Unplug digital detox

This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services. A special thank you to News & Experts and Johnny Welsh for a complimentary copy of Paper Maps, No Apps in exchange for an honest review.

I love maps.

I just can’t read them as I’m directionally challenged. But still love to look at them.

Push Pin Travel Maps

Can you imagine going on a road trip without GPS these days? I rely on it so much even when I’m going someplace I’ve been many times before.

But once upon a time I could reach my destination with only a Rand McNally road atlas. In fact, I moved myself from Vermont to Iowa nearly 30 years ago – driving half-way across the country in my little blue Toyota pick-up. No GPS. No cell phone. No technology. Would just hope there was a gas station coming up and that I’d find a hotel on the way that had some vacancy.

I didn’t know at the time that I was on a digital detox journey before it was a thing.

As a travel blogger, I justify spending so much time on my mobile devices by telling myself and others that I’m working. Even though I set up limitations on screen time, I always hit ignore when I hit my limit.

I’m not always on my phone. I love to read real books where I turn the pages. And I love to go on day hikes and history walking tours. And go to the movie theater. But still…I am on my phone a lot.

So I’m feeling a little inspired to perhaps try a digital detox road trip like Johnny Welsh.

Paper Maps No Apps book cover

Johnny Welsh, author of Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure, says vacation is the perfect time to disconnect — and that it may change your perspective, and your life, if you do.

“With this addiction to our smartphones, this obsession to be connected with the world, we fail to connect with the people sitting right in front of us,” says Welsh, whose book chronicles a 16-day road trip in the western U.S. that he and his girlfriend, Kristy, took while detaching from smartphones and social media. 

“The disconnect in face-to-face interactions keeps growing; I see it happening more as smartphones get smarter. I imagine what would happen if aliens landed on earth and observed us. They might think a smartphone is something we need to live, like an external nervous system.”

On his road trip, Welsh endeavored to experience “how different life could be without the constant seduction of the flat screen” — while also examining his own social media habits with a sense of humor. Likewise, he thinks others who ditch their phones on a getaway can better live in the moment while not being digitally distracted.

“Be present,” Welsh says. “Turn off your device and really live. Vacations should be a real break from our technology-soaked lives.”

Five tips to disconnect from your smartphone on vacation

Use paper maps. Welsh says this is the first big step to looking at what’s around you rather than looking at your phone. Using the old-school way, you won’t have to go to Google Maps for navigation and have an excuse to keep using your phone,” Welsh says. “Plus, using your brain, your imagination fires up like when you were a kid, looking at the back roads on an old map and wondering where they all lead.”

Delete tempting apps. “Addicted to Twitter or other sites? Delete the app from your phone before you leave on vacation,” Welsh says, “and don’t reinstall it until you get back.”

Buy a disposable camera or a real one. “Rather than take selfies on your phone, and constantly post pictures and agonize over the perfect hashtags, you can capture memories the old-fashioned way,” Welsh says. “And this way you actually enjoy your surroundings without having your face in a screen most of the day.”

My teenage niece asked for a Polaroid camera for Christmas last year – so that’s also a retro option.

Check hotels with digital-detox discounts. “Yes, they’re out there,” Welsh says. “Some places offer room discounts for giving up your phone upon check-in. A reawakening starts with forced human interaction. We did that for thousands of years before.” Wyndham Hotels is just one chain offering this incentive.

Hotels.com Destination Inspiration: Not sure where to go? You've come to the right place!

Read. “Remember that?” Welsh asks. “Rather than being entranced on your phone, bring a good book. The act of reading a physical book quiets and calms us, incorporates the sense of touch and smell, and allows us to become part of the story in a way that no pop-up headline can.”

If you can’t quite get away from technology, you can read thousands of books with kindle unlimited – on any mobile device (you don’t have to have a kindle – you simply download the app). And did you know that you can download a free book each month if you have Amazon Prime? The program is called Amazon Prime Reads, which offers customers early access to new book releases from top authors.

I don’t think we can or have to eliminate technology; but a detox week or so might be a good way to rest and recharge. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever taken an intentional digital detox.

I found Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure to be a quick read and appreciated the fun facts and travel tips – and a little inspiring to put down that phone (my phone). It’s a travel journal capturing the author’s and his girlfriend’s experience as they take a 16-day road trip without technology (except in urgent situations). You’ll find a little bit of juvenile and boyish humor (but think that reflects his youthful personality) and he digresses a bit and takes some detours. But I enjoy stream of consciousness especially when following along on someone’s journey – more authentic on how we all think. I’d give Paper Maps, No Apps: An Unplugged Travel Adventure 3.5 stars as I would like to learn more about how this digital detox experience changed him as well as more photos of where they traveled. But maybe that’s the point. Enjoy the moment without needing to document it.

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Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

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