We just took a family trip (family trip is actually NOT synonymous with vacation!) to Albion, a small town just south of Mendocino, on the northern California coast. Our friends have a home there and they kindly offered us the use of it.

We drove through the hilly vineyards of Sonoma Valley and the majestic redwood forests and came out onto spectacular coastline views.

We canoed and walked along the beach, visited lighthouses and watched the sun set over the water. It was truly beautiful. And a real break from routine.

But I learned a very important lesson. Wherever you go, whatever you do, do NOT take a teenager on a trip out of the range of cell phone service!

The price of all that majestic scenery was, yes, our cell phones did not work in the vacation house or its immediate environs. It required a trip into town to communicate with friends, to hear that irritating notification of text messages resound throughout the car. And to hear my children sigh in relief.

“Luckily,” to quote one of my daughters, “they recently installed Wi-Fi.” Otherwise, she would have left, she claims. Definitely an idle threat given the remoteness of our location, but certainly a sign of her attitude.

And I don’t believe my children are unusual (in that regard) or unrepresentative (in that regard).

If up against the wall, they will acknowledge that they had a very good time on the trip. It was all family bonding all the time – in part due to the lack of cell phone.

It freed everyone up to focus on each other, on conversation, on old-fashioned car games like Geography (and on what’s for dinner). It was actually perfect for a family trip.

And the contrast gave me an indication of how much we lose on a daily basis – how much interaction, discussion, joking around, creative play, expressions of caring, sharing of ideas and concerns – due to our preoccupation with our phone calls, and even worse, text messaging. How many important family moments no longer exist because we are all too busy on our cell phones?

This trip showed me how texting has come to dominate and diminish our lives.

It was illuminating and revealing. And how many of those texts are even important? What is their actual content? That’s another issue altogether.

We are fortunate (and grateful) that we are unplugged for Shabbos. But it’s not enough. This trip showed me how texting, despite its certain advantages (it’s easier to say “Where are you now?” and “Come home this instant!” via text) has come to dominate and diminish our lives.

Don’t tell my children but even though I didn’t plan it on purpose, I’m glad we went somewhere with no cell phone service. It made our trip more special. It made it what it was meant to be – a family experience. And without texting to distract us, it enabled us to create even more memories than usual, memories that will last long after those text messages have been deleted. I take back what I said earlier. What I learned on this trip was that you SHOULD take your teenagers on a family trip that is out of cell phone range!