As well as updates by the minute on TV and radio, our online worlds are full of the latest breaking stories. Opinion pieces pick apart every announcement and attempt to predict every possible outcome. Facebook and Twitter are awash with updates and articles with ever more enticing headlines. Add to this the fact that anyone can use social media to publish their own news and opinion, no matter what that might be, and it is easy to be buried by this avalanche of content.
In 2016 a therapist coined the term 'headline stress disorder' when examining the anxiety caused by the 24/7 news cycle. Over the last four years, and especially the last four months, I've found the constant bombardment of news has reached an almost unbearable level. First Trump, then Brexit, now coronavirus.
Of course, I'm not advocating that people ignore world events, and amongst the doom-laden updates we've seen some truly heart-warming acts of kindness, but I do think that taking some time away from the deluge of news is important to avoid becoming utterly overwhelmed.
I have always turned to travel to offer some respite from the chaos that everyday life can bring. I revel in time away from household chores and the commonplace stresses and strains, and I've realised that this escapism is wonderfully amplified on a cruise. As I write this, confined to my house for all but essential journeys, or to take my one permitted form of exercise, I yearn for the freedom that being at sea brings.
One aspect of cruising I love is the liberation from the barrage of news, like the temporary silencing of a persistent tinnitus. When at sea the lack of mobile phone reception ends the need even to carry it with you, removing the temptation to constantly check the latest goings on. The 24-hour news channels become less appealing when a weakened satellite signal starts to compromise the picture quality. For me, the few pages of abridged worldwide news produced and printed by the ship is perfect for perusing over breakfast, along with the daily programme, as my one and only news review of the day.
Even the very nature of moving on from one place to the next gives an inexplicable feeling of being untethered from the world. Sailing away from port and watching it become lost against the horizon helps focus attention on the here and now, making it easy to relax in the present, rather than worrying about world events. Travelling to regions like the Arctic or Antarctica engulf you in their remoteness and help you disconnect still further. You are cut off from civilisation, and in an environment so otherworldly, the events of the home seem inconsequential.
As modern technology improves, so the world shrinks, and cruise lines are responding to the ever-growing demand to be connected. More and more offer free WiFi and better connections, yet personally, I'm happy to do without. I've watched the ocean sparkle a vibrant blue as we sailed through bioluminescent plankton in the middle of the Indian Ocean, seen dolphins while enjoying dinner on my balcony, and navigated ice floes in the shadow of glacier-clad mountains. These times have been a joy to experience, free from the risk of a ping or beep intruding on the moment.
All this isn't to say there aren't wonderful benefits from our increased connectivity. Thank goodness we can keep in touch with loved ones and stay informed without leaving the house right now. But it's the joy of leaving our screens behind and stepping out to explore the world without them that I find ever so appealing right now.