When you go on your summer vacation, can you also take a vacation from your smartphone?
Can you give Facebook and Instagram a rest and enjoy conversing with the people around you rather than constantly scrolling, posting, and checking for comments from your legion of followers?
Critics of chronic users of smartphones and social media doubt people can go without them for long. In today’s digitally consumed world, taking a “digital detox” is difficult for many to do.
But Johnny Welsh, author of Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure, says vacation is the perfect time to disconnect — and that it may change your perspective, and your life, if you do.
“With this addiction to our smartphones, this obsession to be connected with the world, we fail to connect with the people sitting right in front of us,” says Welsh, whose book chronicles a 16-day road trip in the western U.S. that he and his girlfriend, Kristy, took while detaching from smartphones and social media.
“The disconnect in face-to-face interactions keeps growing; I see it happening more as smartphones get ‘smarter.’ I imagine what would happen if aliens landed on earth and observed us. They might think a smartphone is something we need to live, like an external nervous system.”
On his road trip, Welsh endeavored to experience “how different life could be without the constant seduction of the flat screen” — while also examining his own social media habits with a sense of humor. Likewise, he thinks others who ditch their phones on a getaway can better live in the moment while not being digitally distracted.
“Be present,” Welsh says. “Turn off your device and really live. Vacations should be a real break from our technology-soaked lives.”
Welsh gives five tips on how to disconnect from your smartphone and enjoy vacation without it:
Use paper maps. Welsh says this is the first big step to looking at what’s around you rather than looking at your phone. “Using the old-school way, you won’t have to go to Google Maps for navigation and have an excuse to keep using your phone,” Welsh says. “Plus, using your brain, your imagination fires up like when you were a kid, looking at the back roads on an old map and wondering where they all lead.”
Delete tempting apps. “Addicted to Twitter or other sites? Delete the app from your phone before you leave on vacation,” Welsh says, “and don’t reinstall it until you get back.”
Buy a disposable camera or a real one. “Rather than take selfies on your phone, and constantly posting pictures and agonizing over the perfect hashtags, you can capture memories the old-fashioned way,” Welsh says. “And this way you actually enjoy your surroundings without having your face in a screen most of the day.”
Check hotels with digital-detox discounts. “Yes, they’re out there,” Welsh says. “Some places offer room discounts for giving up your phone upon check-in. A reawakening starts with forced human interaction. We did that for thousands of years before.”
Read. “Remember that?” Welsh asks. “Rather than being entranced on your phone, bring a good book. The act of reading a physical book quiets and calms us, incorporates the sense of touch and smell, and allows us to become part of the story in a way that no pop-up headline can.”
“We’re relying too much on instant technology,” Welsh says. “There can be life — a higher quality of life — without these devices.”
Johnny Welsh is the author of Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure. A professional bartender in Frisco, Col., for 20 years, he has a B.A. in Italian language, literature and culture from Syracuse University.