Vacation seems to be no exception to the new rule that we are all accessible 24 hours per day. Communication seems to have taken over our lives. E-mail, texting, and social media are always in our back pockets (or purses). It’s no longer just a convenience.
Cruise lines, resorts, and phone companies have all gladly built systems to accommodate those workaholics, social mediaholics, and parents with separation anxiety trying to have a romantic getaway who just can’t seem to disconnect. One of the most common questions I get from cruise shoppers is how they can access WiFi on the ship. A few cruise lines will even include the WiFi for free. But what’s the real benefit? Hasn’t this stuff overrun our lives? What happened to the days of “Gone Fishin’?”
I submit that we should backtrack in time to the days before technology took over. When you board the cruise ship, put your phone in airplane mode and leave it there until you return home. There are only a small handful of things that truly need your attention when you’re on vacation. Your family and friends with whom you are traveling are at the top of that list. There are undoubtedly reasons why some folks want to maintain the ability to connect with home, but why not keep it to a minimum? Why not do what you went on vacation to do in the first place? Have a different experience, and get a change of scenery.
I was recently forced (by spotty WiFi) to put the phone down and be present in the moment. This is what I saw:
Oh, look! I’m out on the ocean.
Oh, HEY, Cuba! (Look closely, and you can see it. But only if you’re paying attention and not looking at your phone.)
Oooh, another ship. I wish I had brought binoculars. Note to self for next cruise . . .
Now Cuba is so close, I can almost touch it. (We were just sailing past it, though.)
And this view was a great backdrop for my reflections on the way home:
I spent considerable time on my balcony, just staring at the sea. I had to time to think, pray, and write in my journal. I did some yoga out there, drank some coffee, and contemplated life with the gentle splash from the bow as background music. When I left my stateroom, I ate some meals in peace, without scrolling through my newsfeed or reading Huffpost. Other meals were taken in the company of new friends, who I never would have met with my nose pointed at my phone or tablet. We all toted our phones around, but only to be used as cameras. By the end of the week, I felt reacquainted with myself. There was no noise in my head from the latest political articles on Facebook, because I hadn’t read them. And they didn’t matter to me.
When we returned to the dock in Miami, I hesitantly switched my phone out of airplane mode. When I did, the thing buzzed for a good 60 seconds with notifications, texts, etc. Stuff happened while I was gone, like getting summoned for jury duty, a friend announcing she was moving away, bills coming in, an emergency allergy shot for my son. But guess what? Everyone and everything was okay until I got home. The world did not fall apart because I went away for a week. After my electronics were back on, I found that I had learned not to reach for the blasted things every 10 seconds.
I came home refreshed, rested, and happy. And always ready to go back and do it again! Never again will I have to be forced to unplug. I can’t wait until the next time I get to do it.
So, take my advice, and totally unplug on your next trip.
Be present in the moment.
You won’t regret it.
Azalea Travel, Proud member of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents)