11 Ways to Unplug on Vacation Without Going Crazy
If you want to actually relax and have fun on your vacation, taking a digital detox is key. Here’s how to do it without losing your mind.
Get everyone on board
“You really need buy in from all travel companions who are going on the vacation,” says Michael J. Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist. “[A digital detox] won’t work if everyone does not participate.” Having trouble getting your friends and family to agree to limited screen time? Give them a few concrete reasons how technology hurts your health. Research suggests that heavy technology users have a higher risk of mental health problems and don’t sleep as well. Even the mere presence of a cell phone can be distracting enough to that people don’t perform well on mental tasks, like being mindful of staying in the moment. Studies have also found that constantly staying connected actually works against your relationships, too, despite your well-meaning intentions.
Hang up your metaphorical sign and let everyone know who is likely to email or text, that you are going on an electronic diet for a week, Dr. Breus says. At the office, you’ll want to set your out of office on your email. But stop short of making a broad announcement on Facebook that you’re heading out of town, as that can raise some safety risks.
Designate a friend to monitor your feeds
For people who latch on to their digital devices out of fear that a friend or family member will desperately need them, the concern of detoxing while on vacation may cause a lot of anxiety. To avoid feeling the worry of separation, ask a trusted friend to keep you in the know of any critical information, and touch base should there be an emergency, suggests Dr. Breus. You can give them your room number at the hotel you’re staying at to avoid using your cell phone as well.
Set your goal
Not ready to go cold turkey for your full vacation? Start slowly by vowing to check email only in the morning and evening, then leave your phone in your hotel room while you’re at the beach for the day. Maybe by the end of the week, you’ll be ready to be tech-free for 36 hours.
If you “cheat” ask your friends or family to be accountable. “The consequence is not meant to be punitive––rather, just annoying,” says Laurie Gerber, president of the Handel Group Life Coaching. She suggests paying a dollar to a friend (or worse, your tween) for each minute you spend online during the detox. “The consequence will get you back in the director’s seat of your own life. It trumps the need for excuses, justifications, and blaming,” she says.
Get over your FOMO
Sure, you may be having some serious FOMO—or fear of missing out—about what’s going on at home, but that’s exactly what you are trying to detox out of your life: the need to be always be in-the-know. “The problem with FOMO is that you’re looking outward instead of in,” says Darlene McLaughlin, M.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a psychiatry and behavioral health specialist with Texas A&M Physicians. “When you’re so tuned in to the ‘other,’ or the ‘better’ (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.” Here are ways to shut your FOMO down.
Create physical boundaries with your devices
There are so many ways to make your devices inaccessible. One idea: Try leaving your phone charger at home. While you can depart with a full battery, this will ensure you only check your phone when it is absolutely necessary. The rest of the time you will be mindful of trying to conserve your battery. You can also keep your phone on airplane mode for the duration of your vacation to ensure no phone calls, texts, or notifications pop up. If you’re worried about breaking your goal because of certain apps, be it a phone game or a social media app, just delete them! Even better, replace them with the Digital Detox smartphone app, which works by disabling your phone for time increments ranging from 30 minutes to one month. If your laptop is the issue, and you have a work duty, you can install the Anti-Social Mac app to block social media sites from your browser. But even more than deleting apps, putting your phone on airplane mode, or turning off your phone altogether, is keeping it out of sight. Because as the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” “The easiest thing is to put your phone or devices in the hotel safe, where you can’t get to them,” suggests Dr. Breus.
Capture the moment with a Polaroid, disposable, or digital camera
But how will you remember that epic vacation in Greece, or hold onto that loving moment you and your partner had by that lake up in Maine? Contrary to modern thought, your phone isn’t the only answer to a quick photo snap. Before there were cell phones with built-in cameras, there were various other types of cameras that didn’t come with social media notifications to distract you. And before that? You simply just kept the moment, the vacation, in your memory, and stayed present. But, this isn’t about making you revert back to the 1800s. Just be resourceful! “When you come off of that frantic pace of checking email, checking what’s happening, and looking at other people’s pictures, it’s an amazing experience of letting go of thinking you have to make moments or thinking everything is critical, and returning to a very different relationship to time, peace, presence, and, ultimately, your relationship with yourself,” says Gerber.
Get a map
Stop being a slave to Google Maps and get an old-fashioned paper map or guidebook. While printed maps may seem a thing of the past, they require you and your fellow travelers to work together—you must become a team, solving problems together. It also encourages a passive form of journeying, where you engage actively with your surroundings.
Keep yourself busy (but not too busy)
Sightsee, ride a bike, swim, enjoy longer meals with deep conversation….When you are actively engaged in something, you don’t need to fill a void by scrolling through your social media channels. When it’s time for downtime, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read, or plop on the beach and zone out to the sound of waves crashing. Much like a muscle, the brain requires recovery time in order to develop, grow, and hold onto new memories. If you choose to shut off, especially when there’s no need for it but to keep you from being bored, you allow yourself this opportunity. In fact, one study out of the University of Michigan found that, when volunteers walked in the woods after learning something new, they were more likely to retain it. This suggests that quiet time is vital for optimizing brain function.
A digital detox might seem like a punishment for all those hours you typically clock on Facebook, Instagram, or responding to work emails, but it’s truly a reward. The benefits are endless, and you should celebrate all that incredible self care you are giving yourself. While on vacation, indulge in a spa day, treat yourself to a fancy dinner, an extra glass of wine, or whatever it is that you can look forward to. “A digital detox is no different than a diet or food detox,” says Gerber. “And just like when you’ve quit something at some point in your life, whether it was caffeine, gluten, sugar, you can survive this one. Once you see that you can indeed live without internet and social media, you can not only have a better understanding of the level you are addicted to it, but have more of a say over it when you add it back in.”