With the growing pressure of our always-on society, travellers are increasingly seeking impactful R&R in the form of “digital detoxes”, a growing travel trend that starts with switching off that tech. For a round up of the best places for an electronics amnesty, look no further.
“The thing is,” you say, “I barely use my phone at all on holiday.”
I don’t blame you for lying a little. What you mean is, you don’t use your phone on holiday the same way you use it when you’re home. Maybe you’re not answering work emails as frequently as you would if you were at your desk, and maybe you don’t spend quite so much of your time with headphones wedged firmly next to your eardrums. But still, if you examine your behaviour, you’ll find that your holiday time – the time you’re supposed to be using to relax, recharge and gain some well-needed perspective on your busy life – is littered with digital check-ins.
You Instagram your cocktail, and you can’t help but tell Facebook that your view of the beach is “not bad for a Monday!” You look at TripAdvisor to check the review score of the restaurant you’re already in. You spy a work email come through, and even though you have your out of office reply set up, you still shoot back a quick note to say that this will be your top priority once you’re back at your desk.
It’s a drip, drip, drip of constant digital engagement that costs you your data allowance and your holiday. You never fully log off, and never quite disengage in that uniquely restorative way you’re supposed to when you’re away.
Enter the digital detox holiday, a package popping up both at independent retreats and within well-known hotel chains. The idea is to completely unplug and switch off, allowing yourself to truly recuperate and enjoy the full experience of travelling. The evidence to support this is compelling: there have been strong links made between depression and technology use. What’s more, a UCLA study has suggested that our tech dependency is severely limiting our critical thinking. Suddenly relinquishing your phone doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, does it? Then to check in and switch off then…
For this digital detox package, you might just start to miss your phone: the urge to Instagram every single thing at Grace Mykonos is almost overwhelming. However, this luxurious digital detox package is an especially appealing one: think private yoga and meditation classes facing the hotel’s spectacular sea views, a healthy Mediterranean diet and detox juice menu prepared by their in-house chef and a signature Grace Royal spa treatment for each guest. And to ward off any phone withdrawal, guests are also given sketchbooks, watercolours, an easel and a library of relaxation and mindfulness books in exchange for their tech.
This is the one that converted me – the experience that made me think that “digital detoxing” wasn’t just a woo-woo idea. I spent a week in the Puglian countryside with a group of strangers, with some of the best food and most gorgeous surroundings I’ve experienced. On arrival, your phone is dropped in a basket and locked in a safe, and from then on your day is filled with yoga, silent walks at sunrise and tours of the coast. Its detox element is not just limited to digital either: there’s no booze, no meat and no caffeine. But despite these restrictions, the experience is a rich one and after four days you’ll feel the difference in your concentration, and your ability to listen attentively.
Sure, a digital detox in the Italian countryside or a Greek retreat is one thing, but how easy can it be to “detox” if you’re in the middle of a vibrant city? The Westin Dublin is one of Ireland’s most beloved hotels, and has recently incorporated a digital detox into its offering. It’s comparatively light touch: in exchange for handing in your phone, you’re given a Detox Survival Kit that includes information on discovering the city of Dublin and a walking map, a board game and other treats to keep you entertained. Also included in the package are indulgent in-room massages. Not that you’ll need to spend much time in your room: The Westin is right next to Trinity College, home to some of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures, and close to the brilliant pubs of Temple Bar too.
Ever been intrigued by Burning Man festival, but a little overwhelmed by the idea of constant partying and naked people? Restival Global (lead image) might be the thing for you. Restival strives to merge the music festival experience with a more mindfulness-driven, restful approach. It doesn’t have a set location, but roams the world searching for the most incredible landscapes the earth has to offer. What’s more, it partners with local indigenous cultures so you’re not just losing the experience of your phone, you’re gaining one with tribes who still uphold a digital-free lifestyle. Whether it’s deep in the Sahara, in the icy forests of Lapland or the Painted Desert of Arizona, you’re guaranteed a unique, transcendent experience.
This is possibly the priciest of the digital detox packages (anywhere from 25,000 to 137,000 rupees a night, with a minimum stay of five), but there’s certainly a lot of mind-enhancing bang for your buck. Vana Malsi isn’t just digital-free, it’s an entire experience focusing on meditation, yoga and spirituality. Wellness is the axis around which Vana Malsi revolves, and there’s both physical and mental therapy to help you achieve a sense of clarity and freedom from the stresses of daily life – plus stunning surrounds and an opulent spa to help you on your way.
And if you’d like more advice on achieving complete holiday calm, try our guide to taking the stress out of travel too