Our trip to Taiwan was in a word, wonderful. We loved seeing the sights of the city of Taipei, going to the zoo, and most of all, scootering through Taroko Gorge on the East Coast of Taiwan. But the main reason we so enjoyed our Taiwan trip was the fact that we were (nearly) completely disconnected from media. It’s funny that that seems like such a daring thing to do now – to travel internationally without phones. Just a few short decades ago it would have been odd to take a phone or computer on vacation with you. It was AMAZING. It made us realize how intrusive our devices could be.
We did take a small iPad for movies on the plane and in the hotel room, but we left our phones and other devices at home in a safe. Honestly, it gave me a moment of panic to do this. But we had already decided to try this trip as “minimalists” in regards to our packing (we only took two carry-on bags for our family of five), so this was really an obvious step to take.
We bought a data chip for our iPad when we got to Taipei (the airport had places selling them); it was our “emergency backup” connection. John of course still had to be reachable for work, so it worked for that, and we were able to get in touch with family if anything went wrong.
We didn’t hop on Facebook; we didn’t send texts and messages.
We just enjoyed being with our littles and watching them discover new things. We took in the sights of new cities without distraction. We had conversations and finished them without checking google for something. We walked places without pulling up a map app and getting distracted mid-sentence. It was awesome.
In fact, I went totally old school and printed out maps before our trip. We had a map for each day that included the area we planned to cover, along with route and transit options. These came in handy.
I have to admit it was a bit of a detox for me. The first few evenings when I settled down to nurse Violet and breathed a sigh of relief at being back in our apartment I instinctively reached for my phone. I realized it was definitely a habit I wanted to break. So I determined to trade the habit of picking up my phone for picking up a book. I managed to finish half of the book I had packed in the 10 day trip. It’s amazing what you have time for when you aren’t so distracted!
The kids did enjoy watching the newly released Moana on our trip, mostly in the evenings before bed. In fact, anytime they’ve watched it since it brings back memories of being in our tiny apartment in the Wanhua District of Taipei. My husband and I watched a movie or two over the 10 day trip as well, after the kids went to sleep, but we refrained from surfing the web or browsing Facebook and Instagram.
The only bad thing about unplugging on vacation was that when it was time to go home I didn’t want my devices back! I seriously contemplated giving up my smart phone and switching it out for a flip phone. But I was reminded that practicing self control is a good thing. Ultimately, I kept my iPhone, but I don’t use it as often now. I allow myself to disconnect from it throughout the day. I’ve forgotten it when leaving the house a few times recently, and I didn’t go back for it. I didn’t really need it for where I was going, and when I got home it sat there blank – no shocking emergency texts from people (imagine that!).
I still read (a real book, not on a device) in the evenings rather than using my phone. I’ve finished two books this past month and started a new one! Sound enticing?
If you want to unplug for your next vacation, here are my tips:
- take a new book you’ve been wanting to read, but “haven’t had the time” for.
- be honest with yourself about the detox, know that it’s not going to be easy.
- have some sort of emergency backup for being reached (maybe checking your email at an internet cafe a couple times or taking an iPad if you can use self-control, and only use it for an occasional check-in).
- print out a few maps of the area where you’ll be staying and exploring. I kept ours in a small folder with sheet protectors.
- print out boarding passes, hotel reservations and information for transit, especially to and from the airport (these were also kept in the folder for easy access).
- bring a little satchel with some colored pens/pencils and a small notebook or coloring book for your kiddos.
- lock your devices up in a safe in your home.
- before you leave let your closest friends and/or family know that you’ve unplugged and that you’ll get in touch when you get back home.
- breathe deeper, see more, and be there – enjoy your device-free vacation!
What do you think? Does it sound ridiculous to you to travel without devices? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!