What does being outside mean?

I’m taking the subway to go to work and the ride is about 40 minutes. On the subway line, there are two stations that the train comes on the ground for about 2-3 minutes. I love these two stations because for me this is the time to look out of the window, check the weather, and enjoy the beauty of our city before going underground for another half an hour or so. When my daughter was a toddler, I had to occasionally take her  to the work with me. She didn’t like to be on the subway for such a long time and I used many tricks to make the ride interesting to her. These two stations were her favorite too. She could stand on the seat and look at the world outside. We talked about what we could see, houses, cars, birds, sky, and the sun.

Yesterday, I was surprised to know that on the ground stations/lines have other benefits too. I was sitting and there were 4 teenage girls standing in front of me chatting. As soon as we get on the ground, they all said with lots of excitement, “Yeah! We have service!” and took out their mobile phones! I loved their spontaneous and sincere reaction. Under the ground, there’s  no internet or phone service. For those girls to be on the ground means to be connected again to the virtual world, to send a text, check messages, surf the internet.

For me and my daughter, it means “Yeah, we’re outside again! We can see the sun and the sky.” I know from Louv’s book, The last child in the wood, many young people think about their environment as how much it allows them to be still connected to the virtual worlds. Is there any wi fi service?  Where are the plugs? Can I still text if we go walking down on that trail?

It is not easy to unplug from the rich virtual worlds that are just a click away from us. I don’t know if I can live a day without any “connection.” But I also hope that being outside doesn’t lose its meaning and relevance to us. I love to see the excitement of seeing and tasting the snow on a child’s face, the desire to be adventurous on a  biking trail, and the passion about getting messy in the mud.


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