The beauty of modern technology is that you can answer your cell phone from almost anywhere in the world. The flipside is that you can answer your cell phone from almost anywhere in the world.
“The habit of checking email and text messages every few minutes has gotten us out of the habit of enjoying being where we are, who we are with and simply being in the moment,” says Bruce Davis, co-director of Silent Stay Retreat Home & Hermitage in California.
Don’t let distractions ruin your precious downtime. Unplug with a digital detox at these tech-free getaways.
Unplug in Nature
One of the rare places in the U.S. where cell phones don’t work reliably is Hocking Hills, a region in Ohio, roughly an hour and a half southeast of Columbus. Urban dwellers can reconnect with nature by hiking to the waterfalls at Old Man’s Cave, which are particularly striking in the winter when they freeze; feeding hummingbirds at Lake Hope State Park; or kayaking with Touch the Earth Adventure guide Mimi Morrison, who specializes in helping tech addicts unplug. Her unique technique? Leading searches for elusive beavers who call the area’s lakes home. End the day recharging among the sounds of birds and rustling autumn leaves with a massage at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in the town of Logan.
Another tech-free nature retreat is Door County, Wis. This Alaska-like setting, about two and a half hours north of Milwaukee, includes several no-cell zones. You can mountain bike through a virgin evergreen forest in Newport State Park; kayak through sandstone caves; or paddle along the Mink River Estuary where blue heron and other wildlife reside.
Two quiet places to stay (kids and pets not allowed) are The Blacksmith Inn on the Shore, a restored 1800s farmhouse, and the Ephraim Inn, with views of Green Bay. If you are with your family, try Rowleys Bay Resort, located on 700 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline and 100 acres of wooded property. Here you can partake in a fish boil, a Door County dinner tradition, and enjoy homemade Swedish baked goods. Don’t pass up the famous caramel pecan rolls and cardamon coffeecake.
Unplug at a Spa
Yoga lovers will be impressed with the restorative powers of Rancho Valencia’s Bali-style outdoor yoga room set among water foundations and fragrant plants in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Unwind post-downward dog pose in one of the resort’s villas, which feature fireplaces and private hot tubs.
If you have an adventurous spirit, travel farther to Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Isles where open-air, hilltop yoga is offered, along with seaside massages and the option to book a room void of phones and TVs.
And if sleeping on vacation is a priority, the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa in Colorado is a must. There you can unwind in the spa’s heated mineral baths and evergreen-scented steam room. Then indulge in a sleep-inducing massage that uses custom music and sounds to foster deep rest. Retreat back to your room where sleep-friendly snacks like freshly made banana-oatmeal cookies and hot lavender tea are served bedside.
Unplug with Friends
Grab your passport and explore one of western Canada’s most scenic areas: Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway. Rent a car in Calgary and drive west to the Rafter Six Ranch where you can spend the day riding horses with wrangler Kateri Crowley, whose parents have owned the ranch since the 1970s. You can do a trail ride by the river, learn how to be a horse whisperer and even help Crowley with cowgirl chores like brushing the horses and bailing hay.
Overnight in one of the ranch’s cabins or continue on to Moraine Lake Lodge (about an hour away) and spend the night in a lakeside cottage. In the morning, you can walk along the emerald-colored waters or take a canoe out (free to lodge guests), which is best done in the morning before the lake gets crowded with other adventure-goers.
Afterward either join up with Brewster Adventures (next to The Fairmont Chateau) and do a horse ride around Lake Louise. Or get back in the car and head north on the Icefields Parkway, which seems to offer a photo opp at every turn. Beside the towering Canadian Rockies and turquoise lakes, the route also takes you past the Columbia Icefield glacier, a thick ice mass that you can walk up to and pay your respects. It’s estimated that in about 20 years the glacier will be melted.
Solo travelers who love art should check out Salida, Colo., about two hours south of Denver. Here you can sip wine and watch artist Brice Turnbill transform melted glass into vases at the Sunlight Studio, conveniently connected to the Reigning Wine Bar; walk through the Salida SteamPlant’s outdoor sculpture park; or shop in one of the many art galleries that showcase Salida’s talented painters, potters, jewelers and sculptors. In winter months, enjoy Salida’s “mom & pop” Monarch Ski Resort where lift lines never caught on. The town is located along the Arkansas River, which makes it ideal for an afternoon kayak trip or bike ride along a riverside paved path in warmer months.
When the vacation is over, it’s easy to revert back to bad habits and stay connected 24/7. Unplug post-getaway (or in lieu of a vacation if an escape isn’t possible) with these expert tips.
- Practice interval training. If you are struggling with disconnecting, spend 15 minutes using technology and 15 minutes without. “Giving your brain some downtime will help make room for your next inspired idea because a halt in constant thinking slows the mind’s rhythms to allow more innovative aha moments,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.
- Set boundaries. Have set times (say once in the morning and once in the late afternoon) when you check email and phone messages/texts. “Spouses and children do much better when they have 100 percent of your focus, if only for 10 minutes versus 30 minutes of interrupted focus due to work,” says Angela Gaffney, owner of Essential Health & Wellness in Eagle, Colo.
- Create a no-cell bedroom. “Try to restrict your technology time in the evenings to allow your brain to calm down before sleep,” says Chapman. For example, silence your cell phone 30 minutes before bed or do not bring your cell phone into your bedroom.
Bonus tip. Worried you might miss an emergency when you power down? Wendy Robbins, co-founder of Red Capes, an online fundraising company, hires an inexpensive phone service to pick up her calls after hours. “They deal with everything and report to my virtual assistant and only connect for emergencies via Skype on my iPad,” she says.
This essay is excerpted from USA TODAY Modern Woman magazine, which contains articles about lifestyle, health, relationships, money, home, travel and more. Find it on magazines newsstands or at modernwoman.usatoday.com.
Lisa Davis, USA TODAY Modern Woman magazine 6:03 a.m. EDT October 20, 2013