Silicon Insider: World Scouting Jamboree

Done with the hike, our columnist now hits the Jamboree.

ByABC News
August 10, 2007, 8:25 AM

Hylands Park, Chelmsford, U.K. Aug. 3, 2007 — -- What is the most socially engaged large volunteer organization on the planet?

Would you believe scouting?

I wouldn't have either until today, when a visit to the 21st World Scouting Jamboree changed my mind.

My little group and I have now finished the Wainwright Coast-to-Coast hike across England. We ended the two-week walk through the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors with a miserable 20 mile last-day meander through sodden, sheep poop-filled bogs to reach Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. There, we made our way down the steep, shop-filled main street to the harbor, where we waded in our muddy boots into the water and ceremoniously tossed in the pebbles we'd picked up on the shore of the Irish Sea 192 miles before.

Tad and the four other teenagers have already fully recovered and spent the day at the Jamboree hanging out with Polish girls and generally taking advantage of the fact that, unlike the Boy Scouts of America, most of the world's 155 scouting movements are coed. Tim, my 11-year-old, is still a little sore from the hike and kindly spent the day with me, eating ice cream and, being just a tenderfoot scout, seeing the big world of scouting for the first time.

I, on the other hand, am basically a shattered wreck: feet covered with blisters and shin splints so bad that the fronts of my legs are covered with subsurface bruises. Thus, while the teenagers strut, and the preteen wanders along, I am reduced to a painful, hobbling shuffle, all while trying to smile back at 40,000 kids anxious to say hello to an American as they run past.

But, besides making a substantial contribution to Advil's bottom line this year, slowing down does have its advantages, especially when paired with the need to write this column.

For example, while on the hike, I had the chance to witness the emergence of a new kind of digital divide. In particular, the reason you didn't see this column last week was because I couldn't find a place to file it online. The problem wasn't that there was no Internet access in the small villages we passed through. Quite the contrary: In almost every little town, the local pub or coffee place had some kind of public cyberaccess, albeit sometimes merely dial-up, and it was rather pleasant to sit in a noisy bar with a pint in one hand and a mouse in the other and surf my e-mail.