It’s almost painful to consider, isn’t it? Going away for a week or more without your most trusted gadget. Our phones are such an intrinsic part of our lives now that an empty pocket can fill us with anxiety.

What was once a miracle gizmo, containing all we needed to communicate and organise our lives, is now a totem for overwhelm and distraction; a buzzing and beeping interruption machine that has little regard for our privacy.

While ditching our tech completely isn't always necessary, going without for a while can bring some brilliant benefits - especially when we're away from the usual routine.

Got a holiday coming up? Here’s how to survive it phoneless.  

Why go without your phone on holiday?

You survived for years without a smartphone before they were invented, didn’t you? What's another week or two?

Using up those precious annual leave days to go on holiday is one of the rare times you get to escape real life. Phones are like portals we stare into, sending our attention to another dimension until something snaps us out of it.

We all know by now that the makers of mobile apps (social networks in particular) have one thing in mind, and it’s not your wellbeing. Their profits depend on you spending as much time as possible on their platforms, so you can look at adverts.

So, if anything, it’s an act of rebellion to pry yourself away from their iron grasp.

You should find that ditching your phone provides:

  • Better sleep
  • A calmer mind
  • Closer relationships
  • Increased enjoyment of leisure activities

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that:

"work-related smartphone use during non-work time drains limited regulatory resources and thus holds risks for well-being and subsequent self-control functioning. In order to protect themselves against these consequences, employees need to become aware of how long they actually use their smartphone for work during after-hours and, if necessary, reduce the intensity."

Or, to state the obvious - tending to work matters on your smartphone when you’re off the clock means you don’t function right the next day. You’ll be more moody and your impulse control will be sorely lacking.

So, turn it off, lock it in the hotel safe, or even better - leave it at home.

Secret Shooter
Photo by Jakob Owens / Unsplash

How to survive without your phone on holiday

Use a camera

Modern compact cameras and DSLRs are the bee's knees. Phone cameras just aren’t as good as proper ones, no matter how flashy the marketing videos look.

Camera makers have an incentive to make their cameras as good as possible with each release - but phone makers need to drag their innovations out, so they have things to talk about on the next annual upgrade. What next, four lenses on the back? Five?

The physical restraints of a flat phone mean you just can’t achieve what a proper size lens can. Using a camera makes you more conscious of proper framing and lighting, meaning you’ll come back home with some high-quality shots you can be proud of.

Or, for a different approach - get your holiday companions to take the photos instead.

Use a notebook

Even if you haven’t used a pen in years, it’s worth picking up a notepad and jotting down whatever you’d normally want to type into a smartphone while you travel:

  • Thoughts and reflections on life
  • Things you want to say to people
  • Memories and journals of your travels
  • Ideas that come to you in the middle of the night
  • To-do’s that need doing

It doesn’t have to be a fancy one - in fact, the really expensive notebooks will dissuade you from writing in them as you don’t want to ‘ruin’ their poshness with casual scribbles. So pick up a waiter’s notepad in a stationery shop - you can get one for about £2.

Print your essentials

Flight tickets, train tickets, travel directions, all kinds of things are mobile-first these days. But it’s rare they’re mobile-only, and many providers will still take paper tickets. So, print them off before you travel. Easy.

What to do with all your extra time

Do you ever pick up your phone to check the time, see a notification, and let it sweep you into a rabbit-hole of scrolling? Then you put it back in your pocket and forget the time you were supposed to check!

You might think you don’t pick up your phone all that often. Maybe a few times an hour? It doesn’t seem so much at the time, but add it all up, and there’s some serious time lost.

Using an app like Moment or Apple’s Screen Time for a few days can be a bit of a wake-up call. These apps track your phone usage and display it as a graph. So what you might think was half an hour’s usage one night actually ends up being two hours. Add that up over a week or month, and that’s a lot of time you could have spent relaxing properly.

Apple Screen Time on iOS

Here’s what you could do with all that extra time on holiday:

  • Read - reading takes up time and attentional energy, both of which phones do too. So trying to read while having your attention stolen by a phone is going to get you nowhere. Respect the written word - now's the chance to get through that epic novel you've been eyeing up.
  • Be with your people - whether it’s family, friends, lovers or new acquaintances, meeting & spending time with people in person is much more satisfying than staring at a phone screen. Spend some quality time together.
  • Get lost - go for a wander. Take a paper map just in case, but enjoy the discovery of new places the old-fashioned way: by following your nose. You never know what gems you’ll come across.
  • Nothing - absolutely nothing. The purest form of relaxation. We're almost always doing something, so a bit of nothing is a luxury to savour.

So it might be a little scary, but you've been without before. The benefits are numerous. More and more people are following the path of digital minimalism. Take it from us - you can do it.

Feature photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash