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The Art of Gadget-Free Travel: How to Kick Your Dependence on Technology When on the Road

Woman traveler hipster with a backpack seating on the top of mountain with incredible amazing view on the valley
Written by Dhinesh Manuel

This blog post was updated on July 22, 2021.

Nowadays, we’ve become accustomed to swiping, tapping, downloading, and snapping our way through our travels. Yep, devices have made travel a heck of a lot easier. However, traveling back in the day, especially for those Gen Xers and pre-millennials, never included much technology … but didn’t entirely suck as well.

Those were times of uncluttered memories, full of very clear “analog” recollections of experiences with a more “live-in-the-moment” fluidity that never paused to pose or pout. Many would still remember fun days outdoors roasting marshmallows, or at the beach making sand castles, or even lugging overfilled shopping bags in the middle of random cities — all enjoyed without the intrusion of Instagram or YouTube videos.

And that’s the bittersweet truth about travel today: For all the conveniences we’ve gained at our fingertips, there’s a bit of magic that may have slipped through them as well.

For those who are nostalgic for these simpler times, we’re here to tell you that you can still travel without all your gadgets and still have an unforgettable adventure. Doubtful if you’ll survive? Have a little faith; follow these simple steps and you’ll be digitally detoxed and kick your dependence on technology the next time you’re on the road!

Pull for paper

Passport and boarding pass, waiting for a flight in a modern airport

Yes, yes, we know the environmentalist in you is screaming bloody murder at the thought of more paper, but one easy way of ditching the need for your phone is to simply print out your ticket and your boarding pass (if applicable). And this isn’t just limited to your tickets; you can also print out copies of your passport as well as other important documents that you may feel are important. Just make sure to keep them all close at hand in your backpack or carry-on in a separate file or folder so that they’re easy to access in a hurry. Another upside to printing: you won’t have to rely on your phone’s fickle battery to access them in an emergency.

Read a travel guide book about your destination

Go full-on old school and purchase a travel guide book! Want to know what to do, what to see, and what to eat? Well, the pages of this handy-dandy book should help you find what you need to know. If the thought of thumbing through a large travel guide seems daunting, you can use some technology in the prep stage and carry out some internet research before your trip begins. Make sure to take down notes for later in an organized manner in a notebook or journal, or even in a special easy-to-carry scrapbook that will serve to be a fun souvenir to review many years after your journey.

Use a map to navigate

Tourists in Madrid reading city map

Remember those foldable maps you can still pick up at the tourist center of most big cities around the world? Use them to help you get around your destination. Most of these types of maps will have the must-see important spots already highlighted, so all you have to do is plan out your route on how to best see the ones you like the most.

Buy a phrasebook or language guide

Before caving into your dependence on technology and using Google Translate, try a good ol’ fashion phrasebook. You’ll know all the basic phrases for “thank you” and “how much?” as well as greetings and tons of other practical phrases in the native tongue of your destination. If you’re not sure if you’ll be able to nail the right pronunciation when on the road and if you’re a little shy about sounding silly in front of native speakers, make sure to do a bit of research on the internet before your trip so you can listen to words being used correctly.

Carry a few books and games for entertainment

Young woman reading a book on flight near window in airplane

In the age of Netflix and Hulu, you might be wondering how you’ll keep yourself entertained on that no-frills budget flights to Mexico City you booked. Well, here’s a novel idea — read a book! If you’ve got a long international flight ahead of you it’s a good idea to load up on a few books to keep you going. Bit anxious without your thumbs twiddling away on your favorite smartphone game? Grab a few crossword books to stretch your mind muscles and to keep time ticking over. Traveling in a group? Great! There are a whole new generation of board games (in addition to the classics) that can help pass the time.

Don’t forget to set up your “Out of Office”

Okay, so you’re doing pretty good so far, but…what’s that feeling of unease at the back of your mind? Oh yes – it’s because you’re wondering if anyone from work is desperately trying to get a hold of you because you either forgot to set up your “Out of Office” notification or didn’t add details for who to contact in case of emergency. When you’re on holiday, you’re on holiday. Period. No work issue should intervene to ruin your time off from work. By setting up your “Out of Office” beforehand you’re kindly telling people that you should not be disturbed. Just make sure to be specific in your message, redirecting people to a colleague who can assist them. This way you don’t have to worry about major slip-ups due to unanswered emails back at the office while you’re away.

Phone home

Beautiful young girl in a phone booth.

If you’re wondering if your safety is an issue without all the text messages, video calls, and social media posts documenting your movements, then a simple solution would be to make a periodic phone call to friends and family back home. In whatever city you’re in, you’ll most likely be able to find a phone booth where you can make international calls. In more remote places where public phones are scarce, you’ll still find “call centers” that offer international calling services. You may also be able to buy prepaid cards, where you can dial in with a personalized pin on any landline or mobile phone.

In today’s world where we can’t quite shake our dependence on technology, traveling without our smart devices and laptops might seem unnecessary and tiresome. But, if you’ve got the urge to try something truly different the next time you hit the road, embrace the art of traveling without gadgets, and you’ll paint a much more vivid and memorable picture of your trip.

About the author

Dhinesh Manuel

Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by wait...that's bad ...

Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!

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  • This is a great topic! I just returned from a two week trip with friends and it seemed like we spent the entire time searching for wifi so we could share pictures with each other – and we had all seen the same things!

    • Dhinesh Manuel says:

      We feel you, Colleen! It’s an addiction that’s hard to kick because technology has become such a natural extension of our experiences – we really need to stop ourselves and think twice sometimes! As hard as it may seem, we hope this challenges people to try something different. Thanks for your comment!