Unplugging from technology while travelling

March 20, 2019

Hostel common areas sometimes look like a sea of glowing screens, everyone quietly engaged with the internet and not with each other. Travelling can be hard work, and sometimes you just need to unwind and text friends and family (or watch Netflix). Plus, many people work remotely while on the road. But how many times have you pulled out your phone to mindlessly scroll, not even realizing you were cutting yourself off from the people around you and wasting time when you could’ve been out exploring? 

How to unplug from technology while travelling?

You’ll find plenty of benefits by turning off your phone for a while, and staying in a hostel is the perfect excuse. Here’s how to use your next hostel stay to take a break from tech.

1. Leave your phone behind while you take a walking tour

It might seem daring to leave your phone behind and venture into a strange city, but hostels give you a way to ease into it: if your hostel offers a free walking tour, take them up on it—and leave your phone behind (that’s what lockers are for). If going out without your phone in your pocket when you’re in a new city makes you sweat, ask others on the tour to take your picture and send it to you. It’s a great way to make new friends when you enjoy a mini photoshoot together and exchange contact info.

Unplugging From Technology While Travelling

2. Use your break from screens to break the ice

There’s no getting around it: the idea of existing in most modern societies without electronics has gotten pretty...strange. Explaining why you’ve decided to go without tech for a while makes a great ice breaker, and you never know when you’ll inspire someone else to try out the same experiment. Looking up from your phone to make eye contact with someone in the same room has obvious benefits, especially when it comes to exploring a new culture.

Unplugging From Technology While Travelling

3. Say “so long” to screens for better dorm room sleep

Studies show that screen time may wreak havoc on our sleep cycles. Between blue light keeping us up and the distraction of dings and alerts, we’re setting ourselves up for REM sleep failure. When you’re jet lagged and staying in a full dorm room, your sleep needs all the help it can get. Shut off your phone to get some good shut-eye. If you’re relying on an alarm to get you up early, be disciplined about switching over to airplane mode at least an hour before bed.

Unplugging From Technology While Travelling

4. Check reviews before you book

If you’re trying to enjoy a social experience while taking a break from screens, you probably don’t want to wind up in a hostel that is best known for its lightning-fast wifi and a thriving digital nomad community. If your goal is to unplug from technology and make connections—rather than getting a ton of work done in the solitude of noise-cancelling headphones—it’s best to plan for that. See what the reviews say before you book.

Unplugging From Technology While Travelling

5. Stay in the moment to remember your trip

Research into the impact of photo-taking on memory indicates that people are less likely to remember a moment if they take a picture than if they just observe. That means your memory is way better off if you resist snapping a shot of the Mona Lisa for later. Try to stay in the moment by putting your phone away and enjoy the trip knowing you’re building memories you will actually still have down the road.

Unplugging From Technology While Travelling

6. Remind yourself of the benefits

While staying at a hostel in New Orleans, I felt out of place among visitors from far-flung locations. But rather than staying buried in screens, I pulled myself away from my electronics and into a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity, deep conversations and more nights out than I’ve ever had traveling solo. Any time I feel ready to retreat to my phone, I remind myself of the way I experienced that city, and it makes it easier to separate myself from the comfort of technological familiarity in order to really unplug.

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