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The Day the Internet Died – 5 Lessons from a Rural Web Business Owner from a Month without Internet

by Victoria Gazeley

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My satellite internet died one morning at the beginning of December.

An hour on the phone with tech support and it turned out the issue was probably one of having to recalibrate the dish (i.e., seems it had shifted and was off the signal beam).  Which meant waiting for their local installer to come out and do the fix.  The fact they said it could be a few days was bad enough.  It ended up being more than four weeks.

So what does a web designer and researcher who relies on the internet for her income do when the satellite connection dies for over a month?  She kicks into back-up mode – working at local cafes that have wi-fi, and out of her parents’ home office (which is, luckily, about 5 minutes down the road).

It’s been a very interesting ride, to put it mildly.  So, so many lessons learned.  Here are just a few:

Lesson 1

Self imposed (or in my case ‘technology-imposed’) constraints force you to get efficient. 

When you know you’ve only got a few hours access to your online workspaces, you get efficient – fast.  The trick will be to continue those new habits when my new satellite system is installed.

Lesson 2

I really missed my online homesteading community. 

This from a person who, not that long ago, thought social media ridiculous, self-absorbed, and frankly, for people who had nothing better to do.  Funny, that.  Turns out, I’ve met hundreds of people I never would have otherwise – bright, funny, intelligent, brilliant individuals who have very wise things to say, who check in with me regularly just to see how I’m doing, who employ my web design services to help make their own businesses shine.  They make me laugh, sometimes cry, and leave me in awe with their life stories.  In short, they have become a treasured part of my life. And it’s not just me – I hear the very same thing from a lot of people who seek this more self-reliant lifestyle – their families don’t support them, their friends think they’re crazy, and their peers just don’t get it.  But the people they can connect with via social media DO get it. Say what you will about social media, but it’s a pretty cool thing that I can connect with like-minded folk clear across the continent (or on whole other continents, like our friends in Italy, Africa, Australia and Greece), learn a whole bunch of things I’d never have considered otherwise from people who have done it, and be able to share our lives with each other and get advice on a current emergency, instantaneously.  We’ve had a people with sick chickens get instant advice from super experienced folk, homesteaders with water pump issues find out what the problem is someone who works with them professionally – almost every day we share a question from the community that always gets a whole bunch of responses.  Pretty cool indeed (privacy issues aside – sometimes you have to consider the weight of the benefits). For everyone who thinks social media is a waste of time, you’re absolutely welcome to your opinion.  But for me, residing in a somewhat isolated area, and living our dream, it’s a connection I can’t imagine being without. Which, of course, I am (without it) every time the satellite internet craps out.  If we ever have a major event where the power is out for weeks and no one can connect, I’m ready.  But I’ll miss all those amazing people.  I really will.

Lesson 3

Doing graphic design work on a laptop is sheer torture. 

My MacBook Pro and iPhone allow me to work from a local café, on the ferry on my way to an appointment in the city, or from a hotel room in Florida.  I appreciate them immensely.  But for detailed design work, I need my iMac.  Enough said.

Lesson 4

As in life, one thing dying leads to the birth of another. 

If my satellite dish hadn’t died (or rather, gone off-kilter), I’d probably not have known for quite some time that my internet provider has a brand new service that gives me at least twice the service for half the price.   I can see why they didn’t advertise that fact too enthusiastically to their existing customers.  Of course, it’s almost 4 weeks later and I’m still waiting for the installation, but since I’m used to the new routine, it’s not too painful.

Lesson 5

It’s nice to end the work day at a decent hour. 

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the connection was always there made it easy to stretch my work day out way beyond what it would be if I still had a ‘regular job’.  That’s convenient to a degree, and allows me to live a pretty flexible lifestyle, but it’s crazy easy to stretch my work days from early morning to well into the night.  Not great for someone with a young family and a property that needs constant attention.

So how have things changed since the internet died?   I’m more focussed, I’ve finished writing projects I’ve had on the books for weeks, my financial records are almost up to date, I’m well into finishing writing my first book, I’ve spent a lot more time with my extended family, there’s a whole lot of small jobs around the homestead that are now finished (after NOT being so for an embarrassingly long time), and I’m a lot more ‘present’ with my son now that I’m not distracted with work at all hours of the day and night.

Clearly I’ve had issues with boundaries when it comes to work hours.  To be totally transparent, it’s always been an issue.  Some of you might think I’m off my rocker, but I actually really enjoy working – the acts of research, creation, discovery, design, learning, sharing and helping clients and readers get results all really feed my need to contribute to this world I’m lucky enough to live in. The trick for me has been not getting carried away with it – which I can very easily do.

So at the time of writing, I’m waiting for the installer to call to set up a time to get the new system set up.  He seems to be taking his sweet time, but such is life in a small town.  And that’s OK.  Patience has never been one of my strengths, but the longer I spend in the country, the more comfortable I’m getting with waiting.

I guess I can chalk that up to another lesson learned.

Have you had some unexpected ‘personal growth’ as a result of an inconvenience or frustration on your journey to rural or more self-reliant living?  If so, please share in the comments below.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Domestic Anarchy January 26, 2013 at 7:56 am

I bought a 5 acre plot out in the middle of nowhere and plan on building out there in about 3 years. The cost to have cable broadband ran to the property is ridiculous, so I’m actually relieved to find out that satellite internet actually exists! Of course, your experience doesn’t really seem like a positive selling point. :)

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