The Digital Detox Vacation: Is it Possible?

Brand USA Marketing Executive
Published 7/24/14
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A few years back, my husband and I took a very memorable trip to Lake Tahoe and then jaunted over to Yosemite to take in El Capitan and Half Dome.

We both were in charge of our respective devices to properly capture the trip: He was in charge of our new video camera and I was in charge of the digital camera.

The drive through Yosemite was breathtaking. As we wound through the mountain roads, we pulled off onto a scenic overlook and my husband set the video camera down as we strategically placed ourselves on top of the rock wall with the backdrop of mountains behind us. A kind stranger captured the moment with our digital camera, and off we went.

About two hours later, much to our dismay, we realized the video camera was left sitting on the rock wall at the scenic overlook. We never got it back. Luckily, we still had the digital camera. Fast forward to the next vacation about a year later. It was a cruise to Mexico and I was in charge of the digital camera that day.

Vacations are meant to give us a recharge, so we can return to work with a renewed focus.

One of the excursions we had planned was a tour of the Mayan ruins at Tulum. Poised on the cliffs above the Caribbean, the scenic beauty was nothing less than spectacular. We toured the ruins most of the day and I captured the beauty and history with the camera. Then it was my turn… I accidentally left the digital camera in the restroom at the ruins. So I had to ask myself: Why was it that we both lost our respective electronic devices? Perhaps a subconscious need to be device free?

The irony is that I find it so hard to disconnect. As I reflect back on my life before smartphones took over and ponder those unplugged vacations, I realize that I felt like I was really “in the moment” on those trips. Vacations are meant to give us a recharge, so we can return to work with a renewed focus. However, even when you're lying on the beach listening to the waves crash, there is that little voice in the back of your mind wondering what you may have missed.

We all know if you’re busy checking emails on your phone you aren't really getting a true relaxing getaway. I have come to the realization, through practicing mindfulness meditation, that the same items designed to keep us engaged and entertained 24/7 make it more difficult for us to ever actually relax. The electronic leash has Americans clocking 23 hours per week online, according to a survey by the ad agency The Buntin Group. Another study conducted last year by the Pew Research Center stated that more than half of the U.S. population owns a smartphone, with 81 percent in the 25 to 34 age bracket.

Even though I find it difficult to resist peeking at my phone to see what my friends are up to on Facebook, I find that the need to capture the moment and post on social media is thwarting my efforts to disengage with the device. Using the camera gives me something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work.

With leisure time and vacations serving as preventative medicine, it is ever so important to take the time to properly decompress, de-stress to give the body and mind what it needs to reconnect with one’s self. So how would a device-free vacation look? Just how would it feel to totally unplug, not check work email, not tweet, Instagram or capture the vacation on Facebook?

This is my next vacation goal, a Digital Detox. Seems it is the latest rage as the fad of anti-digital tourism is luring device junkies to resorts offering gadget-free packages to help the hyper connected to disconnect.