Now-a-days most if not all things we do involves something digital, from reading books on tablets to mobile phones as micro-computers and a tool for navigation. It’s fair to say most of us if we were without our phones would feel very vulnerable and lost and it’s all too easy to become lazy thanks to the convenience and quick access with our phones.
I myself am guilty of this at time but how to overcome this is easy and can be fun, educational and a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the outdoors but does require some forward thinking and planning plus some confidence at times.*
The question is, have you ever tried a day trip or outing without your mobile to navigate?
An excellent way to enjoy a digital detox is to plan and go out for the day, weekend or however you long you wish on a pre-planned route using a traditional map or rough location guides.
Within Scouting and DofE awards this is something we teach the participants for expeditions as a lot of the time we venture to areas with little or no signal so being reliant on your phone as a means of navigation is impossible and just won’t work, not to mention battery life. This might surprise you, but most participants enjoy the lack of phones around them and typically engage in more conversations, singing and have more fun and connect with one another and most don’t even notice the lack of their phones when out on expedition because they are so pre-occupied with the surroundings and actually face-to-face conversations.
Having your own digital detox trip doesn’t have to go to the same lengths as a DofE expedition, just getting off the grid for one day or even a morning can improve your wellbeing and improve health and it’s simpler than it may seem.
Find an area you wish to explore or visit, for example Durdle Door or a local canal route to you to cycle or walk along.
Plan your route in how to get to the destination and once you arrive set off and enjoy the day using maps. The challenge is to not use your mobile phone throughout the day.
This is also great to get the whole family involved, teaching your kids about nature, navigation and general time together away from screens and game consoles.
Take your time to enjoy the surroundings and why not turn it into a creative challenge too. Bring a camera and photograph the trip. Not only are you learning to navigate the good old way, but you are relaxing by doing something creative at the same time or spending time with family. Equally you could just simply bring a picnic, football or Frisbee to enjoy. Anything to keep you busy and not think about your phone is the trick.
Recent trips I’ve enjoyed in this same manner are my recent trips to Durdle Door, Reading to Newbury canal path, Oxford, Longleat Zoo and even London. Most are well signed and marked out, making it easy to navigate about without the use of maps at all.
Canal routes are great as they are safe and popular with people and often have cafes or spots to enjoy picnics on route. The larger tourist hot spots are the easiest to do digital free day trips as you can rely on the crowds to lead the way if you’re not confident with map reading.
If you want to photograph the memories of visiting a location, why not try using a film camera or small compact camera rather than a phone and print them and create a digital free scrap book.
Learning to read a traditional paper map can be a great tool to learn and a good means to get you off the grid. Other tools to add and to greater advance your navigation skills are using a compass or time cards which describe your route and how long each leg or distance is. In turn can help with your time management skills and organisation.
*For safety reasons always pack your phone or a sat nav as a means of communication or for emergencies. A great alternative to OS maps is ViewRanger or Google maps which both can run with just location data and require no internet to track you. You can pre plan routes and download to your phone. Both are available to download on Android and Apple OS so you can still enjoy a social media free day and build up your confidence in navigation if you lack experience with map reading. This article is not affiliated with Google or ViewRanger, I simply use these tools myself and trust them.