Last week I announced something ambitious for me; a weekend spent away from home relaxing, enjoying some fun activities and, most importantly, being offline for the duration. Since my life is spent online, constantly updating social media or updating this site, being offline isn’t something I’ve done in years and at first the thought made me cringe a little. But I also recognize the importance of disconnecting, of enjoying the moment and not being online, albeit for a short two days. I was challenged to take this digital detox getaway by Intel Security and while this post is sponsored by them, my thoughts, opinions and experiences are naturally entirely my own.
Why Take a Digital Detox?
As I wrote in my announcement post, there are many reasons to take a digital detox as Intel Security discovered when they conducted a survey of nearly 14,000 people from around the world. There were many perceived benefits, including two that I think are the most important:
- Vacay-Zen: 65 percent of participants reported a more enjoyable vacation.
- Security: Not oversharing while on vacation helps increase security as criminals can scan consumers’ social information and updates to monitor when you’re away and at your weakest point to defend against an attack.
I think we can all agree that taking a digital detox every now and then is important, but why is it so hard? What is it that prevents us from disconnecting and enjoying the moment for what it is? Again, my own thoughts were also echoed in the Intel Security survey results and some popular reasons why people have issues disconnecting include:
- Fear of Missing Out: Not able to be reached by friends or family or missing something important on social media.
- Sharing: Turns out lots of people really enjoy sharing their travel experiences on social media, to the point where it has become almost debilitating.
It was with all of this in mind that I eagerly woke up Saturday morning and prepared for my weekend without the Internet.
Weekend Getaway – The Results
I chose to visit the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia because it is close to the Washington, DC metro region where I live and frankly, its reputation has made it a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.
In preparing for my weekend away, many of the travel rituals I normally undertake weren’t necessary. I didn’t take my computer so no cables were necessary and while my phone would be with me, it wouldn’t be on, so no need to recharge it throughout the day. At first I felt a little naked without my bag of gear, but I also felt lighter, free of those electronic tethers.
As soon as I pulled up to the massive Salamander Resort, I knew that I had selected the perfect getaway destination. This newish luxury resort is perfectly situated in the heart of Virginia’s wine and horse regions and personifies the kind of rural retreat for which the state is so well known. I know me though and I understand that I’m not someone who can just sit in a spa or next to the pool all day doing nothing. I needed to set myself up for success and that meant organizing a couple of days of fun activities while at Salamander.
Luckily, the resort has no shortage of options and I soon began to wish that I had more time there to enjoy all of the fun experiences. We started our stay at Salamander though with what is in all honesty one of the best resort experiences I’ve ever done, a cooking class with the resort’s Executive Pastry Chef. Salamander has a unique Cooking Studio with open access to their large kitchens where they host demonstrations and frequent classes. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and the afternoon spent with the Chef learning how to make all manner of desserts was active, immersive, fun and of course delicious.
Throughout the course of the cooking experience I found myself unconsciously composing Tweets in my head, short little messages and photos I wanted to share along the way. It’s like a form of madness, this constant need to share but after a few minutes I relaxed and lost myself in the activity itself. I think that’s maybe one reason why I enjoyed it so very much. I didn’t have to share everything all of the time, I could just experience and enjoy it like a normal human being.
Afterwards I walked along a few of the resort’s many hiking paths, enjoying a warm summer afternoon and looking out for wildlife along the way. It’s important to note that my phone was in airplane mode the entire time and not once did I feel the compulsion to turn it on. I even forgot about it a few times, something I haven’t done in a very long time.
A delicious dinner at the resort’s fine-dining establishment Harrimans and a subsequent evening outside spent making S’mores around the fire pit were both chock-full of any number of “sharable” moments and yet I resisted the temptation to post photos of my entree or that delicious marshmallow as it roasted on a stick. I smiled, I laughed, and I remained firmly online.
The morning of the second day was more of a challenge, enjoying a quiet morning in the room, ordering room service and relaxing, I desperately fought the urge to turn on my phone and see how Instagram was doing or what Facebook updates I had missed. Instead, I read the paper, watched a little TV and walked around the property again. Before leaving Salamander, we spent a couple of hours enjoying a zip-line experience offered at the resort, once again leaving electronics behind and having fun as we soared through the trees.
As I pulled away from the resort, I noticed that I didn’t have any desire to turn my phone back on. My weekend detox experiment had ended, but I didn’t want it to. I loved every second of not being online, and I didn’t want the real world to come crashing back right away.
We live in a great age when we can talk and share with people in every corner of the world. We have any number of ways of either being online or enhancing our lives with tech gadgets. But with that comes an over dependence on these on these electronic ties and part of living in the information age is learning when to leave it all behind for at least a few days. The benefits to this are many, including being more connected to the people we are traveling with and enjoying the experience, as respondents to that Intel Security survey shared.
Not only is it a great mental break to detach from phones and WiFi, it’s also part of being a smart traveler. Expensive phones make us a target for pickpockets, according to an article by Intel Security’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis. He goes on to say that using open WiFi networks also makes us vulnerable to data thieves, who can go on to steal important information from our devices. That’s why only using phones as necessary when we travel is important, as is implementing strong passwords and biometric locks. It’s also vital to backup our data when we travel, especially since we usually have electronic copies of important documents like our passports.
My digital detox experiment was a complete success and more importantly, helped me relax and decompress after what had been a very stressful week. I needed this break and my simple weekend away convinced me not only that I can do, but that I should enjoy these tech-free escapes on a far more regular basis.