​How to Unplug During Your Vacation

The first thing many of us want to do when we visit an amazing place is reach for our phones to take a picture, post to social media or text a loved one. While we're at it, we may see an email from work, a phone call we missed, or a notification that it's our turn on Words with Friends. Wouldn't vacation be better without these distractions? Here are a few great tips for how to really unplug during travel, so you can live in the moment and truly tune out the rest of the world, while experiencing the best it has to offer.

Unplug On Your Vacation By Following These Useful Tips

Arrange for coverage at work

You may well be an indispensable employee with a lot of people relying on you, but everyone is entitled to mental and physical time off. Inform important people that you will be away, and line up coverage for your urgent tasks. Set an automatic auto-reply on your emails to let everyone else know when you’ll be back. You may still have a mountain of emails to sort through when you get back, but you can rest assured that nobody relying on you will think you’ve gone AWOL.

Leave your laptop at home

These days, laptops can be so light and portable that it’s tempting to take them with you wherever you go. But having one with you means you may get pulled into writing long emails, cruising the internet and generally getting sucked back into a non-vacation headspace. Unless you’re traveling for work there’s no need to take the laptop away with you on vacation. Use your smartphone for any necessary communication and keep it brief.

Avoid temptation to get a local SIM card

You’ve probably seen those signs in the arrivals hall of many airports: free local SIM card if you purchase X amount of credit, and so on. But do you really need one? Local SIMs are good if you’re going to be conducting business in a country, but the average vacationer can book hotels, research destinations, or stay in touch with family without one. Otherwise, it might just be license to spend more time on the phone and less time enjoying the trip.

Explore new places without your phone/camera

When you first arrive in a place, do some exploring without your camera or phone in your pocket. You may worry that you’ll miss out on some wonderful photo opportunity, but in reality you’re more likely to pay close attention to the details without them. Exploring with just your eyes and your senses means that you’ll get a good feel for the place quickly, and you can even make mental notes of ideal places to come back and photograph later. Another option is to go back to basics: Bring a good old point-and-shoot film or digital camera so you can take photos without being tempted to connect to other distractions.

Resist asking for the Wi-fi password at local establishments

Do you really need to check your emails while stopping for a coffee or snack while out sightseeing? Probably not. There’s no need to risk breaking the holiday frame of mind like this, so resist asking for the Wi-Fi password and people-watch instead, or pick up the local newspaper.

Try to stay present and remember your reasons for taking the vacation

Mindfulness and the concept of staying present are not just for hard-core meditators. Attempting to be aware of your surroundings and your behavior is a useful tool, and can help you lead a less stressed, more balanced life. Practice this philosophy while traveling, too. If you’re traveling through the Italian Alps, allow yourself to really be in the Italian Alps. This means avoiding communication that may drag you mentally back to your desk or your cluttered home.

Suggested trips for unplugging:

  • A multi-day river trip in Nepal. Paddling or rafting down a river such as the Sun Kosi, Karnali, or Tamur will really take you out into the wilderness. No Wi-Fi, no cell phone network and no way of charging your electronics.
  • A relaxing cruise in northern Vietnam’s Halong Bay. The limestone peaks jutting out of the water in the 600 square mile bay are more entertaining than television, and if your ship provides Wi-Fi, it’s unlikely to be working properly anyway!
  • Trekking in Ladakh, India. The culturally Tibetan area in the rain shadow of the Himalayas is barren and remote--and notorious for it’s sporadic Wi-Ffi and poor phone network. Fortunately, it’s more famous for its pristine desert landscapes and sublime monasteries.
  • A yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Retreats of all types are designed as refuges from your daily life. At retreat centres, you will often find that only one small area is Wi-Fi enabled, freeing you from the compulsion to check your phone most of the time.

Elen Turner is a Kathmandu-based writer and editor. She has been travelling the world her entire life, and currently provides expertise on Nepal for kimkim.com, an online booking and travel resource.