You’re looking at a screen right now and so am I because that’s the way that we connect. It’s how we receive and send information, find entertainment and check in with family and friends, but it’s also...a low-key nightmare. It makes Black Mirror seem less and less like science fiction and more like reality television. If you cringe on Sunday when Apple pushes an automated screen time report to your phone, you’re not alone, and if you’re somewhat astonished at the number of hours you interact with your phone, that’s not that surprising either.
As with most addictive behaviors, the initial dilemma of spending time on your phone seems like a banal side effect of modern life, but it’s also no secret that increased screen time is also linked to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. And as you can imagine, just putting your phone away is not as simple as it seems. Experts have recommended strategies like charging your phone in another room, turning it off completely or using software features that allow for a maximum time limit on certain apps per day. But realistically, all of these solutions put a ton of responsibility on the individual and kind of ignore the fact that sometimes a phone is your literal lifeline, even if it might be torturing you. Of course, with an increased number of people now working from home, screen time has become how we do almost everything and it’s probably time to admit that there are actually downsides to doing everything digitally.
If you are getting desperate for a solution, have you considered a digital detox getaway? Even pre-pandemic, I was hypnotized by the glamorous potential of having a vacation that did not require me to use my phone at all. I took my first tech-free respite at the Berkshires location of Canyon Ranch, where it’s not totally required to be phone-free, but encouraged. You get a little case to put your phone in and are encouraged to leave it in your room. It does, in fact, make being present just a bit easier when you are not constantly pinged by notifications or the lusty distractions of social media.
The point of these types of trips is to really enjoy yourself the old-fashioned way. And for many of us, that’s hard to imagine but, trust me, after the initial shock wears off and you aren’t blindly grasping at the air every five minutes to grab at your phantom phone, something better happens. You are able to really divorce from the pressures of life that are in a constant battle for your attention. You can live, laugh, love and literally not post about it. It’s brilliant.
Here’s a list of recommended retreats for leaving the world and your phone behind. All of these suggestions are U.S.-based but there are plenty of options available to do this internationally when it is safe to travel again.
This celebrity-favorite retreat spot has three U.S. locations: Arizona, Northern California and Massachusetts. They are all stunning properties and really invite you to prioritize things like sleep and healthy eating. Many people will tell you the food is terrible but the food is not the point! Canyon Ranch is not fully dry but it is BYOB if you are interested in imbibing. The same thing goes for phone usage. If you must, no one is going to scold you for it, but the more time you spend communing with nature through outdoor sports, hikes and various wellness add-ons, the less external stimulation you need.
Camp’d Out Joshua Tree Experience
Full warning, this is glamping. You sleep in a tent and you really get a full Joshua Tree Desert experience. The cell phone rules are kind of moot because there is zero service in the desert, so you can’t call anyone even if you wanted to. On the plus side, you do get a personal butler and the opportunity to stargaze in the middle of nowhere, so it kind of evens out.
Located in Arizona (hey, the desert is a healing place), Miraval’s wellness programming has something for everyone. You won’t even miss your phone because you will be so engaged doing things like ropes courses, equine therapy and journaling. The point of a vacation like this is to reconnect with yourself and disconnect with the world, and that’s definitely possible at this adult playground.
The Ranch Malibu
OK, if you’re currently watching the Hulu show Nine Perfect Strangers, I can understand why you might have misgivings about a “results-oriented retreat,” but hear me out: What do we really have to lose by making a commitment to self-improvement? The answer is: Nothing! Life is about figuring out how to live better. The goal of this program is transformation and therefore they recommend a minimum of seven days to do so, and yes, they want you to do it without a phone. The good thing is, it’s really pretty. The bad thing is, without a phone, no one will really know.
If you’re an East Coaster who wants to do something more local, look no further than Gather Greene, a retreat hotel concept in Hudson Valley (in upstate New York) where each room is its own tiny house. Again, cell phone usage is not banned, but you will find little service in the woods so it’s better to just cozy up to a fire, enjoy the foliage and focus on the now.
This Big Sur property makes every childhood fantasy come true because accommodations are in an actual treehouse. Their website says, “please plan to be disconnected,” so you absolutely should plan on that. Organic healthy meals will be a staple of this stay as well as the opportunity to commune with nature and the beautiful Big Sur coastline.
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