It was late, dark and I was standing on the street saying goodbye to my friend, Gez, feeling as if another ‘problem’ came my way I may well super-implode. With only days until my holiday I had that feeling so many of us have, that I simply couldn’t fit everything in before I departed and how on earth was I going to fully relax with all of this going on at work and home. Gez looked at me and gently said, ‘I really think you should turn your phone off whilst you are away’. I smiled, nodded, thought he was slightly unstable and then exhaustingly smiled again. ‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘Turn it off’.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘good idea. I’ll think on it.’ And I did…. What an unworkable suggestion. In the midst of ongoing business negotiations, a major TV series about to transmit, house renovations, Mum being unwell – to name but a few of the current goings on. How on earth could I go fully offline for 5 days?
The next morning I woke to a long but again gentle email from Gez. (I hasten to add he is a very special, kind and wise friend of many years). It outlined what he did when he goes away – taking an old second hand phone as an emergency for loved ones, fully turning off, ‘feeding his soul’ by living in the present moment, away from all those worries back home. He offered to buy me my ‘emergency mobile’ on eBay, set it up and send it special delivery so it arrived in time for my departure 2 days away. Having slept, and more refreshed, his email made sense. I had always taken my phone away with me on holiday. I do not have it turned on the whole time, but it only takes one upsetting work email or disturbing message to throw me and have a disproportionate impact. It had often happened and deep down I knew Gez was right.
So I accepted with gratitude and 2 days later my fully set up phone arrived in the post (Gez is also super-organised, I had nothing to do!). I gave the number to my Mum in case of emergency at home and Tim in case of one at work (I was very clear that the definition of emergency involved medical only) and I was ready to go.
Arriving at Heathrow, I made my last calls and texts on my ‘normal’ phone. And then it went into airplane mode and WiFi off. As advised by Gez, I had already downloaded music, podcasts, talks, and meditations so they were all offline for when I was away. And the ‘emergency’ phone would be connected at all times – for emergencies.
As my traveling buddy and long-time very special friend Jo and I embarked upon the plane we smiled at each other and she knew my plan – ‘offline I go Jo’. And that was that.
So what happened next you may ask? I was so ready for heavy withdrawal effects and a minutely detailed blog for you all Hubbers with the ups and downs of my full-on digital detox. But there were no downs. There was no missing the handheld device I thought I was addicted to. I wasn’t. Letting go of it was the best decision I’d made in a long time. As the plane took off I could feel the relief stream through my body. And as we landed in Portugal and the whole plane, almost in unison it felt, turned on their mobiles, I looked out of the window at the new country I was arriving in. As I disembarked I took in the sights, the smells, the sounds, the warmth. I wasn’t head-down like most of the passengers.
Later, I arrived at the hotel and there was no temptation to turn it on. A quick connecting of my emergency phone to WiFi (I wanted to let Mum know I had got there safely) but that was that. And as the 5 days went by there was not one minute that I missed it or its ability to connect me with the outside world.
Now, many of you may say that is just not possible for me. I am not suggesting it works for everyone; all of our circumstances are unique. I was fortunate too – both Gez and Tim were holding the reins for me back at home in my absence, dealing with the many things that needed to be dealt with. And Mum could get hold of me – and I did check in with her daily. But Hubbers, I can only share with you how genuinely transformational being offline was for me. First and foremost it removed me from the many stresses from back home. A blissful interruption in what has been challenging times. But, it was more than that. My emotions were more stable, they were not like a rollercoaster as good email, bad email came in. There was no to do list, no ‘not enough time in the day to answer all the messages’ as they mounted across all the platforms. And finally I was truly in the present moment. When Jo and I talked I wasn’t distracted. When I was sitting in the sun I wasn’t wasting time on a device, I was just absorbing my stunning surroundings. When we were out and about, I breathed in the world. And savoured and cherished every moment.
So Hubbers, I can only highly recommend a digital detox. As you may know Days 6 and 19 of the 21 Days to Happiness are dedicated to this. Without doubt, my holiday would have been wonderful regardless: a very special, kind and loving friend, stunning surroundings, warm climes and fabulous food.
But my digital detox meant those 5 days away were particularly healing and soothing. Like no other break I have ever taken. As Gez would say it truly fed my soul. So thank you Gez… and Tim and Jo for giving me 5 transformational days of joy, peace and calm. Hubbers, try it. If you can. It will be life changing!
“Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected.”