This is what a digital detox on vacation really looks like

Is it really a holiday if you're still tethered to your phone? A 2019 study published in the Journal of Travel Research found that travelers who chose a digital detox while traveling had a better experience than those who didn’t. Although travelers initially experience anxiety and frustration when disconnected from technology, especially navigation apps, these feelings are quickly replaced by acceptance and enjoyment. What’s more, those who don’t use technology while traveling spend more time interacting with fellow travelers and talking to strangers.

Hey, avoiding talking to strangers is probably one of the reasons you rely on your phone so much. Trust me, I get it. While having a digital crutch can certainly be comforting, it means you may also be missing out on meeting some truly great people.

Dr Brad McKenna of the University of East Anglia's Norwich Business School said in a report: "We found that some participants accepted and enjoyed the disconnected experience immediately, or struggled initially Afterward, while other participants took longer to come to terms with the disconnected experience," the press release states. “Many people also noted that when disconnected, they were more attentive and focused on their surroundings, rather than being distracted by incoming messages, notifications, or alerts from mobile apps.”


While it wasn't long ago that paper maps and payphones were the only ways to stay connected while traveling, the past few decades have made people increasingly reliant on technology. I mean, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t panic if we found ourselves leaving home without our phones? How do you know which route to take, which restaurant to eat at, or what’s going on on social media?

This is especially true if you're a young Millennial and can't remember a time when you weren't constantly in touch. In fact, you may not even realize that technology is exacerbating your anxiety until you stop using it. The study reported that many participants were immediately overwhelmed when they reconnected their devices and saw all the notifications, which is a good way to gauge how a digital ball and chain makes you feel.

That's why disconnecting while traveling is becoming more and more popular. A quick Google search reveals the positive experiences people have when they decide to truly live in the moment instead of embracing a #DoItForTheGram attitude.

“While technology has done so much to help us, I think we’ve really lost one of the most beautiful aspects of travel. Constant distraction prevents us from observing where we are and focusing on the present moment,” says the book How says Matthew Kepnes, author of . Traveling the world on $50 a day ,” Nomadic Matt writes on his blog. “A lot of the time, we’re addicted to our phones, snapping and Instagramming, but never really getting into it” – instead, we’re on our phones or computers Read something online or chat with someone at home.


If you're constantly checking your phone every time you travel, it might be time to see what you're missing. Let's say it's 1999. Leave the phone at home (or at least turn it off and put it away) and grab an old film camera and some paper maps. Discover the joy of getting lost, the joy of taking photos you won’t see after developing them, and the joy of actively interacting with the people and places around you.

Participants in the study noted that some of the best hidden gems during their travels came from word-of-mouth recommendations from locals rather than from websites. If these people had been too busy shouting instead of talking to real humans, they would have likely missed out on what some say is the best part of the trip.

If going on a long vacation without your phone feels too scary, try powering down your device during a weekend getaway. Once you take a break from the virtual world, you might be surprised how much you miss real life.

Research references:

Wenjie Cai, Brad McKenna, Lena Wiesenger. Turn it off: Emotions in digital-free travel. Journal of Tourism Research, 2019; 004728751986831 DOI: 10.1177/0047287519868314