Kyle here, freshly returned from my first ever backpacking trip. It was an ambitious initiation - we hiked twenty five miles in mostly sand over three nights down the northern half of The Lost Coast, CA, with one night of car camping at the beginning. Our team was made up of three of my badass lady friends and yours truly.
While I've been camping countless times, I'd never been backpacking before, where I would have to carry everything that I needed and filter fresh water from sources as we went. Camping in this way totally reframes the idea of a "need" versus a "want". Do I need three pairs of socks, or can I get by with only two? Do I really need more than one pair of pants? The answer is two and no. It is a wonderful exercise in living minimally. The feeling of self-sufficiency is unmatched.
Going into the trip I knew I would not have cell service. So when leaving the car in the parking lot to take the shuttle to the northern end, our starting point, I left my phone in the car. Without the distraction to "capture the moment" with photos on my phone (thanks, friends for doing this for me!), I was truly able to disconnect from the digital world.
Here are the top five benefits I experienced from completely disconnecting for five days:
1. Time to process the past.
In the inevitable quiet moments, when our group would spread out along the path and I would be walking alone, I was able to sit with and mull over life's events (i.e. a recent breakup). Having this time allowed me to pay attention to my "mind chatter" and become curious about the thoughts I kept returning to. I could delve deeply into my patterns to come to terms with my new reality, and take stock of where I am today.
2. More space to imagine for the future.
Free from incoming emails and the daily hustle of city life, I was allowed space to imagine the future ahead. How do I want to experience the second half of 2017? What are my top priorities and how to I want to allot my time? What goals have yet to be achieved and what steps are required to get there?
3. A clarifying of my to-do list.
Without a mounting list of to-do's, requests from incoming emails, or social events, I was able to clarify my to-do list for when I returned home. There were those few loose ends that still needed to be actioned when I returned home and having the quiet time to clearly prioritize increased my sense of control over my obligations.
4. Relief from FOMO.
Fully present in what we were doing, we created our own little universe. With no cell phone service along on the entire coast, there was no social media seeping in to inform us of what everyone else in the world was up to. Of course we love our friends and want everyone to be enjoying life, but being freed of social media updates can kept us rooted in our current experience.
5. Clear focus on the objectives at hand.
I was relieved of the responsibility to take care of an expensive electronic device. I didn't need to worry about breaking my phone by exposing it to too much sand or water. The environment we were in was constantly changing from wet and foggy, to sunny and dusty. It was nice to focus solely on the important things, like avoiding rattlesnakes, the times of high and low tide and the available water sources.
I hope that this summer allows you the time to disconnect from your digital life and sink into your real life. We can miss a lot of what is happening if we are buried in our phones or computers. It may take a literal time-out (like leaving your phone at home or going to place with no cell-service). I encourage you to utilize your email vacation responder setting and give yourself a digital detox. Doing so for even just one day will have its benefits!