiled graciously when he carefully chose the words, “well loved,” when he described my poor, ailing little iPod that was about to be retired.)

There were several days in which I walked those three blocks each morning and afternoon bare-eared! Gasp! Not knowing how long I was going to survive without my tunes, I constantly tracked the shipping logs to find out how long before the replacement would be at my doorstep.

Then, I began to notice things I hadn’t before. First was walking past the construction site outside my parking deck. There was a chorus of mechanical tunes inside the structure. Metal on metal. Welding. Ringing. A loud pinging from deep inside. I slowed my pace. That’s when I noticed the loose manhole cover in front of the bank. I stepped on it, and it cracked like a cymbal.

I was quickly reminded of an episode of Sex and the City when Carrie dated a jazz musician who tried to get her to listen to the sounds of the street as they walked. That episode was playing out in my head, and I was in the middle of it!

The vehicles whirring past me, trying to make the next light, then squealing to a halt at the last second. Children at the daycare laughing and giggling while playing outside on the jungle gyms and in the sandlots. Birds calling to each other as they flew over my head playing their own version of “Tag! You’re it!” The sound of the light breeze tangling in the trees followed me down to the building where I worked. Finally, the thump, whirr, thump, whirr, thump, whirr of the rotating glass door entrance of the building.

It took just more than a week for my new iPod to make it to my home, but I have a confession. While I still take it wherever I go, there are days in which the sounds of the city are just are as beautiful as anything I have loaded into my tunes. It’s a different way of plugging in.


Forest Foursome

Unplug and Reconnect presents the winning essay in our Essay Contest. In his essay, journalist Patrick Ross of Alexandria, Va., describes a family vacation in the Shenandoah wilderness.

Edward Abbey spent a summer alone in Arches National Park, later chronicling his adventure in Desert Solitaire. A tattered copy of that book accompanied me off the grid this August. I wasn’t alone; I was with my wife and two teenage children. And I wasn’t in a desert; we were in the dense forest of Shenandoah National Park. But like Abbey, I learned the value of disconnection from technology, and  the rewards of reconnection with people.

Cooking hot dogs over a fire, listening to the hoots of an unseen barred owl, trying to pick out constellations through the tree canopy of chestnut and red oak. Thank you, U.S. Park Service, for the lack of cell phone towers near our camp site, for not stringing fiber-optic cables to bring us a wi-fi network. It’s easier to unplug from the grid when there’s no temptation of an outlet.

We learned that one night when, weary of our own cooking, we trekked to a park lodge. My daughter quickly discovered a signal on her cell phone. As we stood in a majestic lobby with a picture-window view to the west, she faced east, responding to queries about her absence posted on her Facebook wall. My son responded likewise to a queue of texts. My wife tempted fate by checking her work email, quickly becoming ensnarled in a crisis she was powerless to address.

I resisted. Pulling up a rocking chair, I took in the show as the sun set over the Shenandoah Valley. To my left an older man stared at his Mac laptop screen, to my right a young woman’s face was aglow from her iPad. The sun was unconcerned, continuing to set despite being ignored. I basked in the warmth of superiority, dismissive of these humans Abbey referred to as tool-builders. They were oblivious of my condescension as well.

I had witnessed that dawn in a folding chair, a modest fire in front of me, Desert Solitaire in my left hand. I had bonded with Abbey, sharing his offense at the “petty tyranny” of technology. I lumped my smartphone in with his list of “automatic washers and automobiles and TV machines and telephones…  what intolerable garbage and what utterly useless crap we bury ourselves in day by day.”

Upon returning home I was hesitant to reconnect. I feared drowning in a digital flash flood, a less fatal form of the real danger Abbey faced on a Glen Canyon rafting trip. As it happened, Hurricane Irene made the decision for me, knocking out our power. My phone’s battery was dead from a week’s worth of idleness, and I had no way of knowing how my Eastern Seaboard friends were faring.

Abbey celebrates his independence in Desert Solitaire, yet most of his narrative tells of his interaction with others — Park Service colleagues, a cowboy he guides steer with, his companion on that Glen Canyon rafting adventure. He admits that “Aloneness became loneliness and the sensation was strong enough to remind me (how could I have forgotten?) that the one thing better than solitude, the only thing better than solitude, is society.” It’s worth noting that he concludes the book’s Author’s Introduction with the following sign-off: “E.A., April 1967, Nelson’s Marine Bar, Hoboken.” He’s recalling fondly his time off the grid in a place nearly at the center of it.

Technology, despite what Abbey wrote, is not an oppressor. I can choose when to make use of my “utterly useless crap” and when to disengage, at least when the grid is still pulsing with electrons. And the society he longed for, that each of us longs for, is one we create. The grid permits connection to a larger society, and I welcome that. But that connection still doesn’t compare with a society of loved ones, face-to-face, lit not by the glow of a screen but by the flickers of a fire.

Photo: Shenandoah Sunset by Marisa Ross





Take the Unplug and Reconnect Labor Day 2011 Challenge

For most of us, Labor Day means a long weekend to relax and spend time with our families. But the holiday also signifies the end of summer, the end of vacations, and time to get back to “business,” whether that means re-establishing a frantic work pace or returning to school after a long, restive break.

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Fourth of July eCard: Phone