Most people think that carrying a phone while traveling is absolutely vital. I’m here to prove you otherwise and show you, that in fact, it could be fun to be traveling without a phone. I decided to experience it by myself and, during 2 years, I traveled without a phone or a computer in a long hitchhiking trip from France to Indonesia.
This article is written to relate my experience without a phone, share some feelings I had through this journey, explain the benefits of traveling without a phone and give you some tips if you want do the same.
It started with one simple observation : People have been traveling around the world for thousands of years without any phone or electronics. Did it suddenly become impossible to travel without a phone ? Do we take a phone just because it makes our trip easier ? I wasn’t looking for an easy journey, and I didn’t feel any dumber than my ancestors, therefore I just left home with a backpack, stick my thumb up at the closest on-ramp, and let the wind carry me away.
Why traveling without a phone ?
During my first trip in Asia, I came to realize that I wasted at least an hour a day checking sports news, calling my friends back home or spending time on social medias. I had not traveled to the other side of the world to spend time on my phone! Analyzing the situation, I decided that the easiest way to reduce my time on the phone was simply to not take any.
I love challenges, and traveling without a phone didn’t seem easy. Another reason if I needed one more to try.
Live the moment
Since when do we need to record everything? Why do we need to take a picture of everything we’re doing? Because a few people made us believe it was cool? There’s nothing worst than people always checking their phone. Have you ever been to a restaurant with one of your friends always on the phone?
Traveling without a phone helps you to live the moment. To take pictures with your eyes instead of ending up on a hard drive you’ll probably never check again. To focus on the instant, and leave a mark on your soul.
Connect with locals
Now that I do travel with a phone since the birth of my first son and the start of my digital nomad career, I noticed that the main difference is that I do talk less to locals. Anytime I feel a bit lost or unsure about the direction, I would usually check my phone to guide me towards the desired point. When you don’t have a phone, you have to rely on locals.
It’s a great conversation starter, and they might as well give you a few tips about their city. It did happen that, while asking for direction, I ended up spending an afternoon with locals, touring around the city. Of course, I also got rejected or misdirected, but the positive moments outweighed the negative.
Traveling without a phone is a great way to push you towards others.
Develop your skills
Traveling without a phone truly helps you to improve some of your skills. The main one is definitely your orientation skills. When you always rely on your phone, you might get lost easily if you don’t have battery. Relying on yourself forces you to develop a kind of a 6th sense. Always being aware of your surroundings, and developing your memory. Having this feeling of, oh, I passed by here earlier.
Thanks to this period without phone, I rarely get lost, and usually feel at ease in a new city after a few days. I really love this empowering feeling of being able to orientate myself in a new city without outside help.
Is decreasing our screen time the next big trend ?
These days, it seems that more and more people notice that we spend too much time on our phone. We try to control ourselves but it’s just too hard isn’t it? Why not choosing a more radical solution for your life or your next trip ?
These days more and more people travel in order to show off on social medias, and to let you believe that their life is amazing despite their lack of self-confidence. Being disconnected from all of this brings you back to the original spirit of traveling.
How to travel without a phone ?
How I do with the maps
It is possible to travel without Google Maps ! I know it might come as a surprise but it’s really possible. Paper maps do still exist. You can get a map in many cities from the tourist information center. More often than not, they also have a free map of the whole country. This is how I got maps from countries such as Georgia, Peru or Malaysia. Just try !
Hitchhiking without a phone was quite surprising for many drivers, and some of them gave me a map of their country to ease my journey.
Last, I took the habit of making my own paper map, especially in non English-speaking countries. If I had a specific destination, I would ask people to find cities located between my starting point and destination, and I would keep this note with me to make sure I was more or less on the right way.
What if I want to be online ?
I guess you might not be ready to totally cut communication with the world. I mean I was the same, I had to send messages to my family and update my Facebook page occasionally to let them know that I was alright.
Obviously the first place that comes to mind is to find a cybercafe if you feel the need to be online. But I was such on a low budget that I decided not to spend on anything deemed not necessary.
Find a phone store
My favorite place to keep in touch with the outside world were phone stores. They are plentiful, and no matter which brand the shop is, they always have phones on display. Therefore I would just do my things using the Incognito mode of the browser.
Believe it or not, phone stores can be a great way to make friends. I have the example of China coming to my mind. It was so hard to find an English-speaker while I was there, but as soon as I popped in an Apple store, I was swarmed with the best English-speaking Chinese I’ve ever met! I even found a host in an Apple store in Chongqing by just sharing a bit of my story, how ironic can life be sometimes?
And you? Do you like to be without your phone for a while? Make the experience and come back to share your feelings with us!