As a society in the 21st century, we’re used to being connected. We have this thin, rectangular device permanently in our pocket that allows us to instantly search, share, and work from anywhere in the world.
But while it helps us connect with the world, it doesn’t really let us be there. Our head is pointed down at a screen instead of tilted up at the world around us.
When we book a holiday, it comes with the excitement of new experiences, relaxation, and disconnecting. Keyword: disconnect. It’s a habit to check emails, update statuses, or browse YouTube, and it’s a challenging habit to break. We know that feeling of reaching for your phone only to realize you don’t have service on the Inca Trail. It can be frustrating, but that feeling of disconnect may actually be a good thing.
Here are our best tips on how to travel while being disconnected:
1. Set an intention for the trip
Before you even step on the plane to your next travel adventure, set an intention. This might help you get the most out of your experience. It can be anything from “I want to learn about the culture” to “I want to make new friends and explore something I never knew existed.” It’s something simple but encourages you to make the most of your time away.
Personally, I like to set the intention of being in the moment. If I’m willingly travelling to a foreign city, it means I’m spending my time and money to be there. The best way I can do this is to put the phone away, look up, and start exploring. Before I know it, I’m more distracted by what’s around me than what’s on my phone.
2. Follow the inside/outside rule
Alright, let’s be realistic. I could tell you to keep your phone in the hotel room to avoid distractions, but this might actually make you feel anxious. Like I said, it’s a habit to be connected.
What I will share with you is the inside/outside rule (which can also be part of your intention). It means that if you’re going to answer work emails, share something on Instagram, or text your mates, do so inside the hotel.
Once you step outside, commit to ignoring your technology. If that means putting it on aeroplane mode or leaving it in the hotel room, so be it. But do what you’ve got to do to get your connection fix, and then let it be once you step outside. There’s a whole world that’s waiting for your attention!
3. If it’s work that’s keeping you tied to tech, plan ahead
Maybe you’re not constantly sharing or browsing social media. Maybe it’s work that’s keeping you plugged in. We applaud you for being a go-getter, but mate, you’re on holiday! You deserve the reward of discovering foreign cities, meeting new people or learning about different cultures.
Before your trip, set yourself up for when you return to work. That may mean putting in a little extra time to organize your files or letting clients/colleagues know ahead of time that you’ll be unavailable for certain dates. As a travel writer, I’ve learned that it’s impossible (and extremely unenjoyable) to work and travel at the same time. It’s very difficult to attempt to sightsee and work on the same day. In order to really be in the moment, I remind myself that the work will get done; today I’m going to enjoy making pasta in Italy, or cruising down the Nile.
It’s important to give yourself credit for being a hard worker, for being able to afford a holiday, and for being out of your comfort zone. Write that out-of-office email with a sense of pride and be in the moment on vacation.
4. Embark on a small group tour
If you’re still having trouble disconnecting because you’re spending hours researching where to find the best pizza in Rome or trying to figure out how to get from A to B on public transport in Bangkok, then let us introduce you to the perks of a small group tour.
You’ll have a local leader who will share recommendations with you, show you where to go, and teach you a few words of the language. You’ll also be with a group of like-minded travellers itching to explore and have an adventure. On a group tour, you’ll be more engaged with your surroundings than with what’s happening on a little screen, because all you’ve got to do is go with the flow and have fun with your new mates.
So whether you’re in a destination that doesn’t have service or you’re determined to personally unplug, take a deep breath and know that your world back home is still spinning, just like the one in front of you. As uncomfortable as it may be to disconnect, it’s very rewarding. It gives you a chance to be present, to relax and meet new people, and to learn about a foreign place. Think of it as a challenge that you’re strong enough to overcome.
Ready to unplug, disconnect and switch off? Get out and see the world on a small group adventure with Intrepid. Explore our range of trips here.
Feature photo by Anna Heupel.