When everything was going in the right direction, and my plans were falling into place, I stopped writing.
With the completion of our home within reach, July had a been a whirlwind month.
In August, I sat at my computer, opened WordPress, clicked ‘Write’ and typed a title.
Even that small action felt foreign to me.
I wasn’t feeling like myself, and I knew that I had to subtract something to get back the spark that inspired my writing.
That “something” came in the form of a ‘digital detox’. The use of electronic devices has brought this phrase to the forefront of modern vocabulary.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as:
a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world
A digital detox was the perfect remedy.
Every good story has a backstory, right?
(At least that’s what the Marvel movies I’ve watched have taught me.)
The process of building the house that I now call home taught me a lot, starting with a lesson in patience.
When closing day arrived, all the documents were signed, and the keys were handed over to us, I marked this life-changing moment with a picture.
I sent the photo in a text message to a friend of mine, who promptly replied, “You look happy and relieved.”
As good friends often do, she read me like a book even though my smile showed “happy”.
I thought that it covered up “relieved”.
Though I learned patience in the process, that didn’t change the fact that the waiting was an emotional journey.
Checking in at the construction site to make sure things were going well during the building process required time and attention to detail. When I left the construction site, my work was not done. I composed emails or made phone calls to follow up on things that needed attention.
My husband and I worked together to get things done, but each day seemed to bring something new.
We also made the decision to postpone a trip to Europe, because completion of our home would be at one of its most crucial points during that month. It wouldn’t have been realistic to be out of town at that time.
So yes, feelings of happiness and relief were both being worn on my face.
During the year that it took to complete the construction of our home, I started this blog. Writing brings me joy, and I enjoy sharing my experiences in life and travel with those who take the time to read my posts. It was a good time to have an outlet that helped me concentrate on something else besides follow up phone calls and emails.
In conjunction with writing, I connected with other writers and travelers and promoted my writing on social media platforms. Twitter is my favorite social media platform for conversation and interaction with a great group of folks that are known as the #TravelTribe. Instagram is my favorite place to share photos of travel and snippets of the beauty I find in daily life.
Despite the ultra busyness of my life, I kept up with my social media feeds. If a day proved to be particularly trying, I would skip posting and focus on catching up on replies.
As the time got closer to closing on my home, arrangements had to be made for moving, stopping and starting utilities, making sure that we had the necessary documents for our lender and title company, and… the list goes on.
Managing my busy days and keeping up with social media became too much for me to handle. When I noticed signs of anxiety, I slowed down and lessened my time online. I knew that this would be noticeable, and after completing my big move, I tweeted out to my followers:
The support I received from the wonderful group of people I interact with on Twitter was amazing. The #TravelTribe rocks!
Using my vacation as a digital detox was not my original intention.
In my mind, this was going to be an opportunity to get back into sharing snippets of my time in a place that I had dreamed about visiting. How could it hurt to spend most of my time relaxing and share an Instagram story every now and then?
My outlook changed when I read a post written by Samantha Owen-Stoddart, founder of SOS TRAVEL UK.
About a year ago, I started following Sam (as she’s known to her followers) on Twitter and was inspired by her love of travel and her drive to inspire others to travel. She willingly and openly writes about and shares helpful details of the places she and her husband, Adam, have been in the world.
The beautiful photos she takes inspire wanderlust.
Back in July, when I was going through the height of trying to manage building my home, writing a blog, and keeping up with social media, Sam wrote a blog post that struck a major chord with me.
As much as social media is a part of what she does, Sam traveled to Bali with Adam and decided to use the time away to take a digital detox.
I’ll let you read the details of her journey, because it will inspire you to pack your bags and head to Bali.
What I will tell you is that Sam’s post had a tremendous effect on my weary soul.
I thought about her post for days.
I was at the point where I wanted to travel and take a break at the same time. Sam’s journey proved that it was possible to do that and the benefits were good for the mind, body, and soul.
My upcoming vacation wasn’t until November, and though I had taken staycations and micro-vacations with my family during the year, this trip was my one chance to step away from everything.
My home was complete, but the work had just begun.
As it goes with a new home, there was unpacking, organizing, and all the other work it takes to make a house a home. There seemed to be someone setting up something in some room for the entire month of September. October wasn’t much different.
Somehow I still wasn’t settled.
I scolded myself for wanting a break. The thoughts that went through my head were relentless. “Didn’t you just get exactly what you wanted? Isn’t this your dream?”
I shared these thoughts with my husband who replied, “You more than deserve a break”.
My husband’s reply, coupled with the inspiration from Sam’s post, and the determination to restore my mind, body, and spirit helped me finalize the plans for my own digital detox.
A digital detox is something that I could have decided to do at any time, but starting it a few days before my vacation seemed fitting. I needed to focus on preparations for my trip and the extra time I gained was very helpful in maintaining a stress-free packing experience.
Twitter was the medium I chose to announce that I would be offline for the next few days. Sending out a tweet ahead of time allowed me to reply to my followers without feeling like I was cheating on my downtime.
The responses to my tweet were very supportive.
I heard from others who had also taken time away from social media in order to manage new jobs, busier schedules, or more responsibility. I realized that being open about where I was and what I needed to do to restore my well-being helped others feel comfortable being open with me.
After I posted replies to my tweet, I was able to step away from social media platforms on my electronic devices.
It wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I felt a strong impulse to post.
Temperatures the night before my flight were near freezing. I was departing on a very early flight, and after we boarded and the door was closed, the pilot announced that we would be in the lineup for de-icing.
In all my years of traveling from the southern part of the United States in November, I have never been on a plane that needed to be de-iced. This was a rare occurrence!
I quickly snapped a photo of the truck that was de-icing our plane.
There was also a beautiful sunrise appearing through my slightly hazy window AND my husband surprised me with a first time upgrade to first class.
The trifecta of potential social media posts presented itself to me on a silver platter, and within a matter of seconds, I had the wording for the perfect Instagram story in my head.
Almost immediately after I formulated the words for that “perfect” Instagram story, I realized what I was doing. More importantly, I realized what I was missing.
Travel is something I enjoy, and these moments, especially the exciting firsts, were meant for me to savor. The time would come for me to share my photos and feelings with an audience, but that time was not while I was sitting on my window seat experiencing them.
What I was missing were moments that were meant especially for me.
This was an “Ah-ha” moment that set my digital detox on the right path.
Building Blocks of a Successful Digital Detox
Our flight took off, and as I stretched out to enjoy the journey ahead, something incredible happened.
The writer’s block I experienced during the previous months melted away.
While enjoying the view, ideas for future blog posts started flowing.
What a difference a digital detox makes!
The building blocks of a digital detox are the things that helped me experience success at the start of and during my downtime:
- Turn Notifications OFF
Part of the “urgency” to respond to social media posts comes from the bright red number that appears next to my apps. My mind associated the color red with urgency and created an urge to find out what’s going on in my feed. Switching the notifications setting on my phone to ‘Off’ eliminated those tempting numbers.
- Move social media apps from the first screen on your phone to the last screen
In addition to turning notifications off, I also moved my social media apps to the screen that stores the apps that I hardly ever use. With the notifications gone and the apps “out of sight, out of mind”, I was less likely to have the urge to use them.
- Delete Social Media apps
Although I didn’t have to take this step, if Steps 1 and/or 2 aren’t enough, deleting your social media apps during a digital detox may be the thing that works for you.
Elements of a Digital Detox
When our plane landed in the Bahamas, I found that I was more interested in and excited about the experiences I would have on Paradise Island.
What I was no longer interested in or concerned about was sharing those details with anyone else. I enjoyed the ride and the scenery from the airport in Nassau to Atlantis, where we were staying for the next four nights.
My resolve to remain committed to my digital detox had been strengthened during the plane ride to the Bahamas and these were the elements that enhanced my experience:
- I decided that I would take photos and videos during my stay, but no time would be spent editing them.
I realized how much precious time I was using to edit photos and videos, and how I could better use that time to enjoy something that contributed to my well-being.
- I decided to spend time enjoying my surroundings before taking photos or videos.
When we checked into The Cove Atlantis, I immediately noticed the gorgeous chandeliers and water feature present in the lobby. Usually, I would put everything aside and spend time taking a photo. This time, I completed the check-in process and didn’t come back to photograph the lobby until a couple of days after our arrival. It was just as beautiful on day two as it was on day one.
Benefits of a Digital Detox
The benefits of my digital detox were almost immediate.
I experienced true rest.
I have taken many a restful getaway, but I never felt as rested and as present in the moments that I experienced during my trip.
It made a four-day vacation feel like a seven-day vacation.
My vacation felt longer and the days didn’t go by as quickly. Savoring moments of beauty and sharing it with the people around me was the key.
I returned home feeling rested.
Because of the opportunity I gave myself for rest, I returned home feeling rejuvenated. The feeling of rejuvenation was one that stayed with me for weeks after my vacation.
I was ready to write again.
The writer’s block I experienced for several months was no more. During the plane ride home I added more topics and ideas for blog posts to the Notes app on my phone. It made me feel happy to be able to have ideas flowing again, as I had been unable to think about anything to write over the summer.
There is one exception I made during my digital detox.
My son celebrated his birthday during my trip and it is my custom to call him and wish him a happy birthday.
It is also a custom for me to create a birthday post for him on Facebook.
I logged on to Facebook and tagged him in a birthday post. I made an exception for this event because it was family related and was not a post related to my vacation. I also knew that after the birthday greeting was posted, I would stop using the app for the remainder of my break from social media.
From the start, it was my intention to complete one week of an absence on social media. When I returned home, there were a couple of days left before my digital detox was over.
I used those days to unpack and get back into the swing of things which was good timing and allowed me to absorb everything I learned during this time.
There was one piece of artwork that I encountered at The Cove Atlantis that confirmed that I was on the right path and made the right decision to temporarily leave my digital life behind.
The “Love Life” painting is a part of the ‘Gatherings’ series by artist Jane Waterous.
It was the first thing that greeted me when I entered the building where my room was located.
These words, painted on canvas, were exactly the encouragement I needed.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
The effects of my digital detox have been felt every day since my vacation ended and have extended into my every day life.
It has led me to take time to reset my mind, body, and soul when days are overwhelming.
It reminded me that my mental health is more important than my digital presence.
There is no perfect time to take a break from social media.
Here are a few suggestions to help you find the opportunity to break away:
- Enhance the experience and memories of a special occasion/holiday by spending time focusing on the people and moments around you.
- If you are leaving a stressful situation back at home, you may want to use your entire vacation to detox.
Remember, you can still take photos and videos, but share them when you get back home.
- Take a day to detox and use it to catch up on reading, exercise (a simple walk works wonders), or choose to wander through your favorite store and redeem a gift card that you received.
However you choose to detox, the results will definitely help you see things in a different light.
That’s what a digital detox did for me and it is something I will do again.
Would you consider taking a break from social media? Have you taken a digital detox before? What are your suggestions for time away from social media?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.