January 2020 Digital Detox for Your Health and More Enjoyable Trips

Digital Detox for Your Health and More Enjoyable Trips

Photo by RyanJLane/Getty Images 
The best way to connect with a place and its people: Stash the phone and leave the tablet at home.
A few years ago, I took a two-week rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. The white water was smashing good fun, and the soaring geology more startling than I’d imagined. But what was most indelible – the takeaway that has changed the way I travel – was something I hadn’t considered: In North America’s iconic canyon, there’s no cell service and no Wi-Fi.

Connectivity is all but ubiquitous in most places. According to UN data, as of 2019, two-thirds of people worldwide had mobile devices, and, given that many people have multiple devices, there were more than a billion more mobile connections than human beings. More than 50 percent of the global population has Internet access, and that number is surging. Meanwhile, 41 percent of travelers say they feel obligated to work while on vacation, even as the National Institutes of Health now links cell phone and Internet addictions to sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression – and it’s hard to find places where you can’t be found these days. “Technology has brought us many great advances,” says Jeremy McCarthy, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s director of spa and wellness. “But the expectations for instant communication and the increasing pace of change in the world can have negative impacts on our well-being.”
That’s why the Grand Canyon was so eye-opening. For 14 days, I completely disconnected, something I hadn’t done for at least five years. Even though I slept on the ground and gave up showers, the lack of external commitments felt more indulgent than a stay at any five-star resort. And it’s not just me: Research links digital detoxing to enhanced attention spans, less stress, and more-fulfilling relationships. In the name of unplugged travel, here are a few favorite adventures and retreats to truly break away.

Going Off-Grid

Travelers won’t find Wi-Fi on UnCruise Adventures’ Alaskan expedition ships, a feature designed to encourage better engagement with wildlife and landscapes. Daily activities on the 15-day sailing from Ketchikan to Sitka aboard the 76-passenger Wilderness Discoverer range from Zodiac outings to spot whales and paddling past sea lions in kayaks to hiking to the Mendenhall Glacier – no one misses surfing YouTube nature videos on their phone. Departures: Multiple dates, April 18 through August 22.
Photo by Guenter Guni/Getty Images 
Many African safari operators have “modernized” with Internet connectivity, but Ker & Downey’s off-grid camps in Botswana are excellent for getting away from it all. Highlights of one of the company’s 12-day trips include walking safaris in the Okavango Delta, a wetland profuse with hippos and elephants in the country’s north, followed by overland and canoe explorations of the Selinda Spillway, an exclusive concession known for intimate big-game sightings. Even after leaving the bush, the Victoria Falls finale should drown out any thoughts of plugging in. Departures: Any day, March 1 through November 20.

Few places are more remote and sparsely inhabited than Kamchatka, a wilderness peninsula in Russia’s far northeast reaches. Remote Lands’ private ten-day adventure delves deep into this backcountry with activities such as a four-wheel-drive excursion and hikes to several volcanoes, a helicopter flight to the Uzon caldera’s geothermal field, and casting for monster rainbow and steelhead trout on untouched rivers. Departures: Any day, June through September.
Photo by PeopleImages/Getty Images

Resorts that Revive 

Nestled in a thick rain-forest canopy just outside Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park, 35-villa, adults-only Nayara Springs has always focused on tranquility and seclusion, but now detox packages make it official. Upon check-in, guests hand over cell phones and laptops to be placed in resort safes, and plug into nature with bird-watching walks, open-air yoga classes, and soaks in each villa’s private, mineral-hot-springs plunge pool. Thermal-water facials and hot-stone massages add to the relaxation. Detox programs include three nights’ accommodations and breakfast daily.

The antidote for #southbeach overload: the 326-room Mandarin Oriental, Miami’s digital detox, where guests store cell phones in mini sleeping bags and check into a suite stocked with a basket of puzzles and games in place of TV. A spa consultation provides Mayo Clinic tips on how to manage technology in life, while yoga, a singing bowl session, a massage designed to remove the strain of device overuse, and a healthy bento-box lunch at the pool ensure relaxation. Digital detox includes two nights’ accommodations, breakfast daily, and a $100 spa credit.

Sun seekers at the 267-suite Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, on the Pacific near Puerto Vallarta, can request Detox Concierges to cleanse their rooms of television and all personal electronics. At its sister resort, the 539-suite Grand Velas Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, surrendering devices entitles guests to complimentary activities such as bike tours, eco-walks, snorkeling, and more. 

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