For a better travel experience, put your phone away
We're a generation that is consumed by technology. Phones have developed way past just communication - they give us directions, weather, sports scores and the entire Web browser all in one touch. The efficiency of getting in touch and getting information fast has never been better, but there's some downsides to becoming so invested in staring at screens. Technology has become a social crutch. It's one that helps us avoid awkward encounters or direct communication because we can always be looking down. It allows us to become out of touch with reality.
When I travelled abroad, I didn't buy any data so I relied only on wifi. And even then, I wouldn't go out of my way to connect just to update my Instagram. I didn't rely on google maps to get me anywhere - I relied on people, personal sense, and good old paper maps. I talked to strangers, people I sat next to on planes, trains and buses and developed a relationship with reality. Being without my phone enhanced my travel in a way that helped me experience my adventures to the fullest possible ways.
Instead of trying to get the perfect photo for social media display, I took as many pictures of places as I could just to keep for myself. I took my pictures, then I tucked my phone right back into my pocket. Facebook, twitter and Instagram were the farthest thing from my mind because I was enjoying the view in front of me.
Communication is another thing that becomes lost when we keep our contacts close when traveling. There were a lot of times where I didn't have access to get in touch with anyone - I was either out of any kind of wifi range or in the middle of nowhere (usually the second) but that gave me the opportunity to talk to those around me. I met people from all over the world, young and old, like-minded and totally different people I never would have met otherwise. And without my "social crutch" of trying to occupy my hands or looking down at a screen, approaching people for a casual conversation becomes a lot easier.
Going tech-free allowed me to experience my travels organically. Getting lost is all part of the adventure. I was never afraid to go up to strangers and ask for direction even if we didn't speak the same language. I discovered that most people are willing to help you if you just ask - especially so, if you're giving them your full attention and not preoccupied. The world is full of a lot of good people despite what our instinctive cynicism says. Go find them.
Even at the end of the day when I'm back at my hostel or hotel, I still try to keep being on my phone to a minimum. This gave me the chance to reflect on my day or journal my experiences instead of getting on social worrying about FOMO of what other people are doing. I loved living in a way that seems old-fashioned to us now. A good adventure with a long break from technology helped me build confidence by getting used to having real conversations instead of texting and I was concerned with what only I was doing instead of my friends.
Go forth and see the world. And for a better, healthier and more natural experience, go tech-free. x