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Why You May Need to Disconnect to Reconnect

by Elise Museles

I’m writing to you from one of my favorite places on earth. It’s not a beautiful Italian villa, tucked in the Tuscan hills or a luxurious spa on a tropical island.

This beloved vacation spot is dusty, remote and, well, it smells like horses.

Every summer for the past 11 years, my family spends a week riding horses, eating huckleberry pancakes, and breathing fresh mountain air at a dude ranch in remote Montana. Even though we are literally in the middle of nowhere, there’s a surprising amount to do—but none of it involves our phones, our email, or our Instagram accounts.

The ranch is completely out of cell phone range, and we can only connect to Wi-Fi from one spot. My teenage son turns his phone off for the entire week and doesn’t even take it out of his carry on! I actually get to look him in the eye. (Can you imagine?)

For me, on the other hand, I 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 spend almost the entire day out of range, I don’t have the urge (or choice!) to check my emails or scroll through social media.

In preparation for our annual vacation, my family and I warn everyone that we’re “disconnecting.” We can’t be reached. We’ll be incommunicado.

But the irony is, we spend these days more connected than ever—connected to each other, to nature, and to ourselves.

Away from our beeping phones and ever-filling inboxes, we hit the hiking trails, spend time alone in nature, and linger over hot meals all under the huge Montana sky. We take time to remember the things we love doing—whether it’s re-reading our favorite books, or watching the clouds roll by while we picnic together outside. We connect in a way that just doesn’t feel possible when we’re tethered to our devices.

We return from these “disconnected” vacations more energized, relaxed, and connected. It’s a yearly reminder that life is what happens when you pull yourself away from your screen.

I realize, of course, that not everyone can spend seven days in the mountains away from their phones and obligations. And I also understand that this can be challenging for so many of us. (My hand is raised!) But we all can try to find some time (even just a few hours) to fit in a little “disconnection” into our overly connected lives.

MontanaLandscape-edited

Here are 4 ways take a mini-break from the screen and enjoy being fully present in your life:

1. 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. But then someone’s late or gets up to use the bathroom and out comes the phone…distracting us and taking us away from the moment. Remove the temptation and show up without it!

2. Actively choose tech-free activities.
It’s hard to use any sort of Wi-Fi-connected device if you’re attempting to balance on a stand up paddle board (or a horse!). A lot of the things we like doing make space for our phones—we can scroll through Instagram while the movie trailers play and we can update Facebook while we’re waiting for our drink order.

But when we choose active, outdoor, hands-on activities, we’re choosing to connect with our friends and bodies rather than connecting with the internet—which is a great thing!

3. 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 (and try not to use your phone’s data plan!).

Read a book, play a board game, use actual, paper maps, write a letter or a postcard. See if you still remember how to do all those things we use apps for!

4. Take a day trip somewhere that’s “off the grid”.
As much as we love escaping to our favorite getaway spots, we likely can’t just pop over anytime we want. You can, however, bring your favorite book to a nearby cafe that turns its Wi-Fi off every day at 6 pm. Or head out for a hike where cell service is spotty or out of range. You can’t “check” your phone if you don’t have coverage!

When you finally put away your to-do list and your devices for a few days (or hours!), you just might find that intentionally disconnecting will actually make you feel more connected—to yourself and to your surroundings. Give it a try!

How often do you disconnect from technology? Do you have any tips that help you get away from your phone? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

4 Responses to Why You May Need to Disconnect to Reconnect

  1. Jenny July 31, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    I had a unplugged vacation (3 days at the beach) 4 years ago and it changed the course of my life! When I got off the treadmill, I realized my life was pointed to the wrong trajectory! I am so much happier now that I adjusted course. Unplugged is so refreshing. I am doing it now on shorter sessions and loving it. Thanks for this post!

    • Elise Museles July 31, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

      Jenny, that sounds like a life-changing vacation! The shorter sessions are key. Good for you for carrying it forward. xo

  2. Adrienne July 31, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    Earlier this year, I began observing the shabbat, which is the Jewish sabbath that starts on Friday night and runs until Saturday night. You’re not allowed to work on the shabbat and instead are to be with family and friends, read, or engage in other pleasurable, reflective moments. I now make Friday night through Saturday night family time, and I unplug my computer. No email, no internet, no nothing for 24+ hours (I keep the landline available for emergencies). Friends (Jewish or not) are highly supportive, and while there have been a few family hiccups from it, it’s worked out well. It’s also amazing to discover late Saturday night or Sunday morning that there really wasn’t anything so important that it needed my immediate online presence!

    • Elise Museles July 31, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

      Adrienne, I love this, and how wonderful that you have your family onboard. It’s so true that we can just pick up where we left off and the online world will still be there:). Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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