My name is Amanda, and I am an internet addict.
This is no joke. Like a lot of travelers, I’m dependent on my smartphone. On Google. On Facebook. On being able to be connected 24/7. In fact, I AM connected nearly 24 hours a day – as a travel blogger, it’s basically my job to be on my laptop for hours a day, and to constantly be updating Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat. And let’s not even get started on how often I check my email…
But this isn’t healthy. I don’t actually need to refresh Facebook every 5 minutes, or check my email more than 15 times per day. I don’t NEED to respond to every blog comment within minutes of someone posting it. Addictions like this are hard to break. They become second-nature; our phones are now just extensions of our hands and they go everywhere with us, from work to restaurants – even to the bathroom.
Being aware of how dependent I am on all my gadgets, I decided to take a break.
If you read all the popular “travel trend” articles at the beginning of the year, you probably noticed that “digital detox” trip were predicted to be big in 2016. A digital detox is basically just taking a trip the way people used to do it: sans cell phones and laptops and cameras and anything else with screens. As a tech addict, I knew this would be a challenge. But it was a challenge I wanted to set for myself.
So I teamed up with Intrepid Travel to go to Ecuador for a week without technology. The “Ecuador on a Shoestring” trip I went on is now offered as an official digital detox trip by Intrepid, but I just went with a regular group – and did my best to not do any of my usual while-I’m-traveling tasks. This meant no blog posts, no emails, no Snapchatting. I even left my camera at home, lest I be tempted to spend more of my time behind those screens.
And yes, it was difficult. I struggled with disconnecting (especially when others on the tour were still checking Facebook and posting to Instagram along the way), and I struggled with shifting my focus from documenting every aspect of my trip to just living it.
But I learned some surprising things during my digital detox trip, too. Things like:
It’s easier to leave social media behind than you probably think
The easiest part of the digital detox was actually ignoring social media for a week. I didn’t miss the Twitter check-ins, or stressing over which photo to share on Instagram. I didn’t have to worry about finding wifi to upload my snaps, and I could be blissfully ignorant of how many likes my Facebook posts were getting.
I realize that, as a blogger, I use social media differently than the average person. But disconnecting from the constant refreshes and notifications was easier than I thought it would be.
I rely on social media for more than I realized
Even though it was fairly easy to ignore Facebook and Twitter for a week, I quickly began to realize just how truly disconnected I began to feel without my regular check-ins. Like many, I’ve become reliant on social media for everything from family updates to getting the latest news. Without Facebook, in particular, I felt totally out of the loop with what was going on in the world.
In a way, though, it was kind of liberating – I got to spend a whole week without hearing about Donald Trump every day.
The internet does in fact go on without you
At the end of the day, the internet (and the world) will go on without you. My blog did not implode. My email inbox did get wildly out of hand, but I was able to get it back under control pretty quickly when I got home. And, more importantly, I didn’t really miss anything while I was disconnected.
I know that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real concern for many people like me. But when you’re away from Facebook memes and hashtags and the newest Snapchat filters, you’re not really missing out – those things will still be around once you’re reunited with your devices.
Not being connected leaves more time for other interests
Without blogging and ‘gramming and snapping to worry about, I found myself drawn to other things that I enjoy doing that often get pushed aside when I’m at home and busy on my laptop or phone. Things like coloring and watching the sun set and reading a real paperback book (yep, they still make those).
I read my book for hours on end while sitting on a balcony in the town of Banos. I took notes in a little journal with a pen (and came to the horrifying realization that my handwriting has definitely suffered from disuse over the past few years). I went on hikes in the Amazon and bartered for textiles and searched for street art.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done any of these things if I’d been “connected” on this trip – but not having my safety blanket of phone and laptop definitely left room for other things.
Overall, there is definitely something to be said for waking up every morning and being present in each and every moment. My Digital Detox allowed me to truly disconnect from my devices and better connect with the world.
Feature image c/o Eliza Gower
Want to try a Digital Detox challenge? We’ve just released a range of trips to help you kick the tech addiction.