A Weekend of Disconnecting
This time last weekend, we were driving back from Monmouthshire in South Wales. For the past 48 hours, I'd done the unthinkable and turned off the data on my phone, cutting myself off from the internet for an entire weekend. Some of you reading this might be thinking that's no big deal, but I really am addicted to scrolling through Instagram and checking my emails. Cut off from notifications, I felt completely free. I didn't care how many likes I was getting or if I was missing out on watching someone's stories. I spent a whole weekend living in the moment, connecting with reality. More internet-free weekends are definitely on the cards.
We were in Wales for part of Dave's Christmas present from me: a weekend away with the dog staying in a shepherd's hut I'd booked through Canopy & Stars (not sponsored, just highly recommended). Curious alpacas, a pony and a donkey greeted us every morning, bending over the fence for our dog to lick their noses. Down by the main house, two pigs, countless chickens and five dogs welcomed us. A fire roared constantly inside as we tucked ourselves up in bed, drinking wine and watching films. It was exactly what we needed - a weekend away without anything to worry about other than what we were going to eat for tea. I wish I was back there right now, tucking into the welcome hamper that the owners had generously left for us.
We didn't have much time to explore the area, arriving late on Friday evening and driving back on Sunday afternoon. Saturday was our day for exploring, and we took advantage of every single minute of daylight. Not content with just one walk, we wandered around the Forest of Dean in the morning, breaking for lunch before driving slightly further north to explore another area of the forest. After getting ourselves slightly lost, we returned to our car just as the light was fading and we had started to scare ourselves with talk of spending the night fending off wild boar in the woods. Those are the best kind of walks though; the ones that feel like adventures.
When you spend so much time connected to the internet, glued to your phone, a weekend offline can be daunting. I manage the social media for an interiors brand, so not only was I shunning my own accounts for the weekend but theirs too. On the Friday night, my fingers itched, searching for the phone that I'd tucked away inside my bag. What if I received an important email? What if someone had sent me a message or tweeted a question? They could wait, nothing bad was going to happen if it took me an extra day to reply.
I write about slowing down and appreciating the little things in life, but I don't always practice what I preach. An essential part of taking life at a slower pace is to let go of all the stress that your smartphone brings. The world isn't going to end if you don't check Instagram for 24 hours or take a day or two to reply to an email. You can't fully appreciate wandering around the countryside or exploring a new city if you're glued to your phone. To embrace slow living, and particularly slow travel, you have to put your phone away and live in the moment.
In the car, I automatically reach for my phone when bored, scrolling aimlessly through Instagram. With my data turned off, I instead turned my head to the window and watched the landscapes race by. I found myself enchanted by what was outside the window, drinking in the scenery. Why did I need to look at someone else's photos when I was surrounded by a beautiful forest?
Going ahead, I'm going to make more of an effort to put my phone down and live in the moment, especially when I'm with other people. Is there really anything more rude than scrolling through your phone when in the company of friends? It's something that I do without thinking, but I'm going to make a conscious effort to cut down on my internet time and put my phone away, out of site. If turning off your data or removing your phone from site sounds like a step too far, try switching off your notifications for a start. The ping of what's app messages and Instagram notifications always tempts me away from what I'm doing. If you can't see you've got a message, it takes away that temptation.
If you have any disconnecting tips or stories I'd love to hear them! How often do you check your phone, and do you find it hard to switch off?