Travelers thrive on being connected to the world. It’s in our nature to want to meet new people, experience different cultures and places—and share the journey. But when you can go just about anywhere these days and still get a signal on your phone, feeding that urge to Instagram everything can actually leave us more deeply disengaged from a destination (and our travel companions) than we realize.
While evidence against the overuse of technology is mounting—from smartphone addiction to its negative effects on the brain to the dangers of Wi-Fi exposure around children—according to a recent study from HR consulting firm Randstad, 42% of us still feel compelled to check work email on vacation.
“Our need for instantaneous flow of information is detrimental to our mental and physical health,” says endurance/athletic coach Ellen Miller. “The behavior can become quite compulsive and addictive, and lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Whether cycling or hiking or walking, it is so important to put down technology and reconnect with nature.”
Consider these five getaway tips that make it easy to forget about the Internet so you can be fully in the moment—without having to record it.
Take a hike
You don’t need yet another study to tell you that being in the great outdoors makes you happier, but it’s hard to reap the benefits of a walk in the woods if you’re distracted by the incessant pings! coming from your cell. Going somewhere without service like Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, or Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park removes the temptation to check email and social media.
If you’d rather not leave civilization behind or turn your tech off, keeping your hands busy will make that instinct to reach for the phone less appealing. Hike with trekking poles or go for a long bike ride—be it alone or with a tour company like DuVine Adventures—that requires focusing on the road and gorgeous views instead of Facebook updates.
Go back to camp
Friends and family might be used to your head-in-the-icloud tendencies at dinner, but with new people it’s almost impossible not to be aware of your own awkward, must-take-a-selfie behavior, especially while exchanging stories around a campfire. Sensing a growing demand for unplugged vacations, outfitters are crafting itineraries tailored to the tech-obsessed generation.
New York-based Discover Outdoors recently introduced a Digital Detox Series, featuring adventurous social outings like a “Canoe Voyage and Camp Out” and “Music on the Mountain Starlight Overnight.” TerraVelo launched Glamping Weekends in Woodstock and Colorado company Paragon Guides has found that the secret to totally letting go of the online world is llama trekking. With one hand on the reigns, hikers head off the grid—through beautiful backcountry beneath the Continental Divide en route to the 10th Mountain Division Hut—and are able to tap into a powerful degree of peace and purpose that you can’t get from, let’s say, tweeting.
The more wild the setting, the less likely you are to crave technology. On safari, there’s nothing on your phone worth turning away from a dazzle of zebras or a herd of bathing elephants. Preempt the impulse to later Instagram your close encounter with a baboon by booking a stay at an Internet-averse place like Asilia Naboisho Camp, situated in a private 50,000-acre conservancy near the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
You don’t have to be a bona fide yogi to know there’s merit in leading a mindful life. But unless you’re Deepak Chopra, busy itineraries—at home and on vacation—make it hard to hold on to sweaty vibrations of Zen after rolling up the yoga mats. While hotels around the world are keen to spread the chi, offering guests everything from aerial yoga to in-room yoga services and yoga domes, a yoga retreat will give over-stimulated travelers a chance to reboot without any distractions.
Try Via Yoga’s various six-day foodie and surf-themed getaways in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Washington, or seek an affordable sanctuary like Tassajara in Central California or Kripalu in the Berkshires. If you can only spare a meditative weekend—or even a day—Wanderlust holds festivals in Tremblant, Brooklyn, Oahu, D.C., Atlanta, and Miami. Taking a digital hiatus will be that much easier if you’re surrounded by like-minded people who are focused on making good use of their time offline.
Imagine you’re standing on the bow, hoisting the spinnaker, there’s a cool breeze, and everything is sparkling, like you’re floating in a giant sapphire. The only thing that could ruin this moment is if you decided to dive in to your phone. But when you’re out at sea, learning to sail with an intimate live-aboard outfitter like Newport Beach Sail or Barefoot Offshore Sailing School in the Grenadines, you’re so transfixed by the task of trimming the main sail, tacking, docking, and drinking a gin and tonic that surfing the Web is the last thing on your mind.
With small-ship adventures gaining momentum in 2015, travelers seeking relief from cyberspace have more aquatic vacation options than ever before. Consider taking the helm—or just enjoying views of the rugged Maine coastline—on a Wi-Fi-free, cell phone-shunning schooner like the Windjammer. On an eco-cruise like Lindblad Expeditions’ new Patagonian Treasures: From Torres del Paine to Cape Horn, travelers are able to see the big picture, and that small screen in their pockets isn’t part of it.
Pick a remote hotel
Though it often seems like the world has lost its je ne sais quoi in the digital age, sites like Airbnb are actually enabling us to go off the beaten path in ways we never could have thought possible. With its Picks lists, Airbnb curates an inspiring collection of creative properties around the globe, many of which—like a windmill in France, a Jack Sparrow cottage in Cornwall, and a modern gem in Ubatuba, Brazil—value amenities besides the Internet.
And when it’s finally time to log back in at work, the experience of having been freed from the Web, even for a little while, will have a profound and lingering effect. You’ll see.