No phone, no bed, no arrangements - a privacy-lover turning up in Durham out of the blue and hoping for miracles
April 19, 2018
This post is by way of an explanation to the good people of Durham/Chapel Hill for my lack of preparedness & communication - yeah, ok, it's one long excuse, but since I have to keep explaining, I'm putting it here on the blog!
Over the last 11 weeks of sailing, I have been desperate for internet connections. Without communication, I haven't been able to research where I want to go and who I want to meet or to make any contacts or plans. The most I've managed is occasional tweets, reassurances to family that I'm still alive and replies to urgent emails. And during much of that time, using the laptop hasn't been an option due to lack of electricity, seasickness below decks and risk to laptop above.
Although I killed my lovely Fairphone by going swimming with it (yes, I really, really wanted to get to shore with it), lovely Franko on Froesie gave me an old, kinda knackered phone of his, compatible with my UK SIM - hurrah! But using a UK SIM is prohibitively expensive, so it's been on wifi only since the Virgin Islands. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, I did a bunch of research and worked out what network and what kind of SIM I need. I tried to buy one in a couple of places (even Walmart), but they couldn't make my phone recognise any of the networks using the SIMs they wanted to sell me. ?!! Result - I still don't have a US phone number and, although I've got Whatsapp, I've lost all my phone contacts and previous messages. Yes, I will probably have to buy a new phone today :-((
Additionally, I have not managed to really contact anyone or make any plans in the US in the previous months/late 2017, as I didn't know where or when I'd be arriving. And instead of spending a few days in a Puerto Rican library sorting things out, I jumped on another boat with an hour's notice and no time to contact anyone. Result - turning up in a city where no one knows you, hoping to find somewhere comradely and/or cheap to stay.
The main thing holding me back in terms of finding accommodation is my old-fashioned activist's paranoia around privacy:
- I have avoided using Facebook to contact people, because I don't want Facebook's algorithms to know everything about my social networks and interests.
- As of today, without becoming a verified member of Couchsurfing or a Premium member of AirBnB (yet more lovely data for the algorithms), it seems my only accommodation options in Durham/Chapel Hill are hotels. People want photos and references before they trust you - it's a different world from hitching.
Here's Zeynep Tufekci on data collection & algorithms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFTWM7HV2UI