The Case For Leaving Your Phone At Home When Travelling
What is an "unplugged holiday" and why should you have one?
Travelling is the essence of escapism – it’s the only road to unplugging from your everyday life and stumbling across the globe to meet wild, memorable people who spark crazy adventures. These days however, it can be pretty difficult to lean on our instincts and intrepid nature when social media and technology are such a distracting part of our lives.
When we’re abroad, there’s every way imaginable to keep in touch with home, research the best-rated places or tuck into the quirkiest meal in your new ‘hood. Although these are helpful and comforting aspects of connectivity, at times, they can bypass the exhilarating, thrown-into-the-unknown feeling of true globetrotting.
It’s no surprise then that while trends in travel get more and more futuristic, an alternative grassroots preference is emerging – one that encourages holidaymakers to get off the grid and have a holiday away from the internet. A chance to disconnect, and ironically, maybe even reconnect.
Known as digital detoxes or “unplugged holidays”, this mode of vacation is swiftly on the rise. Once a remote, monastic retreat in the middle of nowhere, nowadays there are device-free festivals, summer camps and cool getaways tailored for the young at heart who want to drop out and feel free.
Experts say there’s nothing wrong with technology or social media itself; it’s just that the way we’re using it is at addictive levels. We’re wedged in a trap of distraction, even when we’re basking overseas. A recent survey found that 83 percent of travellers expect to stay digitally connected during their break and 64 percent felt pressure to access work emails daily. It seems most of us don’t know how to have a holiday anymore.
Multiple social media accounts and apps dilute our downtime when we should be living it up. The hours we take to edit our holiday snaps or word a funny status update is often taking us away from what’s right in front of us.
A digital detox can teach you how to de-twitch your thumb, unhunch your shoulders and relax those squinting eyes. Once you’re away from the screens, your holiday will be less task-oriented and more people oriented. You’ll enjoy better social interactions, better posture, more awareness of what’s around you and probably a decent night’s sleep. Perhaps it’s a fair trade?
How to do it
It’s going to be both scary and liberating to take the plunge. Remember, if a complete sweep of devices sounds too terrifying, you don’t have to go all in. Set some limits and follow these suggestions for easing into an offline world.
#1 Get motivated
Set a reason for your tech break. Take an audit of your time online for a reality check of how much you’re missing IRL.
#2 Set some limits
Build small, clear goals by deciding what devices you’ll be cutting out and how you’ll use the ones you’re packing. It could be you decide texting is OK but surfing the net is out of bounds. On the other hand, you might limit your email time to just 15 minutes a day (use a timer to keep you in check) or pledge to enjoy gadget-free meals instead.
#3 Pick your pressure points
When you feel the urge to get online, what activity will pull you back to reality? Swap the phone for a non-tech action like picking up a novel, writing in a journal or investing in a real camera (adios iPhone filters). Choose actions that will energise you, not zap you.
#4 Test run
Experiment before you leave. Ease yourself into it by allocating 24 hours with no access to your devices. Feel yourself slow down and allow yourself to get bored.
#5 Turn it off
Lastly, follow through with your plan. Turn off your gadgets and keep them off.
The fun part
Once you commit to a tech-free holiday, build your own detox adventure and head somewhere wild and wooly where there’s no Wi-Fi to lean on. If you prefer a few guidelines to help you nip digital dependency in the bud, play it safe and book a pre-packaged escape that specialises in non-screen activities to keep you on track.
Health resorts like Via Yoga in Mexico offer surf and yoga retreats where you’re encouraged to check in your smartphone, iPad and computer at the door to quiet the mind and rediscover being in the moment.
If it’s high end you’re after, choose this deluxe German hotel that bans phone use. For a tropical twist head to the wonderland of Chiva Som in Thailand. Both are spa havens with tailored programs that bring back the balance.
Closer to home, head to where the outback meets the reef. At Western Australia’s Sal Salis you’ll camp under the stars in solitude, thanks to the ‘no TV and no phones’ policy. Another hot tip: Queensland is building an incredible reputation as the digital detox destination for Australia.
If these stunning destinations sound a little too tempting for selfies, consider joining a shorter program or weekend away with stricter detox policies and distracting retro activities. Restival is described as a “retreat meets festival”. Their next six day event is being held in the lakeside birch forests of Swedish Lapland. Leave your phone at home to experience traditional tipi tents, communal gatherings, dancing and sound baths.
In a similar spirit, Camp Grounded is a summer camp made for adults seeking maximum fun and minimum technology. They’re held right around America and promise all the best of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Say hello to arts and crafts, archery, sweat lodges and s’mores by the campfire. Over four days you’ll create a community where individuality, friendship and enduring memories are what matter most.
(Lead image: Manta Resort)