When you think of a holiday, it’s likely that you’re thinking of bringing along your phone. After all, for most of us, our mobile device is not only a telephone but our portable camera, calendar, and digital file folder as well. We feel we would be lost without this item in hand---our primary connection to the larger world.
Because our phones feel so essential in our everyday lives, it makes sense that we would habitually bring them with us on holiday, too. And if we’re hoping to capture some great travel photos, our smartphones might be a necessity. Studies show that members of the millennial generation actually plan their travel based on how ‘Instagrammable’ a destination is, so the need for a camera is definitely influential.
But the way we behave isn’t always an indicator of how we should behave. What is truly best for travellers when it comes to technology? Should our mobile phone remain on our packing list? Or should it be left behind? What do you do with your device when going away on holiday?
Traveller Behaviour in the Digital Age
In 2018, we can see very clearly the positive impact that modern technology has had on the way we travel. We can more easily book budget accommodation, find last-minute flights at great prices, and have more in-depth knowledge about a destination instantly at our fingertips. Read our article ‘What Has the Internet Done to Air Travel’ for a deeper dive into this.
And while mobile phones have made travel easier, they’ve also influenced our behaviours as we travel. We take a lot more photos than we used to. We share these photos in real time on social media. We ‘check in’ to various restaurants, airports, and destinations. We rate and review places on TripAdvisor and Yelp. And we do all of this while travelling abroad or domestically. 85% of travellers report taking their mobile phones on holiday with them.
But is all this smartphone photography good for the travel industry? Opinions are divided. In some instances, mass tourism is hurting some destinations. Previously unknown locations have gained excessive popularity due to coverage by social influencers and other Internet personalities. These places are often ill-equipped to handle a large influx of tourism, but that’s what they’ve begun to experience. With travellers flocking to the latest ‘hot’ destination, it can actually be doing more harm than good for these places and their citizens, who don’t have the resources in place to support so many travellers. See: Santorini, Greece.
In Canada, a small family-owned farm was recently forced to close its sunflower field “for good.” The farm was overrun by visitors longing to snap a few photos in the bright and colourful sunflower field----visitors who were attracted here by photos of the field appearing on their Instagram.
Even in cases when the tourism boom isn’t hurting a destination, it can negatively impact the experience for those who do visit. Crowds overtaking a popular spot can turn a serene location into a stressful, overwhelming mess, which lessens the overall pleasure of the travel experience.
Aside from its effects on the travel industry as a whole, there are many compelling personal reasons to leave your phone at home when you travel.
Did you know that the average smartphone user checks their device an average of 47 times per day? Within one hour of waking in the mornings, 80% of us have picked up and used our mobile phones. Within 5 minutes of waking? 35% of people have already checked their device. There are countless other statistics to support this idea, but the fact is, we are highly addicted to our smartphones. We could all use a break from the constant screen interaction and the demands that this ubiquity of technology places on our time and our sanity.
Time for a Break?
Have you got a case of ‘texting thumb’? Perhaps you’re feeling some eye strain from hours spent working on your phone all day. Your jaw might be dropping as you click on yet another tantalising news article. Or maybe you just know all-too-well how your late-night Netflix binges are catching up with you. Whatever the signs may be, chances are pretty high that you (or someone you know) needs a digital detox.
A digital detox is a recently coined phrase that refers to a period of time in which one purposefully refrains from using technology. For most people, this means taking a break from the usual suspects, ditching their phones, laptops, and other devices for a day (or a weekend), but it could also include television and any other form of screen.
The idea of the digital detox came into being in the past several years as society began to recognise our dependence on---if not downright addiction to---technology. Because screens are all around us, and we’re interacting with them for hour upon hour each day, it’s become necessary to take a massive break, ridding ourselves (at least temporarily) of all offending devices. If the state of our technology/Internet addiction is hard to understand, take a look at the very word we’ve chosen to describe breaking its stronghold. A ‘detox’ is short for detoxification, which is the process of removing harmful substances. We as people are so enthralled with modern technology that we need an actual intervention to help us take the break we so need.
Why People Love a Digital Detox
So what is the benefit of saying ‘so long’ to technology for a bit?
You may have seen a colleague return from holiday looking bright and refreshed. “That was just what I needed,” they might say. Could leaving your phone behind be the trick to that rejuvenated look and youthful demeanour? Perhaps.
Science says that getting unplugged from tech for awhile could actually have real health benefits.
It will probably come as no surprise that a break from your phone could serve to reduce your stress and lower anxiety levels. Studies have revealed that increased anxiety correlates with increased mobile phone usage. So simply shutting off your device can serve to elevate your mood. And as technology can contribute to stress in many ways, taking time away can have the double benefit of getting rid of a stressor.
Your sleep is also going to improve when technology is out of the picture. Our natural circadian rhythm is often interrupted by using screens, especially later in the evenings and at night when the blue light emitting from the screen prevents the release of serotonin, an important sleep-promoting hormone. Take a digital detox when you’re on your next holiday and see how much better your sleep quality becomes. Hint: it’s not just the comfy hotel mattress.
Staying clear of technology gives you a chance to be in nature in your holiday destination, fully attuned to what’s going on around you. If this is an outdoor-oriented destination, you’re especially in luck. One scientific study discovered that 95% of participants reported a more calm and balanced mood after spending time outside, away from devices.
There’s also an increased level of self-confidence (and more positive self-image), reduction in eye strain and related ailments such as headaches, and more. All in all, it seems that a digital detox can have transformative effects.
You may find that taking a break from technology while on holiday can be transferred easily into your everyday life, too. Many working professionals and families opt for one weekend day without devices. This can be beneficial to everyone in the family, with outcomes such as improved overall health, greater productivity, and stronger interpersonal relationships.
Need Help Getting Unplugged?
Few of us wouldn’t find a digital detox at least somewhat challenging. If you feel like you’re in desperate need of a technology-free holiday, but can’t seem to bring yourself to do it on your own, you may need a helping hand.
Some hotels and resorts are now offering digital detox packages, which are designed to help you have that break with technology that you crave. Depending on where you go, this might include no mobile phones, no television, or other amenities.
If you can’t find a solution like this, you might go full-throttle and choose a destination that makes a digital detox compulsory. In other words, travelling to a remote location, away from any mobile phone signal, or choosing an isolated retreat where technology is off the menu, could be exactly what you need to achieve that digital detox. Feeling the need for a total recharge? You could opt for a completely off-the-grid type of accommodation. With a lack of electricity and other daily luxuries, there’s no doubt that you’d be in for an immersive, even transformative experience with this type of trip.
As with Everything, Balance is Needed
Ultimately, few people will opt to leave their smartphones behind when travelling on holiday. While there’s plenty to distract and entertain us on those irresistible rectangular devices, the vast majority of us genuinely depend on our phones to help us travel better and with greater organisation. For that reason, many will choose to bring their phone along for the trip. Yet there’s room to find the balance, minimising the amount of time spent using the phone during the holiday and making sure to take time to be “in the moment” and technology-free.
Here are some tips for reducing your technology consumption while travelling:
Don’t bring your phone along at mealtimes
Dining out is one of the most enjoyable parts of travelling. It’s also one of the easiest times of day to get sucked into staring at our smartphone screens.
To really focus on devouring the local cuisine and have the richest experience sampling the flavours, leave your phone in the hotel room at mealtimes. Not only will your senses be enlivened as you dine mindfully, this also means you’ll be less distracted and better able to bond with your travel companions over the shared meal.
Place your phone in airplane mode
Here’s an easy trick for limiting your phone time even when you’re not on holiday. Switch your phone into Airplane Mode. In this mode, you can perform some basic tasks on your device, but you won’t be able to receive messages or connect to the Internet. Using Airplane Mode is a good step in the right direction because it means your phone is still available to you but you can escape from constant notifications, updates, and text message sounds. Instant digital detox.
Give yourself ‘social media time’
Going ‘cold turkey’ isn’t always the answer. Many people do better on a digital detox by simply decreasing the time they spend online. If you’re on holiday---and particularly if you need to be engaging on social media, such as for business purposes---set aside a specific time each day (or a couple of times per day, if needed) to get your social media activities out of the way. This should be enough to fulfil your needs (and stoke your addiction to Likes) while still leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy technology-free travels. Be sure to stick to your self-imposed limits, however, as it’s far too easy to get sucked into scrolling your news feed.
What do you think? What do you do with your mobile phone on holiday?