Tech-free tourism and digital detoxing

Jan 16, 2014

Entries from Word of the Year 2013

At first I thought that digital detox was something that the older generation craved. Some respite from all the devices that now crowd our lives combined with a memory that it was not always so and that, from this distance, the digital-free world seems better, nobler. 

But it turns out that it is everyone at work who wants to shed their mobile phones and tablets when they go on holiday so that they truly can’t be contacted. It’s not their fault.They don’t have to make a decision about whether to check their emails or not. They are in a dead zone and it’s just not possible.

So we have the rise of tech-free tourism. Some resorts that offer this are of the opinion that nature and the digital world are ideologically and aesthetically opposed. Going back to nature cannot be accomplished with a smart phone in the hand. (I don’t actually agree with that – GPS availability can be very reassuring to the bushwalker. And the facility to photograph and record what you see can be good too, although the downside of that is obsessive documenting.)

Other resorts have sensed this need for a refuge from the digital. There is no religious zeal. You can eat, drink, walk, swim, study astronomy, go rafting, do a whole heap of different things just for the fun of it, but you will not be troubled by nagging guilt or anxiety once you have been forced to shed the devices.

Dead zones and wellbeing have been studied by academics (wouldn’t that be a fun thesis topic) and stress levels correlated with exposure to mobile phones. Positive experiences were linked with loss of contact with work but also with loved ones! The acca coinage was ‘dead zone tourism’, which could conceivably be misinterpreted. The accepted term is ‘tech-free tourism’, which seems to be expanding as a profitable venture. The list of ‘tourisms’, already extensive, has added one more.


digital detox

/dɪdʒətl ˈditɒks/ (say dijuhtl 'deetoks)

noun a period during which an individual refrains from using digital devices, to reduce dependency, promote good health, etc.

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