The latest trend in family holidays is the ‘tech-free detox.’ If you can’t go more than five minutes without checking for a blinking red light on your Blackberry, updating your Facebook status or tweeting from your mobile, or if you and your iPad are joined at the touchscreen, perhaps it’s time to leave it all behind and get back to what a holiday is all about: relaxing and recharging…no, not that kind of recharging!
According to William Powers, author of a book about building quality of life in the digital age, the problem lies not with the devices themselves, but in “how we are using them. We’ve simply gone overboard, surrendered too much of our lives to our little screens.” And as we welcome more and more gadgets into our lives, real connections with loved ones are lost. That’s not to mention the physical damage caused by staring at a tiny screen all day, things like blurred vision, poor performance, lack of sleep and the cost to personal relationships.
The tech-free holiday has gone international, spurred by a new initiative of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority. The Caribbean island has long been a favourite destination for family holidays, but many resorts are now offering special rates and incentives for those who are willing to leave the laptop at home. Some places even provide a ‘de-tech’ life coach to help holidaymakers find more balance in their everyday lives.
The move by St. Vincent and the Grenadines came on the heels of a recent survey by American Express that revealed some disturbing results:
About 79% of travellers polled said they remained connected on holiday. 72% checked personal email, 68% said their communications were work-related and 27% checked in on their social networks regularly. Almost as many people said they believed that a tech-free detox would improve their personal relationships, give them more time for friends and loved ones, and help them become better people.
In the US, many popular holiday destinations are also offering tech-free family holidays, complete with special rates and events for travellers who agree to totally unplug. You turn in your devices at check-in and don’t get them back until you leave. Rooms are bereft of TVs, phones and wireless access. Guests can choose from old-fashioned activities like board games, hiking, camping and other wholesome, “mind detoxifying” diversions.
If you think a tech-free family holiday sounds ideal, be sure to make some basic preparations first. You should check and answer all emails, personal or job-related. Follow up on important business, and inform other friends and family about your plans, travel schedule, itineraries, etc. In case of an emergency, you want people to know where you are.
It takes a leap of faith to go tech-free on holidays in Turkey, Spain, Greece or any other popular family holiday destinations. But you’re almost certain to experience an unexpected sense of peace once all the beeping and blinking and buzzing and ringing has stopped.