Putting down your phone, packing away your laptop and forgetting WiFi networks can sound daunting, especially if you rely on these for work, school or personal connection. With 4G networks and data plans available worldwide, and WiFi connectivity while you’re literally flying through the sky, it’s become increasingly tricky to take an unplugged vacation without the constant notifications.
Did you know that the notifications on your phone set off chemical reactions in your brain, giving you a hit of dopamine which is associated with rewards and motivation? Our brains LOVE notifications, and putting down the phone can cause withdrawal symptoms - making the experience unpleasant.
If that’s not enough to make you consider taking an off the grid vacation, there are plenty of added benefits and digital detoxes are proven to increase both physical and mental well-being. Putting down your devices is proven to improve relationships, reduce stress, boost productivity, help you sleep better, increase your attention span, and improve physical health.
- What is a digital detox?
- Top tips for disconnecting
- Top 6 destinations for an off-the-grid vacation
So, What’s A Digital Detox?
A digital detox is a period of time in which you refrain from using electronic devices, such as your smartphone, laptop or tablet and is regarded as an opportunity to give your complete focus to creating real world connections and enjoying social interactions, all while reducing stress.
Sounds like a dream situation, right?!
Well, how about combining an off-the-grid vacation with a volunteering vacation? Using this technology-free vacation time to make a positive contribution to a community abroad and connecting with like-minded travelers from all corners of the world. With options to volunteer for durations ranging from 1 - 24 weeks, you have the flexibility to switch off for as little or as long as you want.
Best Volunteer Vacation Destinations For A Digital Detox
Technology-Free Vacation In The Philippines
If totally disconnecting from the comfort of beachfront accommodation sounds like something you’d be interested in, volunteering in the Philippines could be the digital detox destination of your dreams. With International Volunteer HQ, volunteers in the Philippines are based on the beautiful island of Palawan. Given the remote location, WiFi and phone reception is virtually non-existent, making it a perfect destination for an off-the-grid volunteer vacation. Volunteers work alongside community members to make an impact on a variety of projects, such as Childcare, Teaching, Construction and Renovation, and Environmental.
With the beach literally on your doorstep, weekends can be spent relaxing on the sand, reading that book you’ve not had time to read, catching some rays and cooling down in the ocean! For those that need some retail therapy, you can explore the Tigman Markets which are packed with fresh fruit, souvenirs, clothing, authentic street food, and great local conversation! Or head further afield and discover El Nido - a marine reserve that offers incredible snorkeling and the chance to spot manta rays and hawksbill turtles!
Digital Detox Vacation In Belize
You won’t find a more unplugged volunteer destination than Belize. The program is based on an isolated island, just off the southern coast of Placencia. Power on the island is only available via a generator for a maximum of 4 hours per day so it’s the ideal destination if you’re looking to literally “unplug” your devices, let the phone batteries run flat, and recharge your physical and mental well-being. Volunteers in Belize have the opportunity to join a hands-on Marine Conservation project, working alongside the local team to assist with a wide variety of conservation efforts, including coral reef surveying, marine species surveying, whale shark research, and invasive species removal.
Weekends are spent NOT checking your emails, but resorting to the white-sand beaches of Placencia, paddle boarding on the calm, clear waters, and finding your zen at a local yoga class. If you enjoy the exploring the historical side of a destination, Belize will not disappoint - with ancient Mayan sites, such as Caracol, being an easy and very scenic day trip from Placencia. If you’re looking to continue your unplugged getaway over the weekend, the local team in Belize can organize for you to participate in a Mayan Immersion weekend, where you will live in a traditional Mayan home in a secluded village.
Internet Detox In Peru
While Cusco is well connected in terms of WiFi, if you’re looking for a digital detox and a taste of real Peruvian culture, you can apply to volunteer on the Amazon Jungle Conservation or Andean Immersion projects. Amazon Jungle Conservation volunteers are based in remote locations in the Amazonian Jungle up to 10 hours out of central Cusco. Here volunteers work alongside conservation teams on tasks such as reforestation, maintenance, basic research, and animal cataloging. The living conditions at the conservation reserve are comfortably rustic and communal, and with no WiFi available, you will have plenty of time to reflect on your conservation efforts and connect with your volunteer team.
On the Andean Immersion project, volunteers live an authentic Peruvian lifestyle in a small rural village, high in the Andes Mountains. Perfect for self-motivated volunteers, tasks can vary depending on the season, the needs of the community at the time, weather and your gender. Activities you can potentially sink your teeth into include construction, agriculture-related tasks, and animal duties - there are also opportunities to learn traditional weaving and textile dying from the women in the community. The villages are located 90 minutes out of central Cusco, with the traditional Andean homes having limited electricity and no internet access - all the makings of an ultimate unplugged volunteer vacation.
Spend the weekends exploring the Sacred Valley, or take a trip to Machu Picchu - but leave the selfie stick at home, there’s nothing quite like embracing the magic vibes of the forgotten city in person, rather than through a screen. Or stick to the jungle life and explore more of the Amazon, taking a riverboat trip down Rio Tambopata and doing your best to catch sight of the elusive wildlife, 10-points if you spot a jaguar, tapir or uakari monkey.
Unplug In Morocco With Amazigh Immersion
Marrakech is a bustling city with easy access to WiFi and mobile data, however if you’re looking for an authentic Moroccan experience without the distractions of modern technologies, you can head high into the Atlas Mountains (about 2 hours from Marrakech), live alongside the Amazigh community, and help the villagers with their daily tasks. As a volunteer, you have the unique opportunity to provide English lessons to children and adults, as well as assisting with various agricultural jobs and women’s education. For the full immersion experience, you will be placed in a homestay with anAmazigh family. The homes are basic, but comfortable, with no access to internet so you will be digitally detoxed in no time.
Weekends can be spent exploring the medina of Marrakech, a lively and colorful marketplace in the center of the city. Leave your phone at home, you need your full attention on the stalls - try your hand at bargaining for some authentic jewelry, ceramics, and clothing, or feed your foodie nature with Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and Berber-influenced cuisine! A slow cooked tagine is a must-try, a delicious savory stew made of sliced meat and an array of vegetables, cooked in the iconic tagine pot - with the cone lid creating a perfect environment for a rich, moist stew.
An Island Escape In Madagascar
This one-of-a-kind island destination is made for a digital detox getaway! Volunteers on the Madagascar program are housed in locally-made huts on the smaller island of Nosy Komba, power for lights is supplied by solar panels and you are encouraged to leave your electronic equipment at home as the electricity is very limited. The lack of power, paired with NO WiFi at the camp makes volunteering in Madagascar the perfect opportunity to give back without the distractions of technology! Your weekdays will be busy spent making a contribution to the local community through projects such as Marine Conservation, Forest Conservation, Teaching, and Community Development. Or take to the water on a 10-day Island Outreach project, visiting several remote villages and islands on a 50-foot research vessel.
A dream-like destination for lovers of the outdoors, Madagascar is waiting to be explored. From the Avenue of the Baobabs to Lemur park, there are loads of opportunities to experience what makes Madagascar unique. Spend your weekends at camp on Nosy Komba, embracing the no-Wifi life, head further afield to one of the neighboring islands or take a quick trip to the mainland and get your adrenaline hit kiteboarding or quad biking in Diego Suarez.
Top Tips For Disconnecting
If you can’t avoid technology completely, here are a few things you can do:
- Turn off unnecessary alerts and push notifications
- Put your phone away while you are with friends, give them your full attention and ask them to do the same
- Instead of turning to the television or Netflix, pick up a book and spend some time reading
- Disconnect your WiFi for a set amount of time each day, start with 10 minutes and increase this daily
- Experience something new (local or abroad) without sharing pictures to social media, instead tell someone about your experience - in person!
- Set your phone screen to black and white, this can combat your phone addiction by making apps like Facebook and Instagram less appealing