TRAVEL TECH

DRIFT Travel magazine - - Inside This Issue - BY: SOPHIA DEMBLING

Can you cut the tech cord?

Want to make your­self a lit­tle bit crazy? Leave your phone at home on one day of your trav­els. Just one day.

Put it down, leave the house or ho­tel, and lock the door be­hind you. How far do you think you’ll get be­fore you have the urge to dash back in­side and re­con­nect with your tech­no­log­i­cal life­line?

Want to hear some­thing even cra­zier? Even though tech­nol­ogy is for­bid­den dur­ing Out­ward Bound wilder­ness pro­grams, for the first two or three days af­ter they are sep­a­rated from their phones, some par­tic­i­pants still ex­pe­ri­ence phan­tom vi­bra­tions in their legs, where their phones would be tucked into their pock­ets.

‘Just the an­tic­i­pa­tion of it [the phone vi­brat­ing] may oc­cupy some of your re­sources. That would sug­gest that we are con­nected to it in deeper ways than we com­pletely un­der­stand,’ says psy­chol­o­gist David Strayer, whose re­search at the Univer­sity of Utah in­cludes the ef­fect na­ture has on our brains. ‘I think the em­pir­i­cal sci­ence is lag­ging be­hind what we need to know be­cause tech­nol­ogy is mov­ing so fast.’

Yep--our in­creas­ing de­pen­dence on tech­nol­ogy is a big sci­ence project, with our brains as guinea pigs. And if you’re as con­nected when you travel as you are when you’re home, then are you re­ally on va­ca­tion? Your body might be get­ting a break from rou­tine, but is your brain ? ‘If you’re still tex­ting and talk­ing on the phone and do­ing busi­ness as usu­ally while you’re out in na­ture, then you’re re­ally not in na­ture,’ says Strayer.

Keep­ing your phone stowed when you’re trav­el­ing can be par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing be­cause of In­sta­gram and Face­book. And phones are also our cam­eras. Va­ca­tion snap­shots are a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion, and for some of us, the cre­ative chal­lenge of tak­ing art­ful pho­to­graphs is among the joys of travel.

But dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy has made us greedy. We pho­to­graph willy-nilly, al­low­ing screens to me­di­ate our ex­pe­ri­ence of the world, flood­ing so­cial me­dia with proof of our ad­ven­tures--which are ren­dered some­how less ad­ven­tur­ous when they join the flow of memes and cat videos.

To some ex­tent, we are start­ing to fig­ure all this out. It’s why Camp Grounded (www.camp­grounded. org), of­fers ‘ dig­i­tal detox’ sum­mer camps--four day tech-free get­aways for adults in var­i­ous lo­cales. (They’ll be of­fer­ing one in the Texas Hill Coun­try Oct. 7 to 10. Oth­ers will be held in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, New York, and North Carolina this year.)

Break­ing the tech habit when you travel isn’t easy. And per­haps leav­ing the phone at home is a lit­tle dras­tic. Af­ter all, Yelp, Trip Ad­vi­sor, and Google Maps. But cut­ting back on tech en­gage­ment when you travel is not a bad idea, and here are a few rea­sons and tools to help you do that. Or at least try.

Four good rea­sons to break the tech habit when you travel

1. Get­ting away from your rou­tine and into a new en­vi­ron­ment can give you a fresh per­spec­tive on your life, but stay­ing teth­ered to your phone is like keep­ing one foot at home. You’re not go­ing to get that long view of your life that travel can af­ford if you’re check­ing in mul­ti­ple times a day.

2. Too many va­ca­tion pix might an­noy your so­cial net­work. You might think of it as shar­ing, but to some peo­ple it will come across as gloat­ing. A lot of peo­ple look­ing at your gor­geous fresh-fish-and- trop­i­cal-cock­tail lunch by the beach are eat­ing mi­crowaved frozen meals at their desks. And large photo dumps--any­thing more than a half-dozen pix at a time--beg to be ig­nored.

3. Any change of rou­tine is great for stim­u­lat­ing cre­ativ­ity, but stay­ing con­nected pre­vents your brain from reap­ing the stim­u­lat­ing ben­e­fits of new ex­pe­ri­ences. ‘Con­stant dis­trac­tion and mul­ti­task­ing keeps us on a very sur­face level of thought,’ says Carolyn Gre­goire, who co-au­thored, with psy­chol­o­gist Scott Barry Kauf­man, Wired to Create: Un­rav­el­ing the Mys­ter­ies of the Cre­ative Mind (Tarcher­perigee, $26.95). ‘We’re not able to make those cre­ative con­nec­tions and mine the ideas that come from re­ally get­ting into our land­scape.’

4. If you’re trav­el­ing with friends or fam­ily, con­nect­ing over the ex­pe­ri­ence should bring you to­gether, but this can’t hap­pen if ev­ery­one is peer­ing at their phone. Bur­row­ing into vir­tual fun is par­tic­u­larly tempt­ing dur­ing long car trips (pro­vided, of course, you’re not driv­ing), but let­ting your mind wan­der as scenery spools past, hav­ing ran­dom con­ver­sa­tions and, of course, ar­gu­ing about mu­sic (and sing­ing along), should be as much a part of road trip­ping as the des­ti­na­tion.

Six tips for cut­ting the tech cord when you travel

1. Plan ahead for min­i­mal con­tact from your job. Put an auto-re­spon­der on your email, let col­leagues know that you will re­spond only to the most dire sit­u­a­tions. An­tic­i­pate prob­lems and out­line to your su­per­vi­sor or col­leagues how those should be han­dled. If you have a team you trust im­plic­itly, you can go even fur­ther: Brian Scu­d­amore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK has his as­sis­tant change his email pass­word and not tell him what it is be­fore he leaves on va­ca­tion. ‘I call go­ing dark,’ he says. Also, re­spect other peo­ple’s va­ca­tion time when you’re back at the of­fice and they will be more likely to re­spect yours.

2. If your per­son­al­ity is Type A and be­ing dis­con­nected feels like slack­ing, try re­fram­ing it as proac­tively build­ing your cre­ative brain­power. Don’t worry about feel­ing lazy; it’s go­ing to be harder than you think.

3. When you are trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and can do with­out an in­ter­na­tional phone plan, save the money and take your­self out for a nice meal in­stead. You can still con­nect to Wifi when it’s avail­able, but you won’t be able to check in ev­ery idle mo­ment.

4. Turn off all your phone’s chimes, buzzes, bells, and vis­ual no­ti­fi­ca­tions. Cut­ting the tech cord will be far less dif­fi­cult if it doesn’t re­quire the willpower of ig­nor­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions. (This is a good idea when you’re at home, too.)

5. Be­fore tak­ing a photo, ask your­self if your photo will do the scene jus­tice or if you’re bet­ter off giv­ing your­self over to the full sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence of what­ever you’re see­ing. Fight the urge to let your phone screen come be­tween you and ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence.

6. If you must, des­ig­nate times when you will al­low your­self to in­dulge in so­cial me­dia; per­haps in the quiet time be­tween sight­see­ing and din­ner. Then, if you want to post pho­tos, be dis­cern­ing. And re­mem­ber that post­ing that photo isn’t the only mo­ment you’re dis­con­nected--ev­ery time you check to see who has liked or com­mented on it, you drag your brain away from the here and now, to the there and then. So post it and for­get it.

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