In this day and age, suggesting a digital detox is often met with a combination of nervous laughter and resistance — followed by refusal. Many modern-day travelers think they can’t get by without Google, GPS, and their camera to document absolutely everything. If you didn’t post it on social media, it didn’t happen, right? Wrong. In fact, doing so could break down — rather than preserve — your travel memories.
I remember what it was like to travel without a smartphone and constant WiFi. Travel was challenging, rewarding, and more memorable. While I can’t easily recreate these archaic times, I can suggest a digital detox for your next trip. It might seem crazy to disconnect from the world, but the benefits are significant. Here’s what you can expect to gain.
You Get to Live in the Moment
Put down your phone! Stop Snapchatting, Instagramming, tweeting, and taking so many pictures. Too much trip documenting and social media sharing is messing with your precious holiday memories. A new study suggests that over-taking photos and sharing on social media alters how we remember things. Additionally, paying attention to what we’re doing helps us to remember more accurately. When our eyes are glued to our phones, we stop focusing on the experience.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t upload a single photo or spend a few extra minutes getting the perfect shot. My suggestion is to soak up the present moment and appreciate what is right in front of you. Focus on what your eyes tell you — not your phone’s recollection of reality.
You Make Deeper Connections
It’s difficult to meet people when your nose is buried in your phone or tablet. You look bored, unapproachable, and busy. The people around you take this as a sign that you don’t want to interact and you miss out on making new connections.
Try leaving your phone in your bag — not on the table next your plate while you’re eating or in your back pocket where you can feel the buzz of every notification. Without your phone within reach, you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with the person having breakfast next to you or your seatmate on the bus. With your head up and your hands free, people will feel more inclined to chat with you.
You Experience Fewer Missed Moments
How many times has someone said “Whoa, did you see that?” as you whip your head up from your phone in a desperate attempt to catch what was so incredible? If you're not paying direct attention to what’s going on, you’ll miss the action unfolding around you. This is especially true if you’re hoping to learn about the local way of life and culture. It’s the little, everyday things you see the locals do and say that provide the most insightful perspective.
You Have More Adventures
It’s so easy to rely on GPS to get you from point A to point B. Why would you waste your time and energy asking for directions or using your intuition when you’ve got your all-knowing smartphone? Research has found that just having your smartphone within reach hampers your ability to focus and perform a task. Why? Your brain is actively trying not to grab your phone. Becoming so dependent on technology takes the spice out of life sometimes. Leave the phone in your guest house and use the clues in your environment to help get you where you’re going. Follow signs, ask locals for directions, and use your travelers’ intuition to complete the journey. Just like we did in the olden days.
You Find Meaningful Downtime
It’s become a normal habit to unwind at the end of the day with our phone. Scrolling through the day’s photos, making plans for the following day, reading reviews for that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, Googling the ancient temple you visited that day are all excusable reasons for phone time on holiday.
However, using end-of-day downtime to silently reflect or recap the day’s excursion with your travel partner makes whatever you just experienced more meaningful. You can actually have a discussion about what you did and analyze how that ancient temple was built without relying on your smartphone to provide the answer. Doing so will give you yet another opportunity to connect with yourself and the people around you.