Disconnected: How the ‘Fear of Switching Off’ Is Changing the Way We Vacation
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Unplugging is the New Luxury
In today's constantly connected world, the ability to truly unplug from technology is becoming an increasingly desirable luxury. More and more travelers are seeking out opportunities to disconnect from their devices and immerse themselves in authentic experiences, free from distraction. This 'digital detox' has become the new marker of a luxury getaway.
According to recent research, 6 in 10 travelers purposely avoid using technology while on vacation. Of those surveyed, over 70% said they feel happier, less stressed, and more present after taking a break from their devices. With work and social media pressures building, an escape from the digital world is a welcome respite.
"Unplugging provides me the mental space to focus on my surroundings and live in the moment," says James S., a frequent traveler. "It's easy to get caught up checking emails and posting photos. But avoiding tech forces me to appreciate where I am."
Destinations around the world are taking note, eliminating WiFi and optimizing amenities to promote disconnection. Safari lodges in Africa purposefully limit connectivity to immerse guests in the natural landscape. Mountain resorts create tech-free zones for quality family time. Even major hotel chains like Marriott now offer 'blackout' rooms removed from phone signals and wireless internet.
The rise in mindfulness and wellness travel has also fueled demand for tech-free experiences. Spa getaways, silent retreats, and digital detox camps all cater to this growing desire to unplug. Companies like Digital Detox offer device-free group getaways to help people reset and reconnect IRL.
While unplugging may once have been seen as inconvenient, it's now considered a welcome respite that enhances travel. Disconnecting provides renewed appreciation for the world around us - and quality time with loved ones. More than just a break from devices, it's a break from the pressures and comparisons of social media.
"Putting my phone away makes me focus on enjoying every precious moment," explains Alicia K., a mother of two. "I don't want to miss watching my kids grow up because I'm distracted by technology. Our vacations are meant for making memories together."
What else is in this post?
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Unplugging is the New Luxury
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Digital Detox Retreats Gain Popularity
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Workations Blur the Lines Between Business and Leisure
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - FOMO Driving Overconnectedness Even on Holiday
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Social Media Envy Impacting Travel Decisions
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Anxiety from 24/7 Availability Expected at Work
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Tech-Free Travel Becoming a Selling Point for Hotels
- Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Experiential Travel Trumps Photo Ops for Some
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Digital Detox Retreats Gain Popularity
As disconnecting from technology becomes a coveted part of the travel experience, off-the-grid retreats are seeing a surge in popularity. Digital detox camps allow people to completely unplug in a structured environment—without the temptation of alerts and notifications. Groups come together with the shared intention of focusing on the present moment, reconnecting with nature, bonding with others, and hitting the reset button.
Camp Grounded is one such digital detox retreat gaining renown. Their summer camps in Northern California and across the US attract hundreds of adults seeking a tech-free experience. Attendees surrender their devices upon arrival and spend the next 4 days engaging in childhood pastimes free from distraction. Activities include arts and crafts, talent shows, archery lessons, and glow-in-the-dark capture the flag.
“It’s amazing how creative and spontaneous you become when you’re not chained to your phone all day,” explains Ben L., a repeat camper. “I was making lanyards and fingerpainting like I was 10 years old again. It was so refreshing.”
Camp No Counselors offers similar device-free retreats for adults, emphasizing play, movement, and conversation. With locations across the US and UK, their weekends and week-long camps aim to cultivate human connection. Attendees ditch their digital personas and bond through shared activities like canoe races, field games, and dance parties.
“I met more people and had better conversations in one weekend at camp than I have in months in the real world,” shares Angela P., a recent camper. “Without distractions constantly grabbing your attention, you can actually focus on the people around you.”
Digital detox retreats like Camp Grounded and Camp No Counselors leverage the power of shared experience to help people meaningfully engage with the world. Removing access to technology allows individuals to be fully present and foments human connection. The growing popularity of these camps speaks to people’s desire to escape endless scrolling and superficial social media in favor of real relationships.
Unplugging together fosters camaraderie and provides perspective on how overly immersed in devices we’ve become. For many attendees, a short digital detox is the catalyst for establishing lifelong habits around balanced technology use.
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Workations Blur the Lines Between Business and Leisure
The rise of remote work has led to the emergence of ‘workations’ - vacations that blend leisure travel with working remotely. Rather than taking time completely off, professionals extend business trips or tack on extra days to explore a destination while keeping up with their normal workload. Workations allow people to maximize sightseeing and downtime without sacrificing productivity.
“I spent a month in Spain last fall and was able to work my regular 9-5 each day from my Airbnb in Barcelona,” explains Mark K., who works in tech. “In the evenings and weekends, I could soak up the city and weekend trip around the country while keeping current on projects back home.”
For many, the flexibility of working remotely has removed the constraints of the standard two weeks of allotted vacation time. Travelers can take their work on the road for weeks or months at a time. Popular remote worker destinations like Mexico, Portugal, Croatia and Thailand have begun marketing heavily towards this trend.
Co-living spaces with strong WiFi and work areas are emerging in desirable locations to accommodate so-called ‘digital nomads.’ Companies like Selina and Outsite offer dorm-style housing, community events and the ability to drop in and work in hip locales across the Americas and Europe.
“I spent three months ‘based’ at Selina Playa del Carmen last winter,” says Anne J., a marketing manager. “I could work beachfront during the mornings and then be on excursions to cenotes and Mayan ruins by the afternoon with other remote workers.”
Seeking sun and savings, some American and European companies are even running ‘working retreats’ for their distributed staff in tropical locales. Employees relocate together for weeks of focused work time combined with organized dinners, activities and weekend adventures.
“Our company rented a villa in Costa Rica for the month,” explains Tom D., who works for a 20-person start-up. “We worked hard during the day, but could also surf, zipline and go on jungle hikes together after work. It was an amazing balance of productivity and fun team bonding.”
For many professionals, the workation life has blurred the line between business and leisure travel. Flexible remote work arrangements allow people to integrate their professional responsibilities into extended trips traditionally reserved for pure vacation.
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - FOMO Driving Overconnectedness Even on Holiday
The pressure to digitally document and share experiences is driving many travelers to stay connected even while on vacation. With social media, it has become expected to provide real-time updates from trips. The fear of missing out (FOMO) on likes and comments often outweighs the desire to unplug.
“If I’m not posting photos of the cool things I’m doing, it’s like it didn’t even happen,” says Molly T., 28, who actively uses Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. “I want my followers to know I’m somewhere awesome, not just sitting at home.”
This impulse to share envy-inducing content has led to increased internet usage even while abroad. A recent survey showed that 58% of millennials and Gen Z travelers spend upwards of 2 hours a day on social media during trips.
The pressure stems largely from social comparison. Scrolling through picturesque posts of friends’ and influencers’ vacations can compel travelers to create equally idyllic content. FOMO and the desire for validation driving ongoing connection, sometimes to the detriment of enjoying the actual trip.
“I spend so much time trying to get that perfect Instagram shot that later gets deleted because it didn’t get enough likes,” admits Claire D., 32. “Then I just feel bad about myself instead of enjoying my vacation.”
Seeking likes and comments is not the only contributor to vacation overconnectedness. Work pressures also play a significant role. The expectation that employees will remain responsive during time off has steadily increased. A LinkedIn survey revealed that nearly 30% of professionals continue working full days even while on holiday. Managing work communications can consume a substantial portion of leisure time.
“I tried completely disconnecting on a trip to Fiji, but came back to 300 unread emails that gave me massive anxiety,” explains Michael R., an accountant. “Now I still log in periodically when I’m away to avoid feeling overwhelmed when I return.”
Constant connectivity also stems from practical concerns. Travel mishaps like flight cancellations and missed connections inevitably occur. Having access to smartphones can be crucial for making last-minute changes on the go. Relying on digital maps and review sites like Yelp have also become default vacation behaviors.
“I like to have my phone handy for navigating new cities or looking up recommendations,” says Lucas C., 24. “It feels like my lifeline if issues come up or I decide to change plans at the last minute.”
For many, total disconnection induces separation anxiety. But the impulse to digitally document, compete socially and multi-task work during leisure trips often undermines relaxation. Finding balance means being mindful of when technology enhances versus impedes experiences.
“I still bring my phone but limit checking it to an hour morning and night,” explains Naomi G., 36. “It’s made me appreciate the moment more while still having access for emergencies. I don’t feel so anxious about missing out either.”
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Social Media Envy Impacting Travel Decisions
The pressure to share envy-inducing social media content is increasingly impacting where, when, and how people travel. Destinations and experiences are often chosen based on their potential for garnering likes and comments rather than personal meaning or enjoyment. This social media envy cycle pushes travelers to curate trips that play well online rather than design vacations catered to their unique interests.
“I used to choose travel destinations that felt fun or meaningful to me personally,” explains Sarah L., age 29. “Now I look for places that photograph well and seem glamorous on Instagram. It's easy to get caught up chasing what gets attention online instead of what matters to you.”
The desire for social media validation leads many to select trendy locales over places of personal significance. Overrun destinations like Santorini and Iceland continue rising in popularity due to aesthetically pleasing scenery primed for pretty posts. On the flip side, equally interesting but less photogenic spots get overlooked to avoid seeming “basic” to one’s online audience.
“All my friends were going to Hawaii, but I picked Thailand instead so my pics would stand out more,” admits Mark T., age 24. “I probably would’ve enjoyed Hawaii more honestly, but didn’t want people thinking I lack originality.”
Similarly, travelers often force themselves into uncomfortable situations just for share-worthy content. Braving excessive heat in Death Valley, waking pre-dawn for that viral sunrise shot, and risking elevation sickness hiking Machu Picchu have all become common occurrences. The perfect Instagram post trumps personal comfort.
“I hiked Cinque Terre in totally inappropriate footwear because all the influencers were wearing cute sandals in their photos,” confesses Amanda R., age 31. “My feet were bleeding by the end, but I kept going so I could get that same shot for the ‘gram. Pretty dumb looking back.”
Beyond influencing where people go, social media envy also impacts activities chosen at destinations. Prioritizing photogenic moments over personal preferences is common. Travelers hop between overcrowded sites just for that viral pic at each spot instead of immersed exploration.
“I spent my whole trip to Paris bouncing between tourist traps like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower snapping selfies,” laments Nicole H., age 28. “I never soaked in the city’s vibe. I was too preoccupied with my social media checklist.”
Additionally, experiencing trips through the camera lens rather than one’s own eyes has become ubiquitous. Many admit to missing out on living in the moment because they are viewing experiences through their phone screen.
“I was so focused on getting good footage of my friend parasailing in Mexico that I totally zoned out on what was happening right in front of me,” shares James P., age 30. “I didn’t even get to really see her excitement because I was obsessed with capturing it for social media.”
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Anxiety from 24/7 Availability Expected at Work
The expectation that employees be constantly reachable is a significant contributor to people staying connected even during vacation. With work emails and slack messages intruding on personal time, truly unplugging from work has become near impossible for many professionals today.
The pressure to remain responsive stems from the growing assumption that employees should be available 24/7. Advances in technology have strengthened the faulty premise that workers can be ‘on call’ at all hours. The rise in remote work has also blurred the lines between work and life, making disconnecting fully extremely challenging.
“I feel like I need to be monitoring work communications even while away or else I’ll be irreparably behind when I get back,” explains Mark S., an account manager. Like many, Mark worries about appearing negligent if he does not continue engaging while on PTO. This leads many to sacrifice relaxation to tend to work matters.
This always-on mentality expected from employers causes substantial anxiety for vacationing staff. Uncertainty around how unavailability will be perceived leads to obsessive phone-checking. Employees set out-of-office alerts but still nervously review emails just in case.
“I tell my team not to expect responses when I’m away, but I sneak off to check email anyway so nobody thinks I’m slacking,” admits VP Michelle C. She, like others, fears that fully disconnecting might jeopardize perceptions of dedication.
These anxieties are not entirely unfounded. Some managers do harbor biases towards those who disconnect. Taking time fully off can be misconstrued as not being a team player in hyper-connected work cultures.
“Last year my colleague was actually criticized for being completely unreachable during her honeymoon,” recounts designer Rachel A. “Now nobody on our team dares turn their notifications fully off even when traveling for special occasions.”
This ambient pressure created from always-on expectations results in employees using vacation time to keep up with work instead of wholly recharging. The impulse comes from self-preservation more than actual necessity in many cases.
“I constantly field messages from my team on weekends away with my family, even though nothing is usually that urgent,” explains project manager Tom L. Like others, Tom fears silence signalling apathy more than the lost personal time.
Ongoing accessibility enabling via technology has normalized constant connectivity. But the anxieties created from 24/7 availability expectations undermine the restorative powers of vacations. Determining boundaries and publicly communicating coverage while away is required to combat ingrained overconnectedness.
“My boss now encourages us to set an ‘out of office’ voicemail, disable Slack notifications, and fully unplug,” shares analyst Lisa R, whose company recently defined vacation protocols. “It’s made me finally feel at ease actually enjoying my trips rather than constantly worrying about work,” she says.
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Tech-Free Travel Becoming a Selling Point for Hotels
As travelers increasingly seek opportunities to disconnect from technology, many hotels are now promoting tech-free amenities as a selling point. For guests looking to unplug, escaping ring tones, push notifications and glowing screens is a coveted part of the accommodation experience. Hotels offering tech-free rooms provide the physical space for visitors to digitally detox.
To cater to this growing demand, a number of hotels have designated tech-free zones removed from phone signals and WiFi networks. Luxury resorts like Villa Stephanie in Germany feature specially constructed copper mesh bed canopies claimed to block electromagnetic radiation. Similarly, hotels like Hotel Monaco in Seattle and Hamanasi Resort in Belize offer “digital detox” packages complete with oceanfront cabanas sans electricity.
“I chose Hotel Monaco specifically for their tech-free rooms,” explains Tabitha S., a frequent traveler. “Not getting work emails popping up on my phone really allowed me to relax and immerse in the experience.”
Other accommodations like Paws Up resort in Montana offer “offline tents” in the wilderness scrubbed of power outlets and internet connectivity. Additional high-end hotels ranging from beachside to mountain retreats entice guests with the promise of tech isolation and renewed tranquility.
“Just being on the resort grounds meant my cell phone didn’t even get reception,” describes James R. of his recent escape to Amangiri resort in Utah. “It was blissfully refreshing not hearing phone alerts constantly interrupting our family time.”
While luxury resorts boast prime amenities for facilitating disconnection, mainstream hotels are also getting in on catering to the tech-free trend. Westin, Sheraton, and Renaissance locations now promote “unplugged” rooms designed for restorative, screen-free stays. Similarly, chains like Marriott and Hilton have partnered with cell phone blocking companies like Faraday to enable guests to “disconnect with just one click”.
“I stay at whatever local Hilton I can find when traveling for work,” explains corporate trainer Alicia S. “Booking one of their shielded rooms lets me actually relax after meetings without feeling pressured to respond to late night emails from my boss.”
Even budget hotels and hostels recognize the market for minimalist, tech-free accommodations. The FieldHouse Jones Hostel in Vermont offers basic shared rooms with a strict no phone policy. Downtown LA’s Low Budget Inn goes one step farther, with lodging completely devoid of TVs, phones and WiFi. Properties like Tierra Linda in Costa Rica likewise capitalize on their remote locales to provide tranquil, rustic tech-free havens.
“Getting back to nature in a simple cabin without electricity was just what I needed,” describes hiker Cole R. of the tech-free cottages at Tierra Linda where he unplugged. “I could focus on the sounds of the rainforest rather than staring at a screen."
Disconnected: How the 'Fear of Switching Off' Is Changing the Way We Vacation - Experiential Travel Trumps Photo Ops for Some
While many travelers today feel pressured to curate envy-inducing social content, others are purposefully rejecting manufactured photo ops to prioritize authentic experiences. This contingent seeks meaningful engagement with destinations, focusing on personal growth over posing for the ‘gram. For them, cultivating genuine adventures and human connections takes precedence over chasing content.
“I used to fret over capturing every moment for social media, but realized I wasn’t actually living in the present,” explains Paige T., a solo traveler. “Now I actively avoid playing up experiences for likes and just try to appreciate wherever I am.”
Rather than hopping between trendy sites, these travelers take time to soak in lesser-known destinations. Immersing in local culture and wandering hidden side streets rank over getting that viral sunset pic. Deepening understanding of a place comes first. As Paige shares, “I’ll pass up the perfect Instagram shot if it means having a real interaction with someone new.”
Additionally, personal comfort and interests take precedence over forcing photogenic moments. Hiking Australia’s Blue Mountains mattered more to James P. than summiting just for social buzz. “I picked trails matched to my ability rather than chasing ephemeral views,” he explains. “Getting out in nature on my own terms was rejuvenating.”
Travelers focused on experience also shy away from commodified excursions that interrupt authentic engagement. “I skipped the congested open-top bus tours in Dublin to just wander the city,” shares Lauren C. “Popping into lively pubs and talking with locals felt so much more genuine.”
Beyond avoiding manufactured moments, experiential travelers also put phones away to be present. “I’ll take a few photos a day to remember the trip then stay in the experience,” explains Caleb A. Immersing in activities and being open to serendipity ultimately fulfills more than stressing over content.
Deriving meaning also outweighs documenting trips. “I travel journal nightly to crystalize lessons from the day rather than worrying about what to post,” shares Rebecca L. Introspection and personal growth become the goal, over garnering external validation.
“My favorite travel memories stem from spontaneously connecting with people or having small adventures,” explains Marc B. “Not orchestrating some photoshoot. I just try to approach each place and interaction with openness and gratitude now.”