I Tried It: The Digital Detox

Is it really possible to unplug for a day?

Photo by Toan Trinh

I always thought I could put my phone down for a few hours if I really wanted to. But it took being assigned a story about holing up in a tiny house in the woods for me to actually do it.

I’m not alone in my tech addiction: In fact, almost half of smartphone owners consider the devices something they “can’t live without.” That’s why Harvard-born Getaway was founded: to encourage a plugged-in generation to relinquish their screens and just be. Launched in 2015 and rapidly expanding, the startup rents tech-free cabins (read: no WiFi and spotty cell service) in the wilds of New Hampshire, each complete with a kitchenette, a bathroom, a bed, a fire pit, and, yes, a cell-phone lock box.

I drove 70 miles without stopping one fall day to reach this disconnected paradise. After settling in, I did the thing I was most anxious about—I locked my precious iPhone in that box. For the next 20 hours, at least, I was determined to enjoy a tech detox.

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Sleek, modern, and steeped in hygge, my 160-square-foot Getaway cabin made that almost too easy, thanks to an ultra-comfy bed overlooking the wilderness from a floor-to-ceiling window. Once I was free from the shackles of Twitter notifications, I lit a candle, wrapped myself in a provided Pendleton blanket, and flipped through a booklet filled with ideas about how to pass the time. Did I really need a set of written instructions to help me relax? Yes, I did.
The guide contained tips for meditating and building a campfire, among other suggestions. I did all of it and then some, because time passes slowly when your brain isn’t running at a mile a minute. I breezed through a book—a real, paper book, not one on my Kindle—and made s’mores, while instinctively reaching for my phone, stored a few feet away, only a handful of times.

When it was all over, I removed my phone from the box, convinced that I didn’t need it after all…until I found myself Instagramming that perfectly tousled bed.

Read more about how you can find a little more serenity in these troubled times.