Don’t live your life through a screen. Travel shows just how much better the world looks, tastes and feels without a device getting in the way.
But we never said a digital detox was easy, at least not at first. Sometimes you need to create a distance – a lot of distance, as we’ll see – between you and online temptation. Although some web-free refuges are surprisingly close…
This West Country haven isn’t as remote as other, exotic spots on this list, and they have actually heard of wi-fi there, but this is nonetheless prime digital cold turkey territory.
Why? Because, dripping with natural beauty and bursting with thrilling things to do, Devon will – if you let it – put the miniature pleasures of your digital devices into proper proportion.
Rockpool-hop along its hundreds of miles of coastline, hike its gorse-clad hills, learn to surf or sample the slower-paced life of a fishing village. At some point, the lightbulb moment should come: rather than increasing your enjoyment of life, your digital devices could actually be stopping you living it to the full.
Apart from good looks, Britain’s northernmost parts have another ingredient for a good digital purge: rare in the UK, you can’t actually get the internet in the Scottish Highlands’ remotest, and often most gorgeous, reaches.
Enjoy this pre-digital purity while you can: the mobile operator EE is busy erecting its unlovely masts throughout Scotland’s most unspoilt regions.
In these furthest territories, stretching towards Scandinavia, you’ll find a landscape of shimmering lochs, crinkly mountains and deer with hat-stand-like antlers – and they won’t be appearing on your mobile in an ad for Scotch whisky.
Just say the word – Umbria – and already you’re entering a history-steeped, sensual world to which digital’s flashy, fleeting values are anathema.
The only Italian region bordered by neither land nor sea, Umbria offers a relatively undiluted vision of life in the country before the arrival of modernity – let alone the iPhone X.
Wildflower meadows and medieval villages aside, Umbria offers travel pleasures that you certainly can’t get on a mobile and that the absence of one will only intensify.
Which pleasures? We’re talking, in particular, the middle Italian region’s delicious grub. Called cucina povera – food of the poor – it’s ironically a feast of black truffles, cured meats and full-bodied wines.
Lick it all you like, you just won’t get these flavours from a tablet.
Notwithstanding the success of meditation apps such as Calm, spiritual reflection generally sits ill with digital devices. The latter are all about capturing your attention and, usually, flogging you stuff: the former, about distancing yourself from material wants.
Perhaps no other spiritual tradition cultivates such a distance as keenly as Buddhism, and few other countries offer such serene spaces to observe that tradition as Nepal. Trek to remote monasteries, or stay in one: in neither case will yakking on a mobile seem remotely attractive.
Or your Nepalese trip might concentrate on incredible physical adventures: riding churning rapids, abseiling a canyon or (if you must) bungee jumping into a canyon – all amid some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery on the planet.
Just remember, if you’re tempted to Instagram these thrills, rather than experiencing them in the raw, ask whether inducing envy in others would be your main goal. Then, remembering where you are, perhaps set that camera phone aside.
Cuba’s Communist government has a similarly disdainful attitude to material possessions such as glitzy mobiles. When considering, then, whether to rely on yours on a Cuban trip (or even – sharp intake of breath – to bother taking it with you) remember also that, while mobile coverage is improving, internet access on a device remains as patchy as you might expect in a developing country.
But who cares? Cubans don’t need an expensive circuit board that periodically emits grating noises to have fun, and they might remind you that neither do you.
São Tomé and Príncipe
São… where? Exactly. This tiny bi-island nation a few hundred miles off the west coast of Africa is perfect if you want to get off grid for a while. No doubt, in the past, ST&P’s visitors (it’s long had a grand total of about 20 a week) have included people wanting to escape all sorts of attention, but now it beckons as a paradisiacal refuge from the scrutiny of social media.
Rock up on an occasional flight from Lisbon (the country won independence from Portugal in 1975) or an even more intermittent cargo boat (warning: they do sink) from Gabon, stow your mobile for the duration, and you’ll find a country struggling financially but one that’s also among the safest in Africa and blessed with astonishing natural riches that are guaranteed to excite the explorer in you.
In one of the safest countries on the continent, stay on an atmospheric former coffee plantation and explore jungle-clad mountains with peerless birdwatching, lovely, lonely beaches and a kaleidoscopic underwater world to which a snorkel is the only key.
“Hello!… Can you hear me? I’m in… “
Admittedly, such mobile-phone jabber is unlikely in the blithely named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, given heavy restrictions on international calls and web access that’ll likely be confined to the dictatorship’s intranet, Kwangmyong, which is like AOL circa 1995, without the laughs.
But could your desire for a digital detox ever be strong enough to make a visit to this country of ghastly human rights abuses, not to mention tour guides-cum-bouncers and dubious cuisine, worthwhile?
Well, if you’ve got an intrepid travel bone in your body, quite possibly yes. For one thing, North Korea, so isolated from the rest of the world, is just fascinatingly odd. Can you really imagine ever forgetting a trip there – as opposed to, say, Torremolinos?
And for another, outside exposure is, if anything, likely to hasten change in the repressive land.
So, whether it’s North Korea, Nepal or less exotic Devon for your next holiday, consider a digital detox – it’s less awkward than colonic irrigation, and you’ll probably emerge more refreshed.
To adapt a phrase from a pre-mobile generation, turn off, tune in and drop out.