Just back from glorious North Devon waves I’m once again pounded by the daily grind. I’m back to clicking, browsing, tagging and surfing (not the kind in Suffolk unfortunately). That’s normal…isn’t it? That’s the modern world.
The facts seem to agree. In 2015 it was reported that the average adult spends 5.6 waking hours on the Internet; 87% of Millennials state that their phone never leaves their side, day or night. I certainly concur with the well-documented fact that being connected 24/7 is simply exhausting.
So what would happen if we simply took a break from it? Went on holiday without our pad, pod or phone? Will we incur the wrath of the underworld if we announce to our families that this summer’s holiday destination is to be a WiFi-free zone? ‘It’ll make us all happier’, we can cry as we shield ourselves from the moaning, secretly hoping that we’re right.
Seriously though, even the experts agree that to take a break from technology is more important than ever for our health and wellbeing. Many attest to the fact that replacing the pleasure-spike of Instagram likes with activities such as watching a beautiful sunset, is the key to real happiness. Mark Williamson, a director of Action for Happiness, suggests that many of our most important sources of happiness are tech-free: getting active outdoors being one of them.
A real holiday from your digital life is one of the most restorative things you can do for yourself, according to Daniel Sieberg, author of ‘The Digital Diet.’ He recommends unplugging completely the next time you take a trip. But in a world where hotspots have sprung up at Everest Base Camp, the summit of Mount Fuji and even the North Pole at Barneo Ice camp where on earth do you need to go to hear the phrase ‘sorry, no WiFi here’?
I decided to do some research. I found a few crazy options: Georgia’s Krubera Cave, which reaches 1,710m underground. It’s the deepest cave on Earth: certainly without cocktails and WiFi at the bottom. Or the most remote island in the world: Tristan da Cunha, only several thousand miles from the nearest land mass. Neither option set to be a winner this summer, methinks.
Delving further for acceptable WiFi-free holiday options I was delighted that my all-time favourite destination comes up trumps: The Sahara desert. An obsession that began after reading The English Patient (and falling a little in love with Ralph Fiennes in the film) drove me, many years ago, to ride out a sandstorm simply to feast in the magnificence of desert stillness. If you’re an old romantic like me, this is still the place to go. It remains a location mostly impenetrable by the Internet. You can ride out on camelback, stay in Berber tents buried in the depths of the desert; lose yourself in the stars, sky and stunning changing colours of the sands at sunset. Now who’s going to moan about that?
If you’re after a more Bond-like experience, the exotic Komodo National Park in Indonesia is a must. It offers world-class diving, white and pink beaches and the largest lizards in the world. Pick up a private charter, a schooner perhaps, and laze in a hammock on board reading a real book while the sea breeze carries you over tropical waters.
Rugged, outdoor adventurers might prefer the remote village of Yakutat, in Alaska. It’s recommended as one of Forbes’ best places to ‘get off the grid.’ On the Inside Passage region, you can hike the Tongass National Forest, catch mighty salmon and enjoy the stunning Alaskan scenery of snow-white mountains and crisp skies.
For the explorers at heart, Son Kul in Kyrgyzstan is quoted as one of the most beautiful places in the world. With more than 90% of it above 1500m you’re guaranteed spectacular mountain scenery and cleansing air and the chance to stay in an original yurt. If your teens are desperate they can join the locals in climbing a hill at a pre-arranged time for phone reception.
However, if all that sounds too much like hard work, the great news is you don’t even have to board an airplane to find WiFi-free adventure. The Landmark Trust prides itself in ‘unconnected’ cottages throughout the British Isles. Without televisions, WiFi and often with no phone coverage, it offers mouth-watering properties like the 16th Century vicarage in Methwold, Norfolk, restored castle keeps and former lighthouses.
Perhaps in the future we’ll have planned ‘Technology-leave’ from work in order to recharge our batteries, but in the meantime if you want a WiFi-free holiday you need either an iron will (to leave your gadgets at home) or a real sense of adventure and a liking for remote locations.
Write and let me know where your favourite WiFi-free holiday spot is. I’ll jot them down in my notebook and promise I won’t tweet about them.