Holidays and happiness: Next time you travel, leave your phone behind

Put your phone down. Not now, of course – you could be reading this story on your phone and that would be terrible for my metrics. Next time you travel though, it really is time to sever your attachment to the cyber world. It's time to ditch your mobile.

Stick with me here. I understand that travel plans right now are fluid and ultimately fantastic, and that mostly you're thinking of where you might go in this amazing future, what you might do, who you might see, what you might eat and drink and experience. The possibilities are endless; they're almost overwhelming.

And so, let me help by taking something away. Allow me to suggest that rather than consider what you want to take with you on your first overseas holiday after so much time spend locked away, you make the decision now to leave something behind. Your phone.

These past 18 months, we've been bombarded by news, by information, by opinion, by fear (and yes, thanks, I see the irony). We've taken on vast amounts of knowledge that just weren't useful not so long ago. This time in 2019 I reckon I could have named maybe two or three Australian state premiers and yet now I know them all and I know everything about them, the way they act, the way they think, and the time they tend to schedule their daily press conference.

We've all become obsessed with numbers that never even used to exist. How many cases today? How many hospitalisations, how many in ICU? How many days in lockdown now? How far can we move today? How many likes, how many shares, how many absolute bin fires of public debate can we scroll through and get involved in?

It has taken a collective toll. We've changed, these last 18 months, as you can only expect in a global pandemic the likes of which none of us have ever experienced before. It's been hard. It will continue to be hard.

So that's as good a reason as any to ensure that when you do get a break, when you do finally get to travel again, you do it properly. No tether. No anger. No numbers. No updates. No fear.

No phone.

I've never been much of a proselytiser for the idea of mindfulness, but now it does seem vital. Successful travel in the future, enjoyable travel, travel that does what it should do and takes you away from your home and your cares and into another world, is going to have to be a conscious experience, a mindful experience. I don't want to get all boomer on you – "Not a cell phone in sight!" – but this could actually be the key to future travelling happiness.

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What an opportunity this next trip will be to check out of the world we've become used to and become immersed in another. Look up from your phone and look around at the world. Sit in a foreign café and just stare at passers-by for hours on end. Nurse a drink in a bar and strike up conversations with strangers, such a vital experience we haven't had for so long. Walk around a city and just let the whole thing wash over you, the language, the architecture, the aromas, the textures, the personalities.

Stop obsessing over what's happening in your hand. Stop thinking about getting the perfect photo, the image to put on your Instagram to impress people back home. Stop seeing the world you're supposed to be exploring through a subconscious viewfinder, checking for good angles, thinking about colours, capturing meals. Stop taking photos altogether.

This won't be easy. I'm as obsessed with doom-scrolling and photographing my coffee as the next person. Lockdowns do nothing to help break the addiction a lot of us have to these little buzzing boxes of endless information in our pockets.

I can also accept and understand the impossibility of this advice. There's a very good chance that wherever you travel to next you will actually need your phone in order to prove your vaccination status, along with doing things such as organising PCR tests and checking the news for any changes of restrictions.

Still, you can make a conscious effort to separate yourself from your phone in a psychological sense next time you travel, to stop checking emails several times an hour, to stop updating social media or seeing who else has done so, to stop reading the news, to stop taking photos, to stop caring what is happening in other people's worlds and to just concentrate on your own.

Maybe you can do that by making sure you don't have data roaming and can only log onto the internet via Wi-Fi. Maybe you can do it by storing your phone in a daypack or somewhere else so it's not in easy reach. Whatever you choose, it's time to untether. It's never been more important.

The opportunity to travel presents us with the opportunity to break from this cyber world, to get out there and enjoy reality without news, without updates, without numbers, without bin-fires, without fear. You might not be able to ditch your phone entirely but you can certainly make the effort to break its shackles.

And fear not: the updates will be waiting for you when you get home.

Do you think it's important to break from technology when the travel world recommences? Will you be able to separate from your phone? What are your tips for achieving a digital detox?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

Twitter: twitter.com/bengroundwater

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See also: Ten fundamental things I've already forgotten about travelling

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