Did you know that a mountain top view looks far more spectacular without a phone in front of your face? That said, my Instagram account is proof that I enjoy documenting experiences throughout my travels and adventures.
From hiking to camping to cycling and more, technology certainly can help make your adventures more enjoyable. I’ve used my phone countless times to figure out where to turn next while mountain biking a new trail, or simply used the camera to capture an incredible view I had never seen. But despite technology’s superb benefits, it can create headaches and dampen the whole experience as well.
Remember Why You’re Traveling And Exploring
Why did you choose to visit that country, pick that spot to fish, or hike that trail? Was it to spend time with loved ones? Was it to escape from the stresses of life? Was it to detach yourself from the restraints of a career? Was it to clear the mind?
Think about it.
We are constantly connected now. At any point we can receive a text, phone call, email, Facebook comment, etc. Do you feel compelled to let the world know exactly what you’re doing at the exact moment? You’re not alone. It’s why Instagram is so popular. So ask yourself this question:
If I didn’t have service/data/a cellphone right now, would I wish I did so I could share what I’m about to share?
Where I just moved to I no longer have service for data on my phone. This has honestly been a blessing. I still take pictures while out and about, but I don’t feel the need to share them instantly (despite having a portable hotspot that I stow away in my backpack). This adds more value to the time I’m spending in nature, as opposed to staring at my phone.
Use Airplane Mode
Airplane mode isn’t just for airplanes. In case this is something new to you – this is a mode all cell phones are equipped with – down to the very basic of phones. What does it do? It generally it turns off all communication the cellphone has with the “outside” – data, cell service, WiFi, and GPS. If you’re using GPS, this may not be an option – look into it, my phone (the Moto X) actually keeps GPS enabled while in airplane mode. A bonus feature is that by disabling some of these services, you conserve battery life!
Only Carry One Internet-enabled Device
Do you bring your tablet, laptop, smartwatch or MP3 player with you in addition to your smartphone? Leave them behind at your hotel or home when you’re out wandering city streets or forest trails. It’s extra weight and it’ll only distract you more.
Tip when using a smartphone: Couple this with the airplane mode tip! You can still have the device, just don’t access the Internet. Instead, get everything you’ll need before you go out (e.g. offline GPS, preloaded directions, numbers to venues, etc.).
Secondary Tip: Make it accessible, but not convenient
Is what you’re about to take a photo of really worth it? Do you have to check your GPS on your phone to see how far you’ve gone? One option in addition to only carrying one Internet-enabled device is to stow it away somewhere that isn’t convenient to grab, but still available (e.g. instead of your pocket, your backpack). Now I know what you’re about to say, “Aaron, this completely contradicts your standpoint on mounting your phone on your bike.” Yes, I know. I’m a big advocate of that – it’s accessible and convenient. But you’re riding, thus you can’t really easily use it without stopping first, which is usually not the point of riding a bike.
Ditch The Music
Huh? Can you say that again? Exactly. When we have ear buds in, we’re detached from the environment around us – sometimes that’s exactly the purpose, other times I feel it’s simply a habit we’ve fallen into. In addition, the decreased awareness is actually quite dangerous – you might not hear a bicycle coming from behind (in town or on a trail), or not be aware of a car when crossing the road, or hear wildlife when hiking. So whether you are walking around boisterous New York City or exploring the wilderness, leave the earbuds in your pocket and take in all that is around you. You just might be amazed at what you hear and who you meet along the way.
Now, if you want some tunes for around the campfire or a casual bike ride, take a look at these rugged Bluetooth speakers. In addition to those 7 we reviewed, there are a few more (depending on your needs and preference) in an article of outdoor tech gadgets that I compiled. A Bluetooth speaker means no wires and when used at the appropriate decibel, allows you to be more aware of your surroundings versus headphones.
Only Post Big Real-Time Updates And Only To One Outlet
If you’re a social media addict, it’s easier said than done to discard all of it at once. Perhaps it can be nice to post something in the moment. So when you do, make sure you’re doing it sparingly and only to one social media platform. Personally, I like Instagram for this, as it’s usually a picture that I feel compelled to share. But even then, I typically wait until after the outing to post it. But if you must, pick one place and one thing to share, and hold yourself to that.
Ideally, you should wean yourself off the need to post at all during your outings – there will be plenty of time back home or in the hotel to share your experiences for the day.
Bring Along A Real Camera
Cameras on our smartphones have improved greatly over the years and due to convenience and practicality, they’re often the only camera we carry. That’s fine for every day use, but when you’re making a special trip somewhere, a standalone camera allows you to only take pictures versus taking pictures, checking texts, tweeting and so on.
This tip might help if you are a bit too attached to your phone – stow it away in your backpack for emergencies and have a point-and-shoot camera easily accessible. However, it can be easy to get taken up with that too. Leading us to the next bit of advice…
Pause And Take In All That’s Around You
This applies not only to technology, but to whatever you’re doing. Before you cross that intersection in the metropolis you’re touring, stop. Look around. Look up at the tall buildings and appreciate the effort, intelligence and skill put into them. Watch people. It can be easy to walk along a sidewalk just staring at our phones, ignoring all that’s around us – but you’re there for a reason right? Perhaps something you see or hear will inspire a journal entry or a line in a song you’ve been working on. The same applies even more when out in nature – disconnect from the tech and enjoy what’s around you.
Technology Does Help, But It Must Be Regulated
Confession: I have gotten lost in my phone while “enjoying” a view, thus getting lost in technology instead of getting lost in the moment. More than once too. It’s quite sad and when I think back, it frustrates me I didn’t spend more time taking it all in. Nature is all around us if we look. And it’s amazing!
I’m not advocating that you go completely offline (though, that isn’t a bad idea from time to time). I’m simply suggesting you try to enjoy your “adventures” a bit more. Just like any habit, it takes practice. If you’re very attached to your Internet and electronic devices (as I somewhat am), you may have a harder time with this. Just make the effort.
You don’t have to ditch technology completely – it has awesome benefits. All I’m suggesting is, instead of using it while you’re fishing, use it to find where to fish. Then toss it aside and cast in your line.
Have you struggled with this when traveling or exploring nature? Is there something that has worked particularly well for you – perhaps even one I didn’t mention here? Please share – I’m looking forward to discussing this more and perhaps even improving my own strategies with one of yours.
Image Credits: Quinn Dombrowski Via Flickr, Girls choose social media instead fishing via Shutterstock, Airplane Mode Smart Phone via Shutterstock, Throw away music via Shutterstock, guy taking a photo of two doves in the park for social networking via Shutterstock, Girl with a camera in Swiss Alps via Shutterstock, young tourist with backpack sitting on the hill and enjoy the scenery via Shutterstock, cyclist searches GPS coordinates on the mobile phone in the forest via Shutterstock, Sisters focused on fishing via Shutterstock