Unplugged: Travel Disconnected

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Unplugged: Travel Disconnected

In less than a generation, the world has gone from paper-and-pencil analog to device-in-your-pocket digital. We went from debating facts to googling conversation-ending answers (both real and fake). And while technology has its positive place in our lives, so does turning it off. Unplugged is Paste Health’s attempt to help you in this existential battle, which consumes us all.


It doesn’t matter how epic your vacation is these days. The real memory is the one you publish to your Instagram or Facebook page for likes and comments … right? If you feel that way, you’re not alone. According to market research company Lab42, 80 percent of vacationers use their smartphones while traveling, with 70 percent of them posting on social networks.

It’s even worse when we consider the teenage demographic. Their digital dependencies have hotels and resorts scrambling to come up with activities that’ll break their phone-centric attention spans.

According to Marcello La Rocca, the Director of Sandstone Care, a treatment center that offers help for technology addiction, “Excessive technology use takes away from critical human interactions and one’s ability to connect naturally.”

Intellectually, adults and teens alike realize their technology addictions interfere with a vacation. You should, after all, never let your phone or tablet get in the way of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But how does one, in this selfie age, truly unplug while on holiday? By paying close attention—admittedly on your phone or computer—to our list of tips below.

1. Plan in Advance

Without setting up out-of-the-office replies—informing co-workers you’ll be gone and paying upcoming bills—what will you be doing on vacation? Checking your phone for these and other pressing updates that, while important, shouldn’t hinder your getaway.

As far as work is concerned, make it abundantly clear that you’re going to be out of town so that your responsibilities are handled when you’re gone. Delegate them yourself or ask your boss for guidance.

2. Keep Hard Copies of Your Travel Info

From your airline tickets and hotel address to the driving directions from there to the sights, you’ll find plenty of reasons to whip out your phone for the sake of information … and then, unfortunately, stay there for the satisfaction of social media.

Next time, print out all of the information you would otherwise access on your phone so that you can keep your cell where it belongs: out of sight.

3. Bring Only the Tech You Need

The more equipment that comes with you on vacation, the more tempted you’ll be to surf the web when you could be surfing a wave and experiencing the world around you. Whittle your collection down to a single piece of technology in order to keep as many distractions away as possible.

4. Store Your Phone in the Room

You’ve already printed paper directions and tickets, so why not maintain your old-school travel vibes with a map and an actual camera? You’ll have all of the information a tourist could need, and all the equipment to capture it all on film without any distraction.

5. Give Yourself a few Check-Ins

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to say you’ll completely cut yourself off from the internet for a week or longer. That said, set up limits for yourself so you’re only going online once a day, and during a time where you’re not sightseeing or spending time with loved ones. Really, there’s no harm in checking your e-mail at night while you’re winding down before bed, but don’t let it go beyond your pre-set limits.

6. Quality Over Quantity

When you look back on your trip after five, 10 or 50 years, what type of pictures will you really want to save? We can pretty much guarantee you won’t want to stare at a selfie with a barely visible monument in the background.

That should be incentive enough to ditch your phone in favor of a real camera, one that’s ready to take crisp, colorful, gorgeous photos you can print out, hang up and always remember your trip by.

If This is Too Much …

For some people, it might be incredibly difficult to put down the phone or the tablet and really enjoy a vacation, even with the simple parameters suggested above. If so, it could be more than just a playful addiction.

Joey Lim (whose name has been changed for anonymity) is one of the increasing number of people whose technology dependence got out of hand. He was diagnosed with “pathological internet use” when he finally sought professional help.

When asked about his condition, he said: “I was on the internet at least 18 hours a day. It wasn’t obvious that I had a problem at first since lots of people go online for work or to check social media.

“But it got to a point where I would feel severely anxious and worried without my phone,” Lim Continued. “I would get really annoyed if anyone interrupted my online sessions and I basically pushed everyone in my life away and stopped paying attention to my surroundings.”

One of the main reasons treatment programs for technology addiction are popping up all over the world these days: to give users control of their lives once again. There’s no shame in being too attached to technology. You’re not alone, and you’re not the first to ask for help.

No matter what solution you require, the bottom line: when you plan ahead, your vacation will be better for it. And, of course, you’ll be a bit more clear-headed, present and ready to make and preserve memories in your mind and in your heart, which are really the best places to post them after all.

Image: LastHuckleBerry, CC-BY

Anum Yoon is Paste’s Unplugged columnist and a Philly-based blogger who founded Current On Currency.

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