Why I’m taking another tech-free holiday

Photo by Laura Gilchrist

This time last year our family took a technology free holiday.


I realised I’d become a bit addicted to my phone and decided it was time to do somthing about it. I’d also noticed my children’s screen time increasing. I suspected the time they were spending on TV, phones and other devices was affecting their behaviour and attention span.


I persuaded my husband that it would be good for the whole family to have a screen free break. He was surprisingly open to the idea.


In preparation, we gave the children an allowance to spend on arts and crafts supplies to keep them occupied at our holiday home. When we arrived, we hid the TV and our phones in a cupboard!


Our first tech-free holiday had an incredibly positive impact on our family. So much so, we’re about to do it again this year.


Breaking the technology habit


At first, not looking at my phone felt very very strange. We had asked family to call us (no messages) in the evenings if they needed us. I quickly realised how often I check my phone by the number of times I realised I didn’t have it. I just had the travel alarm clock I’d taken to tell the time. I felt extremely vulnerable, slightly uneasy and a bit naked. What if someone wanted to get hold of me and they couldn’t?


I was extremely anxious and realised I was going through withdrawal from my phone addiction. I was so used to be ‘switched on’ the whole time. It definitely helped that my husband was going through it with me.


Our children also found those first few days difficult. They asked us constantly for our phones because they were bored and had ‘nothing to do’. They also had a habit to break.


Finding a happy medium


Strangely, the thing I missed most about my phone was taking photographs. After a few days of being completely phone-free, the sunset overlooking the bay was just too good not to take a picture of. So we agreed a new rule, ‘you can take pictures but not look back over them or share them with others until we get home’. This brought back memories of having to wait to get your film developed after your holiday. Anyone over 40 will remember!


Head space, creativity and being present


Some huge benefits came out of our family experiment. The first thing I noticed was an incredible feeling of spaciousness and time. I lost the need to share the moment and started to just BE in the moment.


Several of my clients share with me how scattered they feel. I lost that scattered feeling and was able to just be present. To notice a beautifully shaped pebble. To spend ages collecting shells with my daughter. To really appreciate my children and enjoy playing with them. I think the main thing was just the noticeable lack of distraction. Most of us are so distracted and distractable these days!


After about a week of standing our ground and refusing to hand over our phones to the children, we had a creative breakthrough. We woke one morning to find they had built an elaborate den in the living room and were happily playing a board game together inside. They began to explore new creative activities like making things out of driftwood collected on the beach, completing a 1000 piece jigsaw, making cards with their craft materials, and taking photos of things that interested them.


My son and I started a daily ritual of an after-breakfast walk-run to buy a newspaper and see if we could spot the wild horses. These are memories we’ll remember because we were present and focused on enjoying them together.


Overall, I felt more relaxed, calm, present, creative and purposeful. Our whole family was happy and fulfilled. We needed this break to understand how and when to put boundaries around our use of technology at home.


Baby steps to a tech free break


If you want to try a tech-free holiday but aren’t quite ready to leave your phone at home, try these tips taken from ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price.


    1. Put an elastic band around your phone as a reminder to ask yourself why you are picking it up.


    1. Add a new message to your screen saver – Do you want to pick me up right now?


    1. Change your screen display settings to black and white – a mono screen is much less attractive.


    1. Reduce the likelihood of calls and emails whilst you’re away – contact your clients and explain you will be unavailable. Record a voicemail message and set an email auto-response saying the same.


    1. Ask a trusted colleague or a VA to check your emails and respond on your behalf.


In years to come, my son and I will recall the names we gave the wild horses on our post-breakfast walks and my daughter and I will fondly remember our driftwood creations.


No work email or social media post is more important than reconnecting with your family. Have a think about your relationship with technology and how you can make it a little healthier.


Now it’s time for me to sign off and create some more refreshing tech-free holiday memories.