Now Trending: Phone–free Retreats

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Out–of–office travellers are adding an extra “o” to automatic replies: offline.

It’s hard to check in with yourself while checking push notifications. Between inbox pings, Slack knocks and social media feeds engineered for endless doom–scrolling, it’s impossible to get away from it all when we bring our chronically online habits with us on vacation. To keep burnout at bay, a growing number of travellers are ditching their devices and going offline.

One off–grid destination gaining popularity is Unplugged. Located within an hour or two by car or train from London, Manchester or Wales, these solar cabins come equipped with lockboxes for electronics so guests can indulge in a three– or four–night digital detox. Entrepreneurs Hector Hughes and Ben Elliott founded the concept after experiencing burnout from their demanding tech jobs, an affliction more than half of their guests cite as their primary reason for visiting.

June 12, 2024

“Spending time offline is critical
for well–being.”

“We live such busy, overstimulated lives that we forget to check in with ourselves,” says Hughes. “However, spending time offline is critical for well–being.” A recent study conducted by Psychology Today echoes Hughes’ sentiment, finding that reducing screen time by even an hour a day can lead to greater satisfaction and contentment. Scientific studies also indicate that spending at least two hours per week in nature can benefit overall health.

Three friends enjoying the fire pit at Unplugged
Outdoor fire pits encourage phone–free face time.   Photo: Rebecca Hope

For the smartphone–dependent, going analog is not without its challenges. As an antidote, Unplugged’s amenities include instant cameras and dumb phones, Internet–free devices that have been trending, ironically, on TikTok. For the Love of Travel, a group travel company for millennial solo travellers, provides old– fashioned maps and recommends guests pack film cameras for their new and in–demand phone–free trips.

Taking time to disconnect allows travellers to reconnect with their hobbies, nature and themselves. Hughes notes, “The more you turn up for yourself, the more you can turn up for others.”

Where to Get Offline

A wood burning stove within the log cabins of Desolation Hotel
Desolation Hotel

Desolation Hotel

Hope Valley and Lake Tahoe, United States
 

In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Desolation Hotel’s eco–conscious retreats include tent and RV campsites and historic cabins outfitted with fireplaces and rustic kitchens. Wi–Fi is limited to common areas so you can hike aspen–lined trails free of digital pollution.

A woman enjoying a coffee in bed while she admires the view from her cabin at Unplugged
Unplugged   Photo: Rebecca Hope

Unplugged

United Kingdom
 

Panoramic views of rolling hills and rugged moors are on full display from Unplugged’s compact cabins, where board games and conversation cards replace Candy Crush Saga and Instagram, and a paper map and compass guide GPS–free treks through the countryside.

A man cooking shakshuka over an open fire at Unyoked
Unyoked   Photo: Luisa Brimble

Unyoked

Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom
 

Whether in the groves of Australia’s Scenic Rim or on the seaside hills of Raglan, New Zealand, all Unyoked outposts are equipped with outdoor and indoor cooking gear, books and cassettes. Cabins are rated for calm, creativity, clarity and adventure level so you can rewire as desired.

A group of people with For the Love of Travel exploring a glacier lagoon in Iceland
For the Love of Travel

For the Love of Travel

Europe, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean
 

Exchange digital assistants for real–life experts on For the Love of Travel’s guided phone–free trips. Trip leaders are on hand to help with translations and plan excursions from ziplining over jungle canopies in Costa Rica to exploring Iceland’s Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.