Rules for an Actually Relaxing Holiday

Along with “maybe I should move here and start a new life as Someone Who Could Afford This Airbnb as Their Everyday Apartment,” my most common thought while on holiday is “I wonder what would happen if I threw my phone off this bridge?” The pressures of a modern holiday are almost all caused, or at least exacerbated, by my phone: Should I update the group chat about the dog I saw wearing the same coat as its owner? Has my mom checked on my safety for the eighth time today? If the world doesn’t need another Boomerang of a white girl clinking rosé on a European patio, why am I so compelled to post one? In the grip of its endless access to new destinations, user–generated best–of lists and forums on which to brag about my #jetset lifestyle (a.k.a. my game–time decision to upgrade to premium economy), my holidays have become overscheduled, overstressed and overshared online.

I say, no more. I’m putting my foot down (in premium economy you have room to do that) and taking back my holiday. If you’d like to join me, here’s how:

January 24, 2020
A castle-like structure in a port of Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal.   Photo: Alex Paganelli (Unsplash)

Step One: Throw Your Phone off a Bridge

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. But do keep it on airplane mode, or in that passport carrying pouch that goes under your clothes that your mom bought you. The harder it is to access, the better. Take photos and videos as you like, but reserve a half–hour window in the evening to post things so you’re not stopping to update every minute. As the saying goes: Instagram can wait, Lisbon can’t.

Step Two: Don’t Do Your Research

Once, on holiday in Paris, I rocked up to the Musée de l’Orangerie only to find it closed for renovations. Should I have looked into that? Sure. Did I instead have one of my favourite days of the whole trip, wandering along the Seine with carbs as my guide? You bet. It’s fine to have an idea of where you want your day to go, but being married to your itinerary is a surefire way to suck the fun out of a trip.

A hand holding a paper map and a cellphone
   Photo: Sylwia Bartyzel (Unsplash)

Step Three: Use a Paper Map

All I’m saying is, a map never ran out of batteries or stopped working when you spilled an Aperol Spritz on it. You’ll stay off your phone, engage with the city in a more genuine way and, yes, probably get lost, but that’s part of the fun. It’s called spontaneity!

Step Four: Ask Locals for Tips

Online reviews of restaurants and public parks can be… questionable. Leave the crowdsource websites behind and turn instead to taxi drivers, Tinder dates, shopkeepers and other locals in your vacation destination. When you find a gem, keep it to yourself.

A vendor selling bags at the souk (Arab market)
A souk.   Photo: Yasmine Arfaoui (Unsplash)

Step Five: Go Easy on Yourself

Don’t be too hard on yourself if your phone finds its way back into your hand while you’re strolling through the souk, or if you accidentally spend an afternoon scrolling through other people’s photos of that one cliff in Cinque Terre that you love. Faced with Manneken Pis, you’re probably going to turn to Google before you ask a Belgian stranger what’s... going on there? And you know what, that’s okay! These are not hard rules, just humble suggestions that might help you unplug and unwind. There’s no need to follow them religiously. After all, you can always keep a copy of this article on your phone, so you can consult if you forget.