While mobile devices enhance our lives in ways we could never have imagined, the downsides are becoming well documented. Information overload can lead to a shortened attention span, looking at your phone before bed can cause disrupted sleep patterns, and the dopamine hit from each new notification can become addictive – on average, people now check their phones every 15 minutes throughout the day. Probably the most troubling part is that it can be hard to step away from work when your device makes you contactable 24/7, even on vacation.
Cue mindful travel: a growing phenomenon whereby people are using travel as an opportunity to slow down and disconnect from technology. Central to this a deliberate focus on being in the present and giving your full attention your surroundings. This can only really be achieved if you’re willing to put your phone away completely and can resist the temptation to check it at every downtime (for example, when you’re waiting for something).
Safaris offer the perfect opportunity to for a digital detox – not least because internet access in the bush is limited to non-existent. While it is possible to find specific high-end camps that have decent Wi-Fi, primarily because their guests require it, at most places connectivity will be basic. You’ll be able to check your emails or send the odd message – and camps have satellite phones so you’ll always be contactable in an emergency – but on the whole the signal will be patchy and slow so trying to do anything much will end up being frustrating. Some camps are even deliberately off the grid as they want their guests to connect with their surroundings without distractions.
And what surroundings they are: when you’re on safari, you’re in a remote and awe-inspiring wilderness, far from cities and deeply connected to nature in a way few places in the world still allow. Adapt yourself to the gentle rhythms of nature – for example, let birdsong and dawn light wake you in the morning – and take time to absorb all the sights, sounds and smells that greet you at every turn. You can use this time to really connect with your travel companions, away from the usual stresses of daily life; relish in the fact that work can’t hassle you either. Your safari can be a life-changing interlude – indeed, many people make a vow to continue with mindfulness once they return to their daily lives.
Here are our five tips for a digital detox on safari:
- Warn your friends and family back home that you’ll probably take a while to get back to them if they message you
- Turn off all push notifications on your phone so you won’t be tempted to check them
- Bring a watch or alarm clock rather than relying on your phone, or else keep it on airplane mode
- Leave your phone in your room and bring a separate camera for photos. Focus on taking fewer but higher quality pictures
- Check out this book by Sara Clemence, The Field Guide to Mindful Travel – it’s packed with useful tips and advice.