By Ari Liakeas
When I told my partner (a software engineer), who is constantly plugged into his tech, that I was going to write an article on travelling without your phone, he laughed and said: “this shouldn’t be done that’s a ridiculous concept, we use our phones for everything these days”, and yes he’s right we do! But let’s just bear in mind he’s also techy and relatively new to travelling.
True, we use our phones to book flights, store boarding passes, and map apps to find hotels or restaurants, tourist attractions and even ATMs. But, would we be lost without our phones while travelling now? Or would we become more present and pay better attention to the places we visit? Perhaps ditching the phone could open our perspectives to an entirely new way of experiencing the world?
Ditching The Digital
Coming from a Yogi outlook, I deliberately go on digital detox retreats to find relief from tech and disconnect to reconnect regularly. I also have been travelling for years and remember the pre-mobile phone times without the convenience of booking everything over the internet.
I remember a time when organising travel logistics wasn’t so instant and took a bit more management and mindfulness. We spoke to our local travel agent for advice and went to ticket offices to buy our passes. We read Lonely Planet guides in real book form for research with our highlighter pen at the ready! This was how we figured out where we wanted to go, things to see and what hotels or hostels they recommended. And using a paper map (the first item I would buy back in the day) was a common practice.
So, I do not believe it is an impossible task to travel without your phone. Especially if you plan to travel to places with minimal coverage or wifi networks, such as parts of Africa or South Asia.
If you are a digital nomad (Like my partner), then the thought of travelling the world without your phone or laptop is probably an absolute NO. But what about the benefits of going on a digital detox and spending time away from tech?
Unplugging even temporarily can help you:
- Reconnect to the world and the people around you
- Enjoy better sleep
- Discover new Hobbies
- Improve your attention span
- Lessen stress
- Spend time in nature for better health
Having a digital detox doesn’t mean you have to put down your phone completely. If you are a digital nomad or your livelihood relies upon working online, you need your tech. But healthy bodies and minds must find a balance between being plugged in and unplugged. Be aware of signs, such as a depressed mood or interrupted sleep, that might be warning you to put your phone down and go for a walk in nature.
People Really Travel Without A Phone!
When I was in Sri Lanka earlier this year, my sole purpose was to experience seeing elephants in the wild (I love elephants).
Although Sri Lanka doesn’t have great wifi and, from experience, is certainly not a digital nomad paradise (even though it’s a beautiful country). It was a struggle to have a strong connection for remote work.
During my visit to the Udawalawe National Park, I made a point of not taking my phone out of my bag. Nope, not even to photograph the astounding wildlife. I chose to stay completely present for the experience and use my memory and how I was feeling to record seeing over 20 elephants, including babies and a massive bull, who started to charge our jeep. I was fully present to witness the incredible water buffalo and a whole array of birds living their lives of freedom and protection in this beautiful jungle.
Not hiding behind your phone allows you to really engage with the feelings that an experience like this can bring you while travelling. Surely we travel to connect with new and unusual wonders, explore beautiful places and be inspired by the world around us? Is that not the true purpose?
All too regularly, I see people on vacation but sucked into looking at their phones. You could do this at home on your couch and save lots of money! People are not having conversations. They are too busy taking pictures for the ‘Gram to show they are having a good time, rather than being in the present moment and actually having a REALl good time.
Perhaps we all need a digital detox to return to the real art of travel.
So why not try it even for just a weekend? Leave your phone at home or at least switch it off and hop on a bus, train or plane and see what adventures the world offers you when you disconnect to reconnect.