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A New Year's Resolution Worth Making

Posted: Wednesday, January 1, 2014

If you make New Year's Resolutions about diet, exercise, or general self-improvement, the odds are you won't keep them. Don't be discouraged, breaking old habits takes time. But here is one that doesn't require you to sweat, make radical changes, or deprive yourself. Implement it and I guarantee it will change your experience of travel this year.

Disconnect from your electronic devices (smartphones, tablets) when you travel for pleasure. 

In the last 10 years I have too often seen peoples' vacations mentally ended by getting news from home or the outside world that they could do absolutely nothing about - but that took their attention from the present and diverted it to needless anxiety.

While cellphones without internet connectivity (i.e. dumb phones) can be distracting, the problem is much worse with smart phones: we not only risk getting interrupted by phone calls, but most of us, as long as our phone is on, will also check email, get text messages, and maybe even surf the web. All those activities shift our focus away from where we are and who we are with.

John Muir said "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." 

So let's look at the most common objections to going without and examine some possible solutions.

1. Work has to be able to reach me! Really? Yes, expectations have changed. But mostly we are complicit in allowing those changes to happen and it's time we started fighting back. Twenty years ago, work couldn't contact you and the economy was doing just fine. Would they refuse to allow you to go on vacation if you were going someplace without cell reception (there are still places like that). Of course not. If that's really not possible, then either get a cheap dumb phone just for incoming calls or vacation some place that has a landline and tell them to call you if it's urgent. If your boss or coworkers can't just shoot off a quick email, you are likely to find that all those crucial matters can actually wait for a week.

2. My family has to be able to reach me! Particularly if you have aging parents or kids who are still at home, this can be important to your peace of mind when you're away. But that doesn't mean you have to leave your smartphone on. If you are part of a group tour, leave the phone number of the company running the tour and tell your family to call them. Or ask for your guide's phone number and leave that. If you're traveling with friends, set up a rotating schedule for who has their phone on and leave that with your family. Or get a dumb phone just for your trips. Even just having a few days without connectivity will be refreshing. 

3. I use my cellphone for a camera! Two possible solutions here. One is to turn your phone to Airplane mode so you can't get calls or emails. If you know you don't have self-control, buy yourself a camera. Really, decent digital cameras are so inexpensive these days. Your mental health is worth it!

Bottom line: The purpose of vacation is to break clear away from your every day life. Electronic devices, particularly those that are internet-connected, get in the way. Leave them at home. If you can't do that, leave it buried at the bottom of your pack and check it once a day (max). Decide how to minimize your use, even if its only for a day. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Happy New Year!!

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