What Happens When You Disconnect? (Amazing Things!)by Elise Museles
We’ve all been there: stressed, exhausted, depleted. It happened to me recently, but I kept on going – because that’s what we busy people do! Then one day, I woke up and realized that I wasn’t doing myself or anyone else much good when I was running on empty. So I did something that I had never done: I scoured the internet and booked a solo getaway, all by my lonesome self.
After hunting for a vacation that felt right, I stumbled across the Rancho La Puerta website, where I read these words: “Whenever your inner voice says, I need a vacation and perhaps even a new beginning.” Somehow, it spoke to my tired mind and body. I knew that I had to pack my bags and go to this beautiful setting that I had never been before – a place where they hand you the keys to recharge and renew yourself at your own pace, on your own time.
Even though the property is located in the middle of nowhere, there was a surprising amount to do once I arrived. But none of it involved phones, email, or social media.
The ranch is completely out of cell phone range, and you can only connect to Wi-Fi from a few designated spots. In fact, upon arrival, we were presented with a sweet little cell phone “sleeping bag,” along with a card that encouraged us to set some boundaries and find balance in our digital lives. Most of the guests seemed happy about the time away from their devices.
I, on the other hand, have a harder time powering down completely. (When you’re eating gorgeous, healthy food and surrounded by breathtaking mountain ranges, who wouldn’t be tempted to whip out the phone and post some snapshots on Instagram?!) But since I spent most of my days out of range, I didn’t have the urge (or option!) to check my emails or scroll through social media.
Something else happened while I was away. Sure, I became more present in all the incredible experiences I was having, from the delicious farm-to-table cooking class to the fascinating lecture on energy medicine to noticing all the mesmerizing views, but most importantly, I learned something about myself: I am dependent on checking my phone! It seems that my relationship with technology needs some serious help.
So I challenged myself to disconnect. That meant not running to the Wi-Fi zones first thing in the morning and throughout the day, but actually turning “off.” As in, all the way off. Unplugged.
The irony is, I spent those days feeling more connected than ever—to nature, to my experiences, and to myself.
Away from my beeping phone and seemingly self-filling inbox, I hit the hiking trails, spent time alone, and lingered over spa cuisine in the Mexican sunshine. I took time to remember the things I love doing—re-reading a favorite book by the pool, watching the sunrise in the morning, dining al fresco. And in doing so, I found a connection that just isn’t possible when I’m tethered to my devices.
I returned from this “disconnected” vacation feeling more energized, relaxed, and connected. It was a powerful reminder that life is what happens when you pull yourself away from your screen.
I realize, of course, that not everyone can spend four days in the mountains of Mexico away from their phones and obligations. I also understand that this can be challenging for a lot of us. (My hand is raised!) But we can all try to find some time, even just a few hours, to fit a little “disconnection” into our daily, overly connected lives.
Here are 4 ways to take a mini-break from the screen (yes, that includes the phone!) and enjoy being fully present in your life:
Next time you meet up with a friend, leave your phone in the car. So many of us intend to be present and give our interactions the attention they deserve, then pull out our phone as soon as someone is late or gets up to use the restroom. This distracts us and takes us away from the moment. Remove the temptation by showing up without it! In quiet moments, while waiting, look around you and take in your surroundings. Chances are, you’ll notice something interesting or delightful that you would have missed with your nose inches from your screen.
Actively choose tech-free activities. It’s hard to use a Wi-Fi-connected device while finding your balance on a stand-up paddleboard or flowing through yoga poses! A lot of the things that we like doing make space for our phones—we can scroll through Instagram while movie trailers play, for example, and update Facebook while waiting for our drink order. But when we choose active, outdoor, hands-on activities, we choose to connect with our friends and bodies, rather than with the Internet.
Unplug your Wi-Fi for a day. If you can’t resist the siren song of your laptop, remove the temptation. Unplug your Wi-Fi at the wall and see if you can leave it unplugged all day (just don’t use up your phone’s data plan – that’s cheating!) Read a book, play a board game, use actual paper maps, and write a letter or a postcard. You might be surprised to find that you still remember how to do all those things, even without your apps.
Take a day trip somewhere “off the grid”. As much as we love escaping to luxurious ranches miles from the nearest cell phone tower, we don’t always have that kind of free time. But we can bring a favorite book to a nearby cafe that turns its Wi-Fi off every day at 6 p.m., or head out for a hike where cell service is spotty. You can’t “check” your phone if you don’t have coverage, and that little bit of enforcement is a great way to pull yourself away from the blue glow of your tech without leaving your life behind.
When you finally put away your to-do list and your devices for a few days (or hours!), you might find, like I did, that intentionally disconnecting actually makes you feel more connected to yourself and your surroundings. Why not give it a try?