Offline travel has become something of a trend. We’ve all seen the holier-than-thou blog articles from travel influencers and bloggers who have gone on extended trips with nothing more than a Nokia 3310 for emergencies. They claim to come out the other side enlightened and more mindful from the process, detached from the terrible drain of the mobile device that had ruined their lives beforehand. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to read through the article and think to myself, I should spend less time on my phone. But when it comes to my next trip, the ease and practicality of having a mini-computer tucked in my pocket, ready to assist me in navigation and research, is just too handy to give up on.
Spending less time on screens and more time in the present is, undoubtedly, a good thing, though. So can’t there be an in-between? A way to have all the useful apps and tools that a smartphone offers, without mindlessly scrolling Instagram instead of being present in the place you’re in? I think I’ve found some tips and tools that might set you on just that path.
Make Your Smartphone Smarter
You don’t have to get rid of your smartphone to travel offline. I won’t lie, the apps and features of modern phones are just too good to get rid of, especially on longer trips. I don’t want to stop video chatting with my family and friends when I go away for weeks at a time. I don’t want to use disposable cameras to save my memories. I love the benefits of having a smartphone while traveling – but I do want to cut down on my screen time. Here are some apps and tricks that can help you stay more present without leaving your phone at home.
Don’t Buy A Data Plan
One way to really make sure your scrolls are limited and you use your phone with the essentials is too simply not buy any data abroad. If you can only use internet-based apps when you have a WiFi connection, it means that when you are out and about exploring, you’ll be forced to get your eyes away from your screen. It still gives you the option to stay connected, share your travels, and use your phone as you please when in a WiFi zone, like your hostel or a local internet cafe, but means that your time will be strictly limited.
Of course, you should always make a decision like this with careful thought. If you are going trekking alone and will need data for navigation or in case of emergencies, then this might not be the way forward. Staying offline is great for your mental health; getting lost in a forest somewhere with no way of contacting civilization is not! Make sure you will have a means of communicating with people in case of emergencies if you are going to a location where a WiFi-connected cafe won’t be nearby. WiFi Map is also a great tool for finding WiFi locations nearby, just in case you might need an internet connection while you’re on the move.
Learn The Art Of Wandering
A lot of my exploring time when I’m traveling is my standing on a street corner, looking at my phone, looking back up, starting in a direction, noticing my little blue dot is moving the wrong way, then retreating. It’s embarrassing, makes sure I annoy the locals by getting under their feet, and has meant that I’ve had my phone knocked out of hands by an irritated passerby on countless occasions. I’ve had enough.
I’d encourage you to learn the art of wandering. Even if you have a location in mind, try and head towards it without a map, just by knowing the rough route you need to get there. You can always ask for directions, which also helps you to get to know the locals, and although it might take longer, you might find something exciting along the way.
If you are seriously clueless with directions (aka me), then try looking for an offline city guide map. HereWeGo is a great option for downloadable maps that you can use on the go, without needing an internet connection. That way, you can still have a navigation aid without Instagram notifications and WhatsApp messages popping up constantly.
Have A Local Tour Guide In Your Pocket
No, we’re not advocating ant-sized tour guides. With our app, you can have locals give you unique insight and information about wherever you are. Their tours will take you to hidden gems around cities and discover little-known wonders in the countryside. Even better, you can take them offline and focus just on the tour, with precise directions and easy-to-follow landmarks to make sure you won’t get lost. Download the app today on Google Play or the App Store and reap the benefits of self-guided travel.
Take Everything Important Offline
When you go offline, make sure all your important documents go offline with you. An offline city guide is great, but if you can’t get on your flight or train because you can’t download your ticket on the move, you’ll still be stuck. TripIt is a useful app to make sure everything important is saved and easily accessible, whether your phone is connected to the internet or not.
Change Up Your Habits
We’ve likely all become well-accustomed to traveling heavily online. My memories of travel are heavily influenced by what snaps I shared on my Instagram, what restaurants I found through Google; it all has a connection to what media I was consuming and sharing online. Downloading a few offline city guides and pushing myself to try self-guided travel more won’t do much in the long run unless I also change up my long-standing habits. Here are a few that might help your switch to offline travel easier and longer-lasting.
Experience First, Post After
I went on a three-week trip a while back and got into the habit of sharing snaps to my Instagram Stories the day after it had actually happened. Not only did this mean I didn’t need to be writing captions and thinking up witty travel puns on the move, but it also meant that truly the best parts of my day were shared to my Stories, rather than a mad dash of everything that happened in a very long digital stream of consciousness.
I was able to really pick the highlights and share them with the hindsight of the full day. Plus, I think my friends and followers were relieved that it made my travel highlights remarkably shorted, so they didn’t have to tap through dozens of exciting selfies.
Dedicated Catch-Up Sessions
I am also a big advocator of setting aside half an hour or so at the end or beginning of the day to catch up with family and friends, instead of texting or calling on and off throughout the day. Of course, you don’t have to stick to this religiously. It does help to keep you off your phone, however, and also means you have some downtime that helps keep travel relaxing and fun.
Sometimes I think I give myself travel burnout, always rushing from one thing to the next. Taking even 20 minutes to lie on my hostel bunk and let my mum know I’m wearing sunscreen and update my friends on wherever I am at the moment is also a healthy time-out, leaving me refreshed to head back out again afterward.
We hope these tips are helpful – and achievable, rather than waving goodbye to having any sort of online life at all. Have you got any of your own? Drop them down in the comments below!