Last week, I went on vacation to a sunny island with my girlfriend (temperatures have been close to 0 degrees Celsius in the past months in Denmark, so it was highly needed!).
We decided to do something different this vacation and keep our cell phones switched off and the computers tucked away.
I know it sounds like a cliché blogger thing to do, and it probably is, but we still wanted to give ourselves the challenge.
We usually spend a lot of time on our phones and computers, so we knew it would be a different and challenging way to spend a vacation.
Here’s what we learned:
Expectations before our vacation
Before the vacation, we thought it would be hard to live without cell phone and computer.
What about all the people who expected an answer from us?
What if any emergencies happened at home?
Would we get bored without our daily stimulus of news, blog posts, Instagram feeds and tweets?
Going into the experiment, we were quite confident that we would be able to do it, even though it might be hard. Whether it would bring us happiness or misery, we didn’t really know.
Learnings during our vacation
We landed in Sri Lanka and kept our phones shut.
The first problem came instantly.
We had an address for the hotel to show the taxi driver, but he didn’t know where it was.
Normally, you would just pull out your phone and show it on Google Maps, but this time technology couldn’t help us.
This time, we had to ask other people for help before we finally got the hotel address right. Technology has really made this part of traveling easier, but it didn’t take long to solve the problem and we met some nice people at the same time.
Despite the initial trouble, we kept them shut and as the week went by, we learned a few other things:
We are smartphone addicts
One the biggest learnings was how insanely addicted we are to our smartphones.
During the first day alone, I had the urge to pick up the phone at least 50 times (probably closer to 100 times).
Mostly I just wanted to pick up the phone to check unimportant things. A few times I wanted to do something useful such as searching for a good company to snorkel with on Sri Lanka.
It was clear to me how insanely addicted I am to my smartphone.
I am pretty sure that we are not the only ones.
The hotel was filled with families that barely talked together at dinner, but just stared at their smartphones.
There’s many other ways to spend your time
Along the same lines, I discovered that I mostly use my smartphone as a way of passing time.
When you suddenly don’t have your iPhone, you slowly find out that there’s many other more useful and valuable ways of spending time.
I read three books on the vacation.
I had way more, deeper and longer conversations with my girlfriend.
I spent more time just thinking and not doing anything.
These are things that really matter and make you live life to the fullest.
If you’ve never done this, you would be surprised how much time you spent doing stupid things on your smartphone and how many great things you could do instead.
There will be moments of panic
Ok, it wasn’t all just bliss and exploring my inner-self.
I had moments of panic.
You expect the worst when you are off the grid.
I was sure that a family member had died, or I had been fired due to being unreachable.
We have become so used to being available and expect others to be too.
I never thought consciously about it, but it somehow just happened.
This was the first time I was unreachable in many years – and it was both liberating and terrifying.
You become used to it
As the days went on, we discovered that we needed the internet and technology less and less.
We didn’t forget our smartphones, but we sure didn’t think about them as often as we did in the beginning.
Once you disconnect and start doing other valuable things, you realize that you don’t really need it to the extent you did before.
Learnings and actions after the journey
When the trip ended we turned on our phones with excitement.
How many text messages, Facebook messages, voice mails and emails would we have gotten?
You are not as important as you think
The excitement turned into a disappointment.
I had expected a lot more activity than there had actually been.
I realized that most of my normal internet activity is actually driven by myself. If you don’t engage in online interactions, people don’t necessarily engage that much with you either.
Sure, there was lots of emails and some messages, but few of importance, and most of them were cleared in 30 minutes.
I realized that I am probably not as important as I think. The world keeps spinning and people continue doing things even though I don’t answer them within 24 hours.
If things are urgent, people find ways
Most of the messages could wait and very few people had followed up on the messages.
Some people expected an answer and didn’t get one. Guess what? They found a solution anyway.
What if there had been a family emergency?
Well, I guess they would have found some way of getting in touch with us like calling our hotel.
Everything and everyone can wait. If it or they can’t – people will find ways with or without you.
I should use the internet less
This was probably the biggest learning of our little experiment.
I realized how much stupid time I spend online.
In the future, I want to limit my smartphone addiction.
I want to spend more time reading, conversing, listening and thinking.
Smartphone consumption does not even give me a fraction of the value that the other things do.
After coming home, I have installed the app, Moment (not affiliated), to keep track of my smartphone usage.
In the first week, I have used my smartphone ~2 hours and picked it up 50 times on average per day (!!).
If that is not an addiction, I don’t know what is.
My first goal is getting below 1 hour and 25 pickups.
Is this an ambitious goal? I’m not sure, and I don’t know how easy it is to change this type of behavior, but I’ll have to start somewhere.
Trying an technology-free vacation was indeed a fun experiment, and I learned way more than I expected. I am definitely not going to stop using technology or my smartphone, but I will become more conscious of when and what I use it for.
Your turn: Are you addicted to the internet? What do you do to limit your internet consumption, if anything at all?