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Posted on Jan 7, 2014 | 18 comments

Travel Tips: Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

Travel Tips: Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

The idea of unplugging from technology while traveling first came to us while we were planning our destination wedding. With the oversharing of intimate moments on Facebook and others making big announcements that aren’t theirs to make on large public platforms, the idea of unplugging during that particular trip quickly became very appealing to us.

Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

An unplugged wedding ceremony meant being present with all of our guests. Photo by Sara Sanger

Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

With a small wedding ceremony on a beach surrounded by friends and family, the thought of being surrounded by faceless bodies with cameras and camera phones for heads just didn’t seem appealing to us. We wanted our guests to be present and in the moment with us. We wanted to look around and see the faces of our loved ones, not the top of their heads. When the time came to go through our wedding photos we wanted to see everyone enjoying the moment, not all looking at their cameras. With this in mind, we decided to inform guests that our wedding ceremony would be unplugged and individual cameras and phones would not be allowed.

For ourselves, we took it a few steps further. There was no posting on Facebook not only during our wedding, but any of our 15 days on Maui. We let people know when we left for the wedding and when we got back, but that was it. We didn’t engage with any forms of social media, post pictures, or even change our marital status until we returned home. Even with now writing about our travels and sharing our experience through social media, we still try to unplug from technology as much as possible while traveling.

Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

Travel is the perfect time to unplug from technology.

The Case for Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

Travel is meant to help us unplug, learn from other cultures, have new experiences, and enrich our lives. If we are always connected to technology and have our faces buried in little screens, how can we truly disconnect while traveling? The answer is easy, we can’t.

Thinking that it can is missing the whole point of travel in the first place. Being connected to technology at all times, impedes our authentic travel experience and results in us missing all that travel has to offer us. Technology distractions create a barrier from us learning from the sights and sounds of our travel surroundings while also causing us to miss once in a lifetime moments.

We live our lives surrounded by technology; immersed in a world of cell phones, tablets, laptops, email, and social media. We check our email while in meetings, send a text message at a red traffic light, and update our Facebook status while watching TV.  There is rarely a time in our day to day lives that there is not some gadget or form of social media competing for our attention.

With digital photography exploding over the past few years and almost everyone and their mom now having a camera on their phones, everyone likes to think that they’re a photographer. Even though most of them are not. When traveling, we now see way too many people snapping away the whole time on their cameras. Their faces staring into their LCD screens and many with their heads turned down. Sure, they are smiling, but they are all looking at these silly little screens. Have we reached a point where our lives have become over documented?

Connecting with Others While Traveling

One of the great joys of traveling is the authentic connections we make with others while traveling. We have met some great people who have gone on to become great friends while we were traveling. The people we met in the places we visited have provided some of our best experiences.

Travel is meant to connect us to the people of the places we visit. If we always have our noses buried in some gadget or social media platform, how can we connect with those we came to learn more about? You can always go back and revisit a certain destination, but you will never get the chance to connect with the same people or learn the same lessons.

Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

Unplugging from technology can help you reconnect with yourself.

Disconnecting From Home

When we choose to stay fully connected back home through technology, we miss out on the full travel experience. We miss out on the whole reason to travel. Think of how much time you will give up every day when you stay connected to home that you could spend exploring?

10 minutes here and there, quickly adds up to an hour. An hour a day quickly adds up to 7 hours per week. That’s a whole afternoon adventure per week that you could be learning about a new culture and connecting with those around you while getting an insider’s insight and making new friends.

Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

What little things do you miss when plugged into technology all of the time?

When to Unplug From Technology While Traveling

At what point do we draw a line in the sand, and put technology down? How and when you unplug while traveling is going to be different for every traveler, but everyone can unplug in some way. Yes, even those who run websites and write about their adventures while traveling, like us. If we can do it, you can too.

7 Tips to Unplug From Technology While Traveling

  • Go Somewhere You Can’t Get a Signal

One of the easiest ways to be able to unplug from technology while traveling, is to go somewhere you can’t get a signal on your phone, tablet, laptop, or digital camera. Activities that stop your ability to be constantly connected to others through technology, can automatically give you time to be unplugged. Go for a swim and put some water between you and the constant bombardment of social media.

  • Be Present

Too many of us interrupt an in-person conversation with another to check social media. We can’t even check-out of a store without getting off our phones. Frankly, it’s rude. Be in the moment and interact with those around you. You aren’t going to miss anything on social media by putting it off for a bit, but you will miss the opportunity to enjoy the moment. When you are present you are a better person, partner, friend, and family member. Something that makes you more enjoyable to be around.

  • Take Off Your Headphones

You know what message it says when you wear your headphones all of the time? That you can’t be bothered. Those who can’t be bothered miss out on life going on around them. Not to mention you miss out on using all of your scenes to experience the place you have traveled to. How will you get to hear the hum of a new place, the dialects used there, the birds that sing, and everything else waiting to be heard if you always have your headphones on?

  • Turn Off Your Technology during Meals

Give yourself a chance to really taste your food. Take your time to enjoy your surroundings, the flavor of the fig you are eating, and the texture of it in your mouth. Provide yourself with plenty of time to relax, sit back, and enjoy your meal. If you are spending all of your time eating while also checking your Facebook, Twitter, email, or Instagram your food, you are missing half of the experience of having a meal. Not to mention, you are missing out on the opportunity to connect with locals and learn something from them about the culture of their food.

  • Put Down the Camera

I love taking pictures and take pictures of almost everything around me to document not only our travels, but also our lives. Yet, there is a point where it can be too much. If you are missing being present in the moment, you are taking too many pictures. Of course, take pictures, but also take the time to put the camera down and take in your surroundings.

I use to be someone that loved getting their picture taken. Then I met someone who took so many pictures, all the time that I started to hate having my picture taken. You just don’t need a picture of everything or every moment. They had to have a picture in the middle of eating, they had to have a picture when you stopped by their house for a second, and they had to have a picture just because. They wasted so much time trying to get a picture or five of whatever was happening that it made the whole experience horrible. It taught me how much more important it was to put the camera down and enjoy where I was instead of only being concerned with documenting it.

Next time you are somewhere new and have the sudden need to get as many photos as possible, stop. Stop and be present. Make and preserve a memory by absorbing every detail around you using all of your senses. What do you hear, smell, taste, feel, and see? I promise it will be better than any photograph you may take.

  • Send a Postcard

People love getting old fashion, real in your hands mail. It’s such a novelty, that it brings an instant smile to anyone’s face to find a postcard from a friend among the pile of junk mail. Stay connected with friends and family by sending postcards of your travels instead of sending an email or updating your Facebook message. They will mean so much more to the receiver and connect in a more authentic way.

Unplugging From Technology While Traveling

A day at the beach is the perfect time to unplug. Photo by Sara Sanger.

Pledge at Least One day Per Week to Being Free of Technology

There’s an expectation today that we always need to be connected, but we don’t. Give yourself permission to turn off your gadgets for a day or two per week to really connect with your surroundings and those around you. Especially while traveling. There is so much more you could be doing then checking the latest score for your favorite team or posting a picture of your feet on the beach.

Unplugging from technology while traveling will give you more unexpected moments. Even just unplugging for a little bit every day will provide some real benefits. As travelers, we like to think of ourselves as fearless and sovereign while we give up certain comforts to achieve an understanding that may be difficult to find in our lives back home. Don’t let technology distract you from experiencing truly fulfilling and real travel experiences by disconnecting from the real life taking place around you. You may never have that experience again. Unplug, be in the present, and don’t miss out on a moment of your travels.

Would you consider unplugging from technology while traveling?

All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2014, unless otherwise noted.

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About Kimmy Hayes


Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.

18 Comments

  1. This makes A LOT of sense!
    I love sharing our travels and being connected while on the road, but some days it’s important to pause and make an effort not to “go somewhere else” with technology and be present 100% where you are, only with the people who are there. It’s healthy to keep that balance and live in the moment!
    Zara @ Backpack ME recently posted…How I got my US visa and the characters I encountered!My Profile

  2. Thank you for adding “put down the camera.” I don’t know when it became a badge of honor to come home from a trip with 2,000 photos, but it just feels like we’ve started “commodifying” travel by insisting on bringing home theis “proof” that we were there. Relax.
    Julia recently posted…Budgeting, booking airfare, and more: My most popular posts of 2013My Profile

    • Unfortunately, relaxing is so hard for some of us these days. I love taking pictures, but it’s good to take a break from it sometimes.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…14 Travel Blogs to Read in 2014My Profile

  3. I actually (accidentally) found myself in a situation in Turkey a few years ago where I had NO gadgets. None. I thought I was gonna die for the first few phone free hours. But, you start to not only get used to it but also kind of appreciate the disconnect. Personally, I tend to like being connected. I like the safety aspect of having cell service too. However, I do think that giving yourself time to completely disconnect from all the technology & social media out there is important to experiencing life in general :)
    Kirsten recently posted…My Next Adventure!My Profile

    • very true, Kirsten. When ever I start to tell myself I need to stay connected to stay safe, I remind myself that before all of this technology, I never had a problem staying safe.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Kauai Coffee CompanyMy Profile

  4. This is a great post, Kimmy! So true – we all just need to be a bit more present. We have always had a rule of no phones at the table, and I think it helps us engage in conversation and focus on either yourself or your dining partner. I will vow to take one day off a week – great idea!! :)
    Phoebe (Short Road to Happy) recently posted…5 Tips for a Happy MorningMy Profile

  5. This is a nice thing to do in theory, but I don’t think I can do this without a lot of preparation beforehand. I need the Internet for business and freelance work, so even in slow weeks, I’d want to be connected so I know right away if there’s something urgent to take care of. Unplugging might make me more nervous, unfortunately!

    Glad it worked out for you, though. You had a beautiful wedding. :)
    Deia @ Nomad Wallet recently posted…The Only 3 Pieces of Exercise Equipment You Need (They All Fit in a Carry-On!)My Profile

    • Thanks. You could try doing it for a day, Deia. Let clients know before hand you won’t be available for the day and set up an automated email to go out. We could all use a break at times.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…Viewing Kauai WaterfallsMy Profile

  6. Such a genius idea for your wedding. Having everyone, including yourselves, unplug is really awesome. Sometimes, when you are so busy taking photos, you forget to actually look around!!

    Great tips also, I should really take this advice! :)
    Jessica Wray recently posted…How To Know If Teaching in Spain is Right for YouMy Profile

  7. Good evening,

    Your wedding looks lovely ! For this kind of very special day, I would agree with you… and for people with “regular jobs” (whatever that means…) too. But as a travel and hotel blogger, I have to say : no connection = no revenue, no picture = no photography travel to live with.. (thank God we meet so many people while traveling) I think it depends on what you do for a living (even if it’s a passion). Today I would kill for a few days where being totally unplugged has no consequences at all !

    Have a nice day
    Sophie
    Sophie recently posted…Les cinémas VIP à Bangkok : une expérience de dingue en Thaïlande!My Profile

  8. I travel a lot and work online but this article is a great reminder to enjoy the present and slow the pace down. Glad I read it.

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