This weekend I'm going into the woods with my family. We'll be far, far away from cellphone signals, completely unZoomable, ignoring all emails, tweets and alerts. If I hear annoying buzzing, it will be mosquitos, not text messages.
I'm super excited, and yet I'm struggling to wrap my head around fully disconnecting for more than a few hours after this bizarro year. You'd think 14 months of being glued to screens for all areas of my life would be enough to make me want to throw my phone in the river and watch it sink down between the slimy rocks until it becomes nothing but a useless block of plastic for trout to swim past. And yet I cling to my little digital friend.
Since I know how tough it can be to pry yourself away from the siren call of screens, I've compiled a handy list of 10 strategies for taking a break from tech this summer. (I did have digital assistance on this, thanks to some Facebook friends — but let's just pretend I wrote each of them a handwritten letter asking for their help to avoid that irony, OK?)
1. Leave your phone at home and go for a walk. Your phone won't even miss you.
2. Establish an official place to set your phone instead of keeping it in your pocket. Make sure it's a safe, logical spot — that way you'll be forced to disconnect for several days when you lose your phone the first time you put it there.
3. Leave your phone at home and go for a bike, scooter or skateboard ride. Or if you're as graceful as me, just take another walk.
4. Spend a morning with a 9-year-old who really, really likes to talk about the new Minecraft Caves and Cliffs expansion, and who expects you to remember everything about Minecraft even though you've never actually played it. Soon you will be swearing off technology and looking for an actual cave to hide in.
5. Leave your phone at home and go for a drive around town. See if you can find a neighborhood you've never been to before and navigate your way home without a map app.
6. Instead of using social media, buy a bunch of postcards, write your random thoughts on them and mail them to your friends. See if you get any back. (Those are like comments!)
7. Leave your phone at home and drive until you find a road where you can't see any houses. Stop, get out and listen.
8. Complete an outdoor task that requires focus, precision and physical effort, like washing your windows, organizing your storage spaces, pulling all the thistles out of your garden or pulling all of the thistles out of my garden.
9. Leave your phone at home and go for a drive in the mountains until you find a trail, then follow the trail until you're thoroughly lost, then cry until a Bigfoot comes to rescue you, then abandon your normal life and join a Bigfoot commune. This could take awhile, so be sure to pack books and snacks.
10. Get together with people you love (or new friends) and do something screen-free. It really doesn't matter what you do — hiking, playing board games, visiting around a campfire, learning to knit, doing water aerobics, going to the library, taking the kids to the park, sharing a meal, sitting in comfy lawn chairs and watching how the shadows of the trees change while the sun goes down — whatever floats your boat, including actual boating. Human connection is the best way to remember how many wonderful things will never fit inside a screen.
I've been focusing on numbers 1, 6, 8 and 10, with a smattering of 4. (If anyone needs to borrow a 9-year-old...) I'm still more attached to my screens than I'd like to be — but I'm hoping this weekend in the woods helps break some of my lingering bad habits. And if I need a little extra help, there's always the river. ♦
Tara Roberts is a writer and college journalism adviser who lives in Moscow with her husband, sons and poodle. Her work has appeared in Moss, Hippocampus and a variety of regional publications. Follow her on Twitter @tarabethidaho.