Technology is great. Keep your friends in your pocket, live in theirs; let email and text shrink the planet to the size of a keypad, allow news that previously took months to flash and flicker through fibreoptic cables and across wireless networks in the blink of an iPhone. You’ve got Facebook to keep you permanently topped up on gossip – “lol-ing” at a party that never ends, and as for Twitter, well, now the world and their cat can inform you just how tasty that sandwich was, and let you know their groundbreaking opinions on the latest Justin Bieber calamity.
You won’t get lost with your GPS mapping app in hand while you saunter down the street to an MP3 soundtrack of your all-time favourite alt-folk classics and you won’t misspell your online shopping order with the spellchecker in your browser turning your confused mutterings into a thicket of wiggly crimson lines. Never fear, any conceivable answer to any conceivable question you might’ve been pondering for the last 4½ seconds is readily available to satiate your curiosity with the click of a Google search, poised to tell you what you want to know before you even knew you wanted to know it.
Technology is terrible, you think, burning your mouth on a cardboard-flavoured microwave lasagne whilst you work late into the night on your latest report into the effects of technology on working patterns. It’s getting worse, you think, hastily tapping out an email on the bus to your landlady to tell her the bank have just informed you they won’t do over-the-counter transfers for less than £10,000 these days and you lost your internet banking password because you had it saved on your old laptop that you managed to break when you were googling “screen repairs” for your phone in the bath whilst simultaneously trying to Skype your boyfriend who has just got off a plane somewhere in East Asia. You couldn’t get the line to work properly, and who was that girl in the background anyway? Dumped by text message. Only one thing for it – you jump in the car to grab some ice-cream from the 24-hour stop-and-shop, making it eventually after the Satnav helpfully sticks you on a “shortcut” via the dual-carriageway out of town. Thank God for ice-cream on a warm night like this, you think, now if you could only remember the PIN number on that card… you had it saved in your phone somewhere… damn that cracked screen… “Unexpected item in bagging area.” Arrghhh! “Please wait for assistance…”
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry: you’re not the only one agonising about such matters. French armed robber turned trendy philosopher Bernard Stiegler has made a second career troubling himself over technology and the human condition. He takes us way back to an era before Blackberries, to Ancient Greece and someone who never spent hours pondering over their latest status update. Taking a cue from Plato, monsieur Stiegler informs us that technology is both a poison and a remedy – it cures many ills, but it also makes us sick. So if you are feeling a bit sick of it all, if it seems more of a toxic waste of time than a gentle relief, if you are feeling more than a little poisoned, then what you need might be a digital detox…
Digital Detox Week, announced this time last year by the wonderful people at the Vancouver-based Adbusters, offered just such a solution:
But that was sooo last year. In the world of technology things move fast, Moore’s Law don’t you know. Nowadays just turning something off for a little while won’t do, now you need to get far away, very far away indeed, fleeing the blight of technology to the ends of the earth. That’s why in 2012 is all about the digital detox holiday. There are a few on offer, but not all of them seem ready to take the full plunge into unplugged bliss.
The Not-Quite-There-Yet Digital Detox
This approach will work for those who claim they desperately need to de-tech but are not quite ready to sign up for it just yet. Examples of such “Black Hole Resorts” include:
1. Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur in California, aka “The balcony over the Pacific”. Big Sur is a popular tourist destination with breathtaking views – think cliffs, mountains, and the ocean, and in the (very luxurious) rooms at the Post Ranch Inn there are no TVs or alarm clocks, in order to “maintain the peaceful environment”. But, with prices starting at $600 and reaching $2,300 per room per night, what you’re really paying for is extreme natural beauty and (a tiny bit of) snobbery. After all, WiFi connection is included in your (very high) bill and, as a certain guest by the name of Camille noted in her review, “There was no TV – which kind of freaked me out – but there was a bose stereo that played about 50 channels of music.” Back to nature indeed.
2. The Six Senses luxury resort chain has several hotels with a “No News No Shoes” slogan: two in the Maldives (Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili), and one in Thailand (Soneva Kiri). Whereas the “no shoes” part is pretty self-explanatory, “no news” is a bit more complicated: yes, there’s yoga, tai chi, board games, fishing trips, and star gazing while you’re staying at one of those beautiful secluded Robinson Crusoe style villas. But there are also TVs and large DVD collections, as well as WiFi on request. So unless you’re a DVD-watching type of Robinson, Soneva is not really a digital detox heaven (although it may still be a heaven).
3. In Jamaica, several resorts opt not to put TVs or phones in their rooms for your tranquillity, but nobody said you couldn’t secretly sneak in your own Blackberry/Samsung/iPhone. For example, there are no TVs nor phones in the wood-and-stone cottages at “Life is Simple” Tensing Pen in Negril – but WiFi is available. The hippy haven of Jake’s on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach is another such destination – no TVs or phones in the rooms “to encourage total relaxation”, but – BUT! – there’s a media room that boasts an impressive CD/DVD collection and wireless DSL. True, they encourage you to leave your laptop at home – but only because they have one for you to use! At Jamaica Inn, “There are no TVs, Radios or Clocks to intrude between guest and rest. The cool sea breeze filters through louvered shutters.” However, there’s complimentary WiFi in the suites to do exactly that – to intrude.
The Proper Digital Detox
There are other holidays out there however, where the general rule is that if you can bring yourself to properly switch off, you will, well, switch off. That is why earlier this year, the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA) came up with an idea for a proper Digital Detox Holiday. This first-ever branded package includes three nights at Young Island (at Young Island Resort) and four nights at Palm Island (at Palm Island Resort) on a full-board basis, including flights, private catamaran transfers between islands, a de-tech guide and a one-hour session with a “life coach” before leaving. This would cost you from £2,967 per person, based on two people sharing. It does have to be said that this probably won’t work out for you if you are now thinking how you could buy the latest ipad for that… with money left over to upgrade your talkplan.
“Our minds are so often in the past or the future, being present is where we get our sense of peace, it is worry and guilt-free,” the de-tech guide explains. And, “de-tech is not just about switching off when you get there, it’s about achieving the right state of mind before you go.” That’s why they will lock your phone in a safe and will generally encourage you to try to live without technology for a week. Instead, enjoy the beach, your company, and life itself.
Here’s some facts:
And after you de-tech at St Vincent & the Grenadines, and you love it, obviously, why not go for some alternatives?
1. When potential customers at the Travaasa Hotel Hāna in Hawai’i ask its general manager Doug Chang, “Are you wireless?” he replies: “Yes, we’re wireless. You won’t find any in any of the rooms.” Formerly known as Hotel Hāna-Maui, this is super luxury in a secluded area of outstanding beauty. There’s no wireless, no TV, no radio, no CD or DVD player, not even an alarm clock. “No civilisation,” one is tempted to add – so wave goodbye to Google, Radio 4, Jeremy Paxman, Starbucks and McDonald’s who are all miles and miles away from here (but beware, high season rates will set you back $400-$600 per double room per night).
2. Go really wild… And see what’s it really like without electricity. The Foel Gopyn is an isolated former gamekeeper’s cottage on the Ysbyty estate in North Wales, eight miles south-east of Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia National Park. At 1,125 feet, the cottage is also hard to reach, especially in bad weather. But the views are nice, and so are candle-lit evenings with a book, a glass of wine or, well, your loved ones.
3. Or, if none of the above sounds appealing enough, why not head right down to your own cellar for a week. There, the phone probably won’t work anyway (if it does, make sure you get the Digital Detox app), while your 200″ telly will be safely locked up upstairs together with your iPad and your good old Dell, saving you the trouble of challenging the strength of your own will to resist technology, at least while on holiday.