Digital detox vacations: 5 spots where you can leave your phone behind
Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in Jesmond, B.C. offers daily Thai yoga stretching classes, spa treatments, fly fishing, horseback riding and other activities.
Can you not remember the last time you left the house without your smartphone? Do you spend most of the day soaking in the dull glow of a computer monitor, tablet screen or television? Have you ever felt phantom vibrations in your pocket, even when you have no new messages?
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you could probably use a digital detox vacation.
It’s a getaway where you truly get away from the electronic tethers of your over-connected life. A holiday where your cellphone stays holstered, your email goes unchecked and your eyes escape the LCD glow of your devices.
Sound appealing? Here’s how to pull it off.
If your tech addiction is profound, even a few hours apart from your phone might be enough to induce anxiety. Author Christina Crook, who wrote about her month-long disconnection from the Internet in The Joy of Missing Out, says those who can’t stand short separations can probably use a detox the most.
“If you can’t do it for a day then there really is a problem,” Crook says.
To enjoy one or two nights offline, try taking your baby steps at one of these Canadian escapes.
Located less than three hours from Calgary, Alta., Emerald Lake Lodge offers a waterside retreat for those who like hiking, fishing, rowing and biking.
“The Canadian Rockies will definitely distract you from your phone screen,” digitaldetoxholidays.com says. “The lack of cell reception makes sure that you are really able to unwind and enjoy the beautiful environment.”
The lodge offers a soothing spa tub, billiards tables and lounge for late-night relaxation. Hang out on the patio during the summer or go ice skating during the winter.
And if you feel like taking a daytrip, there’s a whole list of scenic spots and other attractions within a half-hour drive.
On the other side of the country is Liscombe Lodge, a Maritime resort tucked away on the eastern shores of Nova Scotia.
Though you’ll have to resist the urge to log onto the free Wi-Fi, the pool, fitness room, tennis courts, bicycles and boat rentals should be more than enough distraction to warrant leaving your phone back in your room.
The lodge, which opens for the season in May, offers a variety of special packages depending on who might be accompanying you on your cleanse.
If you and your partner are trying to escape together, the Lovers Hide-a-Way package comes with a bottle of wine, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a harbour cruise.
And if it’s a family of phone addicts you’re dealing with, the Unplugged Escape is a one-night stay that includes breakfast, dinner, a harbour tour and a bonfire.
Kick it up a notch
If you’re ready to brave the world of digital disconnection for more than a night or two, try booking a several-day stay at a spot that specializes in electronic abstinence.
“When was the last time you turned off your smart phone, and felt an inner stillness?” asks the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa website. “When did you last lean against a fence, to simply relax and enjoy the beauty of nature?”
The ranch, located a few hours northeast of Vancouver, offers daily Thai yoga stretching classes, spa treatments, fly fishing, horseback riding and other activities.
Though there’s no cell service at the resort, they do offer free Wi-Fi – but only if you ask for it, they say. It’s kept password-protected so guests can fight off sudden urges to jump online, but are still be able to log on if they’re worried about work emergencies or anything else during your stay.
Going all out
If you’re really ready to dial it back to the analogue age, try going right off the grid at one of these secluded destinations.
No phone lines, no cell service and no Internet – that’s what you can expect from the Algonquin Eco-Lodge, located about three hours away from both Toronto and Ottawa.
“In fact, your experience begins with a leisurely 2.3 km walk, or cycle, or ski through Algonquin Park to reach our front doors,” they say.
Offering accommodations year-round, the lodge is truly away from it all, and even offers some advice on taking a digital detox vacation.
They recommend separating your work life from your personal life, and trying out some of their board games instead of playing around with the apps on your phone.
“It is all too easy to ‘just check in’ with the office,” they say. “Next thing you know you are responding to an email, working on a document, or tweaking a spreadsheet.”
And despite being off the grid, they offer indoor plumbing, hot showers and a hot tub heated by electricity generated from a waterfall.
“This is a back-to-nature wilderness experience away from the crowds, the shops and the bars of the town centres,” reads the listing for the HI-Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel. Then comes the italicized warning: No phone, no electricity, no showers and outhouse toilets.
This is the spot to be if you really want to take off the training wheels and venture out on your own. The hostel offers fully equipped kitchens, warm rooms to sleep in and an abundance of opportunities for hiking, climbing, snowshoeing and skiing – just don’t expect your Facebook friends to follow along with you.
Extending the vacation
After detoxing, you’ll probably notice a slowed-down pace and a sense of clear-mindedness you weren’t able to appreciate before powering down, Crook says. Even after retuning back to reality, there are ways to keep that feeling while still using your smartphone and computer.
Crook says she realized she didn’t feel like she was truly connecting with people when she only communicated online. A bigger focus on face-to-face interaction motivated her to rethink the way she used technology.
“I was feeling like I had some patterns developing both in my online habits and in my relationships I wanted to step away from to kind of get some perspective,” she said. “I just felt like I couldn’t keep up through typical day-to-day, 24/7 life where we’re always on.”
After taking a month away from the Internet, Crook says she didn’t reinstall social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter on her phone, removing the temptation to constantly check in online.
She also now views the Internet as a tool, and saves time by creating a checklist of what she wants to accomplish before browsing on her computer or phone.
The mother of three doesn’t advocate that everyone abandon the Internet, but says there’s a definite benefit to taking a weekend away without the laptop or a stress-relieving “tech Sabbath” once per week.
“The positive effects are bigger than people think, even when stepping away for 24 hours,” she says. “The nervous twitch to grab the phone subsides. You intentionally shift your focus into your body, into the present moment, and to the people and experiences right in front of you.”