I Unplugged For Six Days in Colorado and Journaled About It

On top of the world at Rocky Mountain National Park. 12,00+ feet.

On top of the world at Rocky Mountain National Park. 12,000+ feet.

For roughly five years I have owned a smartphone and for most of that time I have been constantly connected. Before my recent trip to Colorado, I had been reading about the experiences people had unplugging in Fast Company and starting thinking about the benefits I would gain from trying it. Then I realized something: I have never had an extended time without my smartphone since I first started using one. I have had one or two days off the grid at my family farm in Wisconsin but that was never more than a weekend. I was determined to make my ten day road trip one unlike any other…simply by disconnecting myself  from everything electronic once we arrived in Colorado. I wanted to immerse myself into my vacation, nature, and enjoy my time uninterrupted with my girlfriend.

I decided to journal each day about the experience and posted summaries below:

Day 1: The first day unplugging was mostly successful. My phone was shut off, but my girlfriend’s wasn’t and we ended up using it to navigate us to Red Rocks and to find a restaurant for lunch. I also briefly opened my iPad first thing in the morning. Boooo.

Day 2: I woke up with an urge to check my social network feeds. The urge eventually passed when I got up and started moving for the day. We drove from Denver to Boulder and then eventually to our destination outside of Estes Park. We didn’t have a Colorado map, so we once again used my girlfriends phone for navigation. Today I felt a strong urge to take Instagram pics and Vine videos because because of all the beauty around me…and I really wanted to take those pics or videos and have them geotagged. I wasn’t happy with the thought just of posting pictures at the end of the trip without the geotag.

Day 3: Today I discovered my old digital camera won’t turn on anymore. Thinking that the battery died quickly I charged it up all the way, again, but no dice. It’s toast. I didn’t want to be without pictures or video the whole trip so I turned on my phone and quickly turned on airplane mode. By turning it back on, but keeping it in airplane mode, I made a couple of realizations. I realized that even without network connectivity I rely on my iPhone. It became my camera for the trip. We also discovered how annoying it is to set hotel alarm clocks, so we went back to using the alarm on our phones. I also went back to using my meditation timer app instead of checking the hotel clock during my daily meditation.

Day 4: During our hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, my phone buzzed with my daily alert for the Everyday app. I forgot all about it! I was kind of upset about the Everyday app missing three days of pictures (it takes a picture of me everyday and stitches them together into a movie showing one year of pictures). Today was the most difficult day so far of not being able to post Instagram pics or Vine videos. It was so pretty there and I really wanted to have pictures or videos geotagged at the park! It is pretty crazy that geotagging is what I am thinking about during my hike. During our trip from Estes Park to Fort Collins we used my girlfriends phone for navigation. Again.

Day 5: Today is the first full day in Ft. Collins and it is also July 4th. I haven’t been getting too much of an urge to check any social networks, email, etc for the last 24 hours. I can’t figure out if it is because we are spending time with friends in Ft. Collins or if it is because I have been without access to it for five days now. I feel very relaxed though and I am completely enjoying living in the moment where I am. No news, no phone calls, no texts, no social media. Everything going on in my life is happening right in front of me. It feels really good.

Day 6: Wow. Today is the last day before we leave and I end my unplug experiment. I can feel that I am getting the itch to turn my phone back on and see what I have been missing. It might be because I know that I am almost “plugged in” again. After our hike on Horsetooth Mountain we went back to our friends house and had a few hours of downtime before we rode our bikes downtown. I wanted to email them pictures from the hike before I left so I decided to end the unplug early so I could email the pictures. 28 text messages, 3 voicemails, 76 emails. I went though them and decided not to respond yet. I turned my phone back into airplane mode for the night and we went out and enjoyed our last night in Colorado.

Summary:

Looking back, I feel that my unplug overall was successful since I cut off my communication and network access. I didn’t expect to turn on my phone at all during the trip, nor did I think that I would have so many apps that I would want to use while in airplane mode. So I had to make some changes in my plan along the way. I decided my iPhone is the best camera to use so in the future I will unplug simply by using airplane mode. My girlfriends phone was on a majority of the trip due to the fact she was in the middle of searching for a new apartment and needed to keep communication open. I didn’t expect that, but for the most part it didn’t effect me. It would have been much harder to navigate between towns or find a really good place to eat in a random town without her phone being on.

After the first few days I was so much more relaxed and was focusing more on being in the moment. I felt really good and I was really happy being disconnected. Not having access to any media, social and mainstream news, was absolutely wonderful. I realized how much my social feeds and the mainstream news effects my daily life- mostly in a negative way. With social media we see other peoples lives and we end up comparing ourselves to others. The grass always seems to be greener somewhere else. With mainstream media we hear about all the bad things going on locally, in the U.S. and in the world…it’s almost never good news. It effects us all more than we think. Only when I removed the tether of my iPhone from myself for those six days did I realize how much I rely on it…and that realization is the biggest takeaway from my unplugging experience.

Unplugging was such a positive experience for me that I would like to do it again sometime before the end of the year. Has anyone else experimented with unplugging? Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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