Best Places to Unplug

By Matt Haber
11/21/2013 12:40:02 PM

The phrase "digital detox" was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in August 2013 along with, interestingly enough, the term FOMO, or the fear of missing out, often brought on by posts to social media.

It seems that the former is an ideal cure for the latter: a digital detox from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other stimuli that surround us constantly is a perfect way to shake that fear of missing out-and put that energy toward something personally worthwhile.

"Unplugging gives our brains a chance to slow down. Our blood pressure goes down. It gives us a chance to think for ourselves," says Levi Felix, California-based cofounder of The Digital Detox, which leads device-free retreats. "When you're not looking at a screen, sharing something, considering what everyone else is doing in the moment, you get to be who you are."

The Digital Detox launched its first annual Camp Grounded in June 2013 in Navarro, CA, and I was among the 200 adult camp-goers. It was a life-altering experience that let me get in touch with my own natural rhythms in a beautiful environment. Sure, I came home and reacquainted myself with my devices, but I find that post-camp I'm more mindful, more comfortable being outside of the constant thrum of information, and more willing to let a text, tweet, or email go unanswered for a while-especially if I'm with other people. I can't say I never get FOMO, but I certainly don't let it take me over.

Hotels from Chile to Canada to the Caribbean now offer similar getaways that encourage travelers to unplug. Often devices are banned, and days are filled with meditation, yoga, nature, and communal activities.

Whether these packages are examples of bandwagon thinking (like "eco-resorts" that simply don't wash towels and linens daily) or a true reflection of travelers' yearning to break their habits is still unclear. But Felix is optimistic. "Hey, if you're staying in a hotel or somewhere where there's less cell phone use and they're promoting massage and yoga, that's an awesome shift in culture," he says. "When you successfully unplug, you'll have more awareness about yourself; you'll be more in touch."

Here are the best places to unplug.

New Camaldoli Hermitage

New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur, CA

Generations of travelers have known that Big Sur is a magical place removed from the hubbub of San Francisco to the north and L.A. to the south. And those seeking solitude among the area's beaches and old-growth redwoods need look no further than the New Camaldoli Hermitage, a working Benedictine monastery where guests are invited (but not required) to attend daily prayers. The simple rooms, private houses with gardens, and outdoor spaces offer a lot of calm, but little else. There's no app that can replicate the light as it hits the coast and no Spotify playlist that can beat the gentle sound of the surf as you take in the ocean views.

Felipe Camus

Remota Hotel, Puerto Natales, Chile

Designed by Chilean architect Germán del Sol, Remota's rooms feature handmade modern furniture, much of it built on-site using recovered wood. The lack of televisions encourages guests to tune in to unobstructed views of the sky, the expansive wild grass-covered Patagonian landscape, and looming glaciers. Nature and isolation are the main lures at this upscale sustainable lodge, with the option to go on guided and unguided hikes, bicycle and horseback excursions, and bird-watching expeditions that are sure to make you forget all about Twitter.

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Courtesy of Arawak Beach Inn

Arawak Beach Inn, The Valley, Anguilla

The Arawak Beach Inn on Anguilla has devised a seven-day tech-free package called Isolation Vacation. While the rest of the hotel features televisions and Wi-Fi, guests are invited to "unplug and recharge" by handing over their devices and to stay in rooms where televisions have been removed; they're unable to purchase Internet access anywhere on the grounds. Without endless games of Candy Crush at your fingertips, you're freed up to enjoy Anguilla's gorgeous beaches, boating excursions, or a book. (Yes, they still exist.)

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