Once upon a time, traveling with no phone was the norm. Traveling meant packing up your belongings into a single suitcase, boarding a ship, and disappearing into the sunset.
A handwritten letter wass the sole connection between you and your loved ones. You weren’t sure when you will return, yet there was pure excitement at the idea of all the marvelous sights, stories, and exotic delicacies you were going to experience. More than that, perhaps you were traveling to ‘find yourself’. There was no smartphone to snap a photo or pull out during an awkward silence. There were no images to post to instagram. No text from your friend you should have replied to hours ago.
This type of travel sounds so simple to me – and ideal. I wish I could have lived during a time when visiting a tourist attraction or even being on the metro were technology free zones. Standing in front of the Louvre’s Mona Lisa, the crowd seemed full of distracted, exhausted faces jostling for the perfect selfie. People were not appreciating this iconic painting with their bare eyes, they were seeing it through their screens.
If we aren’t present to witness the things we’ve traveled so far to see, then what are we doing?
What is more, a big part of modern-day travel is not about where you are, but about connecting with where you aren’t. Sharing instagram photos of your destination and constantly messaging friends and family back home distracts from the beauty and wholeness of the present moment. It is important to stay connected to people that are close to us and to share our adventures with them. But the desire to share our experiences online so that someone can comment how awesome it is, how we are truly ‘living the life’ – this is not adding to the experience.
This constant sharing makes me wonder, is an experience complete if I experience it completely alone, with no witnesses? I feel like I have a threshold for how much I can share online until I start to feel a bit apathetic about my adventures. I see others’ photos and wish I was somewhere else, looking at an even more striking painting in a more renowned museum.
More than anything, I feel that life is about human connection.
And constant connection to the internet and social media detracts from a travelers experience. Travel (like life) is about connecting with other people. It is about being present and open to the here and now. Our devices make us feel so connected, yet they disconnect us from the sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences in front of us.
I especially have this feeling in cities. Yesterday on the Melbourne metro I closed my eyes and imagined I was alone. It wasn’t hard – there was absolute silence in the metro car filled with almost 50 people. Everyone was someplace else – most morning commuters were distracted by their headphones or their smartphone held centimeters from their nose.
Technology is without a doubt a wonderful tool. It facilitates opportunities for connections, careers, and innovation. However when traveling I feel like the more time I spend on my phone and social media the less meaningful my experience feels. I am less inclined to go to the tourist information site to talk with a real human because it is so much easier to just Google it. I am less inclined to ask someone for directions, less likely to strike up a conversation in my hostel. And all of this completely and indisputably detracts from my experience.
What is more, I find that my phone makes me lazy. it makes me feel like doing less, and the more I am on my phone the more I want to be on my phone. The more I am on Instagram or Facebook, the more I am likely to check my messages. And then I feel disinterested and less enthused by the people and places in front of me because photos and content online is so damn perfect to look at.
Let me repeat – life is about human connection. And for me, traveling in its rawest form is about connecting with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. Spending time staring at a device limits that mutual exchange. It takes away valuable time that could be spent having a thoughtful conversation. Smartphones are designed to be addictive, and it isn’t our fault that they’re so damn distracting. They are designed to appeal into our inner psyche so that we use them more and more.
I choose to travel without a phone because traveling with no phone makes my experiences feel more purposeful and more significant. I feel more engaged with those around me and more inspired to try new things. When I use my phone less I am more introspective and I have more confidence. And I just feel like a happier human being.
However, there are situations and types of people that necessitate carrying a phone. I got a minimal phone plan in New Zealand when I needed to meet up with a friend in a place where there was no wifi – otherwise, however, I stick to phone-plan-free travel. However, If you feel unsafe without a phone for navigation guidance or general safety, a phone might be that one thing that keeps you sane and comfortable enough to have kick-ass adventures.
But if what I’ve talked about makes you curious or feels relatable in any way, consider traveling with no phone. It might surprise you just how truly freeing it is.
That’s all for now, thanks for reading.
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