Take a Digital Holiday

 

June 2014

It used to be that the dog days of summer were languid months filled with spare time and possibility. Now summer is just like every other season of the year, only hotter, and maybe you take a vacation. Whether you're jetting off or not, there is a way to recapture the joy of summer's freedom: unplug.

Put down those tablets and smart phones. Turn off the wifi and the data. Unplugging results in a lot of found time that you can use to reestablish connections with your loved ones, your creativity, and your focus. So in the spirit of those long-gone days of summer whimsy, here are tips to unplug this summer, whether you're packing up or staying in.

Why unplug?

There are a lot of health reasons to take a time-out on the digital world: text neck, disrupted sleep, dissatisfaction with life — all symptoms of the digital lifestyle. There are a lot of social reasons to unplug, too — taking time away from your phone, tablet, or laptop means you have more time to take a look at the people you spend your time with and actually say something to them.

Finally, unplugging can improve your focus on the personal and professional fronts. More focus allows us to connect better with the people around us, concentrate on and complete tasks at hand, and enjoy life's quiet and poignant moments. It also gives us more time during the day to be productive, instead of giving in to distractions.

Unplugging on vacation

If you happen to be jetting out of the country, digitally disconnecting will be a logistically simpler exercise. Don't get your international data plans, don't pick up a SIM card at the airport; just turn off your wifi and data access at takeoff and don't turn it back on again. There's an added bonus of not subscribing to an international phone and data plan: the hefty costs of accessing data without the right plan act as a deterrent for taking a phone out of airplane mode.

If you're staying domestic, you can always pretend you're going international and keep the phone in airplane mode. The last things your vacation needs are disruptive phone calls and intermittent text pings, so if you must remain accessible, turn your phone on silent and check emails or social media at designated intervals. Try a similar tactic with wifi and/or data; turn off your data and connect only via wifi once or twice a day for a specific length of time, say 20 minutes.

And no matter where you're going, consider just not packing the laptop. In addition to leaving behind one more tether to the digital world, you'll have more valuable carry-on weight and space.

It's likely you'll need a buddy to help keep you on track, at least for the first few days. Make an unplugged pact with your travel companion or, if you're traveling solo, set alarms that indicate when you should disconnect (but don't set them for when you should connect — forgetting a Facebook session means you're probably doing something way better with your time, anyway).

Doing a digital disconnect is important not just for the chic credentials of disconnecting; it will help you get more out of your vacation. Instead of photographing — and subsequently Instagramming — every drink, activity, or view, put the device away and engage with the three dimensional world. You may notice more details and remember your vacation better by virtue of being present.

Unplugging on staycation or no-cation

It can seem easier to disconnect when you physically change locations, but when you're taking time off in a familiar locale, it's much more comfortable to keep up your digital habits. Instead, whether you're staycationing at home or at a nearby hotel, turn off your devices and put them physically out of sight in a location that's not convenient, like the pantry or on the top shelf of the guest room closet.

If you're not even staycationing, you can arrange for micro-staycations on the weekends. For example, take a no-devices-allowed lunch or dinner vacation. Round up your family, friends or colleagues for a meal and make a deal: all cell phones in the middle of the table. Whoever reaches for their phone first pays for the whole meal. If you have willpower, you can keep your lunch money, and also help you and your companions recapture the magic of conversation. Instagram will survive if you don't post a pic of your lunch.

Try unplugging for 24 hours over the weekend and use your newfound time to pursue the hobbies or passions you may have put on the back burner. You may worry about how people will get in touch with you if they need you, but remember: it's only 24 hours, and unplugging doesn't mean you have to give up the telephone function of your phone. If people need you, they can reach you — just not by text, email, or social media — without leaving you at the mercy of notifications that invoke a Pavlovian response.

It also means you can reach people if you need them — by calling them. Telephoning is a much more thoughtful act on two fronts: first, it's easy to pretend you're listening to those around you while shooting off a quick text, but if you're on the phone, you need to be mindful of those around you and carve out a few moments and excuse yourself. Second, it doesn't subject the person you're calling to the whimsy of a text, and they can choose to take a moment to accept your call or not, rather than dividing their attention between their task and your text.

Excellent non-digital replacements

When you start out your disconnection, you'll probably feel withdrawal for a few days. Here are some activities that can keep you from reaching out for your device and can take you from idle time on an airplane to a 24-hour staycation:

  • Read a (physical) book, newspaper or magazine
  • Take a walk
  • Strike up a conversation with the person next to you
  • Daydream
  • Doodle
  • Bake a treat or cook a special meal
  • Listen to the radio on the radio
  • Visit a museum, park or historical landmark
  • Try a new restaurant or go back to an old favorite
  • Have friends over for a good old-fashioned no device party
  • Start a journal and write in it
  • Play cards
  • See a movie in the theater
  • Go to a play, concert, stand-up show, or other performance
  • Take up your old hobbies and passions or discover new ones
  • Sign up for a class and learn to do something (language, art, music, engineering, car repair — anything that interests you)
  • Meditate
  • Leverage the lack of ancillary noise for critical thinking

So go forth into the summer's steamy days and recapture a bit of the season's whimsy. Chances are you'll be surprised how liberating unplugging is, and remember: If Ariana Huffington can manage it, you can, too. Take the challenge to value yourself; your productivity, passion and creativity; and those closest to you by taking the focus off your screen and out to the world around you.

About BurrellesLuce

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