As I write this, I am in Northern Germany. I am staying with friends in Brunsbuettel, at the mouth of the Elbe River, near the North Sea.
It is the location of the western entrance to the Kiel Canal, the busiest artificial waterway in the world. This area is unusual, claimed as it was from the sea hundreds of years ago. It is an area rich in agriculture. Wind turbines dot the landscape – a different kind of farming, their rotors turning peacefully above the cabbages, corn, cattle and sheep.
I have just finished dinner, a meal my husband and I cooked for our hosts. We bought fresh ingredients at roadside farm stands this morning on our way to visit a cathedral built in the 13th Century.
Entering the empty church, we were greeted by the clear voice of a soloist ringing out a German version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
We were a small and reverent audience. Outside, a Volvo sat in the rain, decorated with fresh roses. The singer was rehearsing for an afternoon wedding.
It is autumn in Schleswig-Holstein, and we got caught in the heavy rain and wind. We took refuge in a café on the square, and feasted on heidelbeertorte and pflaumenkuchen with cream, served with hot chocolate and steaming coffee.
Later, walking through the wet cobbled streets, taking pictures with our smartphones, we heard the joyful peal of the church bells announcing the wedding.
I recorded a 10-second video of the quaint streets, the bells chiming in the background to add to my daily Instagram story.
I am broadcasting our travels – from Vancouver to Amsterdam, Utrecht to Bramsche, and the everyday activities of our stay in Brunsbuettel.
I will continue to document as we travel to Kiel and the island of Sylt, and then finally to Hamburg to take the train back to Amsterdam, where we will catch our flight home.
Here, among the koege and wind farms, I am struck by the amiable relationship between the rural culture and technology.
The ancient church bells transmit the glad tidings of the wedding to the village as I post and tweet from my smartphone to friends and followers around the world. Little cafes and bistros are generous with Wi-Fi.
Too often our devices take us away from each other, detaching us from our encounters despite the glossy promise of connection. Choosing to post my travelogues on Facebook and Instagram means I am paying more attention to what I see, noticing details, searching for the real story of place and time as I try to tell it in images and 10-second video clips.
I pause often, to simply absorb and be present to our experiences and to take time to share observations with my fellow travellers.
Because we are bonded by love and experience, we are connected.