The Agony and the Ecstasy of Laptop Detox

It shouldn’t be so hard to travel without a laptop.

It didn’t use to be. I was traveling laptop and fancy free as little as 3 years ago. I backpacked through Europe for months using only those dusty old terminals you find hidden in hostel corners. The world has changed, and so have I.

I announced a couple of weeks ago that Mike and I were taking an honest to goodness vacation. It was our first one since we started working from the road two years ago, and I was a little nervous about how it would go.

It wasn’t easy to tear myself away from my computer for a whole week. My beautiful, shiny macbook air is my most treasured possession. It’s my main outlet for expression, communication, work and even distraction. I spend more time physically touching my computer than I do my boyfriend.

Which I supposed makes it all the more important to take a short break. Here’s how our week went.

Stage One: Withdrawal

We caught the ferry early Tuesday morning from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay. It’s not really that far: some people even come as a day trip. That’s exactly what it felt like: a day trip, so I didn’t worry too much as we ate lunch in the old city, explored the fort and rented a gold cart to cruise around time.

Then, night fell. After dinner we found ourselves sitting in the hostel common room, dumbfounded. What exactly were we supposed to be DOING? Everyone else in the room was huddled over their own laptops: skyping, browsing hostels, flipping through facebook. Eventually I read my novel while Mike played games on his phone. We both went to bed unnaturally early.

That night I dreamed of work and woke up stressed and confused.

Stage Two: Recovery

The next day we caught the bus to Montevideo, Uruguay’s charming capital city. Usually when we arrive in a new hostel our first move is to check our email. Since that wasn’t an option we checked in that directly went out sightseeing. That felt kind of nice.

Back at the hostel, which was much more social than the last, we Gerry and Judy from Australia and New Zealand respectfully. Since we didn’t have our noses buried in our laptops we ended up chatting. We all decided to go out for lunch the next day. It was a start of a friendship that would last the entire week and beyond (the four of us just had dinner in Buenos Aires the other day).

By day three I was getting the hang of the no internet thing. I checked my emails once a day on the hostel computer and only responded to the most urgent ones. Other then that I didn’t really think about work too much.


Judy and Gerry came along with us to Punta del Este where we ate amazing asado and lounged on the beach. The four of us decided to rent a car and road trip up the coast to Punta del Diablo. Judy booked our hostel reservation on her old white Macbook which I eyed semi-enviously.

In Punta del Diablo we got drunk off of cheap mojitos and threw ourselves into the dark ocean. I hadn’t written a post in almost a week, I hadn’t even checked my email in two days. Whatever, who cares?

By the end of the week, as we watched the sun set in Punta del Diablo, I couldn’t have cared less about the work that awaited me at home. I was having fun.

Usually our work schedules force us to travel slowly, and to spend lots of time in doors. Because we were being normal for once, we had so much more flexibility and free time.

Of course, all vacations have to end (do they? They do.) By the time we got back to Buenos Aires I was feeling relaxed, refreshed, and dying to catch up on my internet gossip! I think it was a good exercise and I’m going to try to continue to take a break a couple of times a year.

After all everyone needs a vacation sometimes…


This post was written by me, brought to you by Best Western UK

17 Responses to The Agony and the Ecstasy of Laptop Detox

  1. Camels & Chocolate March 25, 2012 at 10:16 AM #

    Girl, I feel ya! On my honeymoon, I was bummed to find my BlackBerry worked in Borneo (I had left my Mac at home), and so even though I promised to stay OFF, I would hide in the bathroom while Scott was still asleep and check my email/Facebook/Twitter šŸ˜‰

  2. Jeremy March 25, 2012 at 11:08 AM #

    It’s so hard to tear yourself away but, once you’ve let it go, being disconnected is strangely refreshing!

  3. John of Travel Rinse Repeat March 25, 2012 at 11:47 AM #

    That sounds incredibly difficult but probably a pretty worthwhile exercise from time to time!

  4. Anne Foster March 25, 2012 at 12:25 PM #

    ohhh, computer withdrawal is rough. While abroad I got a virus on my computer and had to leave it at a shop for a week. At first I was at a complete loss of what to do with all of my free time. But getting more sleep was a positive side effect.

  5. Nicole ( March 25, 2012 at 1:07 PM #

    Great post – and interesting point. It;s amazing how on some level you can give up North America, “normal” life and set forth on a completely exciting/different path – but something so simple as leaving your laptop at home is a stresser. But that’s the way it is!

  6. Amanda March 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM #

    I’m glad that your laptop detox went so well!

    While I didn’t completely disconnect last week in Iceland, I came pretty close. I didn’t write any blog posts, and was barely on Twitter. The only thing I did daily was try to upload a new photo or two to Facebook each night via my iPad. I, too, found it refreshing to skip the rest of it and just enjoy traveling!

  7. Christine March 25, 2012 at 10:43 PM #

    My MacBook Air broke while I was in Bali, the day before I left to go to Gili T for a week. I frantically found an Apple reseller store right before it shut at 5pm on Saturday and left my computer behind while I went to get my open-water certification on a teeny tiny island for a week. I still went to internet cafes to stay on top of things just because i COULDN’T give it up…and I went to sleep obscenely early. Didn’t love it, although I think if I weren’t a blogger, I could travel with just my iPhone 4S and be totally OK without my SLR, Macbook, etc.

  8. Dana de Brito March 26, 2012 at 11:01 AM #

    Ack! No internet sounds both amazingly relaxing… and super anxiety inducing! Good for you guys to take some time for yourselves šŸ™‚

  9. Jodi March 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM #

    I totally understand! I went an entire month without my macbook on my last trip. After the first few days, I didn’t miss it at all! It’s not easy to leave our favourite gadgets behind, but you experience so much more when you do! I’m sure if I had it with me, I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people from all over the world!

  10. Matt March 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM #

    I find it amazing how much more time you have when your not constantly checking social media, news, and blogs. I think it bonds you together and draws you closer.

  11. Sabina March 26, 2012 at 12:28 PM #

    I have never done this and honestly don’t know if I ever will. The closest I will come, I think, is limiting myself to an hour each day or some similar rule. It does seem really amazing that just a few years ago I could hardly have cared less about the internet, while it is now an appendage. If I do ever consider fully detoxing for several days, I too will probably end up writing a post about it šŸ™‚

  12. Alex March 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM #

    I’m going to hope my boyfriend doesn’t see this post… he’ll be asking why I can’t take a week away from the computer! Don’t want to put any ideas in his head!

  13. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 26, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

    I just wrote a post about this and how it’s soooo important for the soul! I couldn’t do it once a month, but I could definitely do it once a year.

  14. alexis March 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM #

    My boyfriend is a web designer, and I’m sort of a hippie. I always tell him that he’s on his iPhone way too much. He checks his phone first thing in the morning, and I never understood that. When we’re traveling, we make it a rule not to bring any electronics. In my opinion, it takes away from the experience! We take a lot of pictures already (which takes time away from site seeing and talking to the locals), so being away from electronics is a lot more rewarding and more free. It feels like a real vacation when you forget about home and really take in the environment =) I’m glad you guys tried it out!

  15. Monica March 29, 2012 at 5:05 AM #

    A laptop detox is a great idea. In some ways I’m quite lucky because my boyfriend is a complete technophobe and is always encouraging me to switch off my laptop. I can’t imagine what I would be like if we were both as bad as each other!

  16. Duncan @ Travelistic March 29, 2012 at 9:51 AM #

    I dont think i could go a few days without my internet fix!

    Although when i go on a holiday without access, it is suprisingly refreshing šŸ™‚


  17. Dave @ One Tour One April 1, 2012 at 12:36 PM #

    I did my first big trip (two months through middle east and SE Asia) last year where I di not bring a laptop and opted for an IPad and IPhone only. Had a little getting used to, but actually worked out great. Huge convert now. If I need anything more, well, there’s still internet kiosks just about everywhere.

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