Could you imagine totally disconnecting from the world as you travel? Wild, the popular memoir from Cheryl Strayed and recently turned into a film with Reece Witherspoon as the leading lady, struck a chord with me. The incredible aspect of this novel was not just Strayed's sheer grit and determination to complete a 1000 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail alone, but the fact she did it without tweeting, instagramming or snap chatting. Not once (the Internet was still in its infancy back then) and she survived. For those of us who feel lost when their phone isn't within arm's reach we could learn a lot from Ms Strayed.
Travel is the one time when we allow ourselves to relax, have a change of scene and the opportunity to experience cultures different to the life we lead back home. But for many, this is never fully realised as that digital thread still connects us to our social media accounts wherever we are in the world.
Yes, the internet, smart phones and technology in general has improved and simplified our travelling experience. We can now reserve flights, hotel rooms and restaurant reservations at the touch of a button, we can let our family and friends know we're safe by Facetiming or Skyping, we can read up on reviews to avoid potential dodgy experiences, we can post envy inducing Instagram pics and we can share our trips in an instant via email or blogs.
The internet also provides us with plenty of wanderlust inspiration. From magazine reviews of the IT place to go, tips and tricks to travel cheaper and safer, dreamily gazing at photos of the places you must see, all means you can basically travel without leaving your bed. And herein lies the problem, our holidays and city breaks are no longer time to escape and explore at our own pace, but a manic competition of taking the perfect holiday selfie, rushing through a to-do list ticking off the things you have to see and do before your flight home and recording it all for your followers and friends. FOMO in its finest.
Go on admit it, that one of the first things you do when checking into your accommodation is to scribble down the WIFI code? It's like Walter White's blue meth crack for the modern age. But worry not, it's not just you who struggles to have a digital detox when you travel, other travellers can't switch off either. I celebrated New Year's Eve at a Full Moon Party in Thailand and instead of dancing with blissed out free loving hippies, as these parties used to promise, it was a sea of selfies. The same goes for a Rio hostel I was recently in. I looked around at all these nationalities under one roof and every single person was on their phone or laptop. No one saw the Brazilian lady dancing by herself as some Portuguese love song played on the knackered radio, no one tried to interact with each other, no one asked for the recipe of the home made dulce de leche cake we were stuffing our faces with, they were too busy tweeting than eating. They missed out on these foreign and unusual experiences because of technology.
As a travel blogger I make it my business to immerse myself in the culture and activities of the places I am in, yes sometimes that does mean burying my head in my screen to record it all but I've made a conscious decision to be 'in the moment' more. To take more mental pictures, to appreciate the smaller things, not just if they come with a hashtag. I'm still working on this and I urge you to do the same. When you travel make an effort to connect to the place you are in and not your life back home, that will still be there when you return.