Travel Tips

Disconnected Travel. The Art of Being Present.

January 20, 2015

We are in an age where people prefer to text rather than pick up the phone, catch up with “friends” on Facebook rather than see them in person, or email a colleague rather than walk over to their desk. Connections through the virtual world dominate our daily lives, slowly whittling away at the time we spend creating connections and moments in our real-world.

“Why is it more important for you to engage with the people who are not physically here than the people are?”

Everyday, everywhere we witness couples physically sitting together over dinner. Both are on their phones texting, social networking, or checking emails rather than conversing with each other. Technology has not only increased the pace at which we live, but it has pulled us away from the real-world around us into a virtual space where our minds flutter from one thought to the next. We focus on the past and the future, but rarely in the now.

“How often have you stopped for a minute to look around and notice the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment? To experience the now?”

The irony is that while we are all addicted to our phones and gadgets, we are also yearning to disconnect and be “free”. Increasingly, people are seeking out “black-hole resorts” or mindfulness retreats where they can hand over smartphones and tablets for a digital detox.

My first digital detox experience was at Dr. Yip’s Stress Relief Retreat in Tulum, Mexico. The task was simple: a day of no electronic devices during which we also practiced silent mindfulness meditation. The purpose was to be present. It was not easy at first; I yearned for my phone so I could update my Facebook audience with my status. But as the day progressed, I began to experience a sense of freedom. I took a walk on the beach. Observed the children frolicking and laughing as the ocean waves splashed them. Felt the warm sun beating on my skin and the grains of sand between my toes. Listened to the ocean waves crashing on the beach. Smelled the fresh breeze of air as the wind blew by. I was present. Enjoying the moment. It hit me how rarely, if ever, I actually get to do this in my everyday life. What was even more eye-opening is how pleasant being present felt.

The essence of a vacation is to get what you normally do not get in your everyday life. For many of us, this does not mean always being on-the-go or being constantly over-stimulated. We already get enough of this. What it does mean is an opportunity to connect with people in the real-world; have long, intimate conversations; be in a different place where we can experience something new.

Is it only possible to have these experiences by going to a “black-hole resort” or on a retreat? The answer is no. Although it does make it easier when you’re forced to hand over your devices. However, you can make the decision to disconnect and be present from the moment you begin planning your travel. Consider this. Do you need global coverage while we’re visiting the Great Pyramid or is it just a “nice-to-have” so you can update your Facebook status? Do you need to hit 4 cities in 6 days or can you enjoy your time more by immersing yourself in just one city? Is it necessary to fully plan out each day of your trip? What if you don’t plan your days and just go and spend time having conversations with people? Remember “need” is very different than “want”.

I challenge you on your next trip to disconnect. Make the conscious choice to stop for a minute and indulge in the sensations of being in the present moment.

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