If modern technology means we can be connected anywhere, then how do we switch off? Digital detox holidays are the latest trend for holidaymakers who need to curtail their technology dependency.
There are clear benefits to be derived from the ubiquity of technology in our daily lives, but if mobile phones, constant internet access and multiple social media accounts mean we’re always on call then how can we switch off? The dilution of holiday time is a case in point. A recent American Express survey found that 83 per cent of holidaymakers expect to stay digitally connected during their break, and 64 per cent of those expect to check their work email daily while on leave. With so many of us allowing our working lives to infiltrate our leisure time then opportunities to truly relax are severely curtailed.
Recognising that some consumers want to sever their constant dependency on technology, a number of companies are now offering experiences that allow us the opportunity to switch off temporarily. In January, Selfridge’s opened a felt-covered Silence Room, where shoe-free, phone-free shoppers can retreat from the hubbub of frenetic Oxford Street. Around the same time, ‘No Wi-Fi’ benches which block Wi-Fi signals within a five-metre radius were erected in central Amsterdam. Urging people to ‘take a break’, they were sponsored by Kit Kat.
And away from busy shopping streets, other travel and leisure companies are cajoling customers into switching off too. In LA, Eva Restaurant is offering diners a 5 per cent discount if they leave their phones with the receptionist. More demanding is the ‘digital detox’ holiday on offer at Palm Island and Young Island on St Vincent and The Grenadines. Guests booking ‘de-tech’ packages will be asked to hand over their electronic devices at check-in and can avail of the services of a life coach if they need guidance on how to use their free time productively.
A number of options are available for travellers who need even more drastic intervention. At Jongomero safari camp in southern Tanzania, connectivity-craving guests who sneak an illicit smart phone into their room are still foiled from going online. The site offers no mobile-phone reception, Wi-Fi or television sets. Stay at Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and there’ll be no chance of you tweeting a quick snap of the endangered Bactrian camels that roam the surrounding area – the nearest Wi-Fi point is 300 miles away in Ulaanbaatar.
Often thought of as an encumbrance, isolation is now a selling point for stressed-out travellers. And the benefits of a digital detox are numerous and significant. In a New York Times discussion on the subject, Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains comments that constantly flitting from one forum or application to another is associated with “shallower thinking, weakened concentration, reduced creativity, and heightened stress.” Limiting the digital bombardment we’re accustomed to will reduce the cognitive and emotional stress we’re constantly exposing ourselves to. His views are supported by other experts who show similar concern for the elevated stress levels we face through being constantly on call, always searching for the next message or text that requires our attention.
An easy test to see how your concentration span is faring is available on the website Do nothing for 2 minutes. Users are asked to observe the static seaside scene and listen to the sound of the waves for two minutes. Give it a go. If you last the two minutes perhaps you’d enjoy a digital detox holiday, and if you don’t, you probably need it.
John O' Ceallaigh Telegraph.co.uk