Everyone needs a vacation every once in a while. It's healthy and you should take one if you haven't this year. Beach? Sure. Europe? Go for it. Hell, pitch a tent in your own backyard and don't talk to anyone for a weekend if that's all you can manage. But a vacation isn't a vacation unless you really really get away from the minutiae of your everyday existence. Question is, how do you do that without also stripping out the conveniences of technology?
I spent the first 10 days of August off the internet in the Rocky Mountains with my family and at a music festival with some friends. It was lovely and wonderful to spend time with people who are normally dispersed in different cities across the country, but the destination really could have been anywhere. For me, the key was relaxing by making the trip a perfect tech-free oasis.
See, there are those of us who have let the internet seep inside of their very souls, and take control of every pore of their existence. You know who you are—and this guide is for you. But it's also hopefully a reminder for everyone else, who doesn't lead a baleful tech-shackled life, but could still probably do with getting their nose out of their phone a little more often.
In everyday life, the conveniences of technology are often in lockstep with the ways it clutters our lives right back up. Here are a few suggestions for keeping the good, and holding off the hectic, at least for a week or so:
1. Don't pack your laptop
All your laptop is going to do is tempt you to binge on your TV series of choice of the moment and spend too much time on Facebook—like you already do at work. Just leave it. If you want to read, you can try cracking a book, or taking your Kindle instead.
In the event you are a more balanced human being capable of steeling yourself from getting online even when you are on your computer, try disabling the Wi-Fi. That way you can sit down and write, if you enjoy writing, or look at photos you took during the day with your friends or family.
2. Delete work email from your phone
If you don't, it's always there reminding you of the stresses back in your real life, and there's that temptation to just peek in to see if you're missing out on anything. You're not. You need to forget about it for a few days—the relaxation builds exponentially the farther out you get. Turn on a vacation reminder and let that slough off that sense of urgency that those TPS reports haven't been filed while you're out. And while you're at it, yank your work calendar account, too.
3. Turn off notifications for Facebook, Twitter, et al
Ignorance is bliss. Cut out the social media temptation you might have. Not seeing that little message telling your neighbors just invited you to a party on their roof will immediately dwarf any fear of missing out tenfold. If you can't help yourself even then, just delete the whole damn app.
4. Change your whole homescreen, actually
In fact, just change your whole homescreen around. Think about it: regularly, you want your phone or tablet to be as efficient as possible for conveying information, and for launching you into tasks you typically want to or have to do. On vacation, though, there isn't really the same need to have, say, your your email or RSS right up front. You don't need that calendar widget showing you exactly when your next appointment is. Giz staffer Kyle Wagner likes to replace the slot that work email usually inhabits with a Pokédex app when he's away, for instance.
You're probably not going to ditch your whole phone—you'll have to pry it away from my heavily booby-trapped corpse—but you can make it more pleasant to be around.
5. Plan ahead
In some cases, tech can make your trip better. Maybe you need GPS, so go ahead and bring a standalone navigation system, or buy an app ahead of time so you're not falling into some App Store rabbithole losing hours on your smartphone when you could be out hiking. Consider digging up your old iPod classic. It has a huge hard drive and no distractions.
6. Make rules and stick to them:
Alright, confession: I Instagrammed while I was gone. But that's OK—the point is to relax, not spend your entire vacation feeling like you're in heroin withdrawal.
Instagram was the only internetting I allowed myself while I was gone. I wanted to capture moments I had with my three young nieces riding the gondola at Breckenridge and share some snapshots of my friends dancing like idiots in Golden Gate Park. Memories, and all that sappy stuff were irresistible. You might choose to completely exile yourself from the internet. Or maybe you need to check your personal email once a day, just in case. Whatever you decide is a-okay, make it a firm plan from the beginning, and don't flake on it.
7. Figure out what works for you
There are varying levels of what this means for different people. I, for one, have little to no self-control. When my flight from Denver to San Francisco was cancelled, I was biting my nails composing quippy tweets about spending the night in the Denver Airport Days Inn that no one would ever read because I'd never send them. It was somewhat of a personal triumph not to harass United Airlines on every social media platform imaginable like I normally would. That's exactly why I opted for a near total internet deportation.
Not everyone needs that kind of hard line, and tech isn't necessarily bad. It's more about deciding what you can and can't handle—and what you need to do to make yourself spend a few days chilling out. Digital decompression is good for everyone occasionally. These are the sure-fire steps to help you do that. Because when you're in the mountains or on the beach or even just staying in your own city for a few days, who cares what everyone else is up to? It's not like you're missing much you can't catch up on. If anything, you will be spared from the internet wanking over the hilariously bad choice for the next Batman or someone's publicly painful insertion of foot into mouth.