Taking a Tech Free Getaway

Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer may have come and gone but there are still a few weeks left to catch the last bit of summer during a spontaneous weekend getaway.

With forty-eight hours to spend however we want, we drew a circle on a map representing a two-hour drive from Long Island and then came up with the most wonderful ways to spend the weekend for our September “Weekend Getaways” package. But while packing for that trip to an art enclave, a restored mansion or relaxing waterfall retreat, is that smartphone, and iPad on the to-bring list?

The summer seemed to be the time for digital detoxing or at least that time they didn’t stop talking about them.

The Empire Hotel encouraged guests to disconnect from their phones and reconnect with their families and friends if only for a few hours. During the month of August the Pool Deck at The Empire Hotel offered guests a complimentary beverage in exchange for their phone, which was kept in a safe place and returned when the guest left the venue for the day. Turning in your phone to the bartender might seem a bit iffy but apparently people took them up on it.

Elsewhere, people around the country went to greater lengths to cut themselves off from technology. NPR shared stories from its readers on their tech free vacations and there are even luxury vacations you go on to be –off the grid, $6,500 a week to be unplugged at The Ranch in the Malibu.

But what exactly is a digital detox? Well according to Frances Booth who writes about digital distraction and productivity for Forbes it’s switching off all, smartphones, tablets, laptops and any other tech device for a certain amount of time, ideally 24 to 72 hours.

There’s even a day devoted to it. Each March for the past five years the National Day of Unplugging has taken place. Last year more than 13,000 people participated in the day in same way. Spokesperson Tanya Schevitz said the organization is not anti-technology but rather hopes that a day unplugged will help people reflect and reconnect.

“I think it is really important that people take control of their technology so that it doesn’t control them,” Schevitz said. “This is an age of wonder and amazement with technology. It can go anywhere with us and we can be reachable at any time. But many people have lost the balance in their use of technology. So they no longer are able to sit alone and be comfortable with their thoughts. They don’t know how to be bored. They no longer strike up conversations with random people at a restaurant, bar or bus stop.”

Michael Stusser the owner of the Osmosis Spa Sanctuary about an hour drive from San Francisco, would agree with Schevitz. The spa only has cell reception in one spot so guests are forced to take at least a few hours of a digital vacation when they stop.

“Taking a digital fast even for a few hours is highly beneficial” Stusser said.

But is needing a digital detox really about cutting oneself off or just an excuse for poor manners? Karlin Lillington of the Irish Times wrote the whole notion of a digital detox is pretty silly.

“I really don’t get why anyone has to take a call during a meal out or a coffee together at the local coffee shop. It is rude. So is call-waiting. No one is so important that they cannot give undivided attention to a friend or family member for a cup of coffee or a lunch.”

What do you think? Have you taken a tech free getaway?