In today’s #DoItForTheGram culture, the thought of traveling without documenting your every move might be a downright oxymoron — cause, if you didn’t Instagram it, did it even happen? Especially in a place like Tulum, where every hotel, restaurant, taco, and coconut are begging for a photo op, you might balk at the idea of leaving your phone in your hotel room and turning a blind eye to all those photogenic moments. Content goldmine, people! But on my 30th birthday trip to the Mexican hotspot, I did exactly that.
Dreamy hotel breakfast atop a rustic table in perfect lighting? See ya later. Perfect vacation outfit worn while riding a beach cruiser with a basket? A mental picture will have to do. I’ll admit, the first few hours were an adjustment, but the rest of our vacation was pure bliss. And after 4 days of minimal phone time, I returned home feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and refreshed like never before. Here’s what I learned:
1. Work really can wait.
You know that knee jerk reaction of glancing at your phone every 30 seconds? And those little red bubble notifications that instantly grab your attention? If you find yourself subconsciously checking your e-mail on vacation, you’re not alone. But even if you’re leaving the replies to your Out-Of-Office message, the habit of checking your inbox is an immediate buzzkill. Leaving your phone in the hotel room means it’s literally impossible to bring work on vacation with you, and isn’t that the whole point?
2. Think outside the camera roll.
Snapping a pic on your phone is typically just the start of a 30 minute process, where you select your favorite picture of the bunch, edit and apply filters, think of a clever caption, and ultimately post it to your channels. That’s cutting into valuable r&r time! We’re not against taking photos, but without a smart phone, thinking of alternative ways to document your memories can be a really fun creative exercise. On this trip, I chose to carry an old school disposable camera around with me to capture snapshots. Developing the photos after the trip was such a fun surprise, and the graininess of the film gave them an artsy look that I’d be trying to recreate with digital filters anyway!
3. Get better sleep.
Natural sunlight and darkness keep our bodies in sync with the environment around us, and studies show that the blue light beaming from our smart phones can affect that circadian rhythm by suppressing the secretion of melatonin in our bodies. At night, the effects of blue light on melatonin are even more powerful, which is why opting to vacay without your phone could result in better, more restful sleep.
4. Let the locals be your guide.
Traveling without Instagram, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Eater, or Google might seem impossible — how will you know where to get the best fish taco in the Yucatan? — but turns out, locals might have better recommendations than even your favorite influencer. On our trip to Tulum, locals tipped us off to the only beach on the coast that wasn’t covered with seaweed, and also a low key restaurant on the beach, which turned out to be one of our favorite meals!
5. Get in quality time, for real.
Having a device in your hand at all times is distracting, to say the least. How are you supposed to fall deep into conversation with your travel companion, or lose track of time, when your attention span is totally compromised? Without our phones, we found ourselves spending 2.5 hours sharing a hammock outside of our hotel room one night, and every meal was a chance for great conversation. Feel like you’ve run out of things to talk about? We always keep a deck of cards on hand for some screen-free entertainment.