I lay in a single bed, wrapped in a gingham duvet, in a ‘hermit’s cabin’ on the Swedish island of Gotland. In this upmarket shed, sans television, music and mobile, I spent the evening listening to wind and waves, then slept like a happy baby.
It was an energising experience, albeit one with luxury back-up: the cabin is an outpost of the Fabriken Furillen, a boutique hotel, and the cabin is a way to offer a downshift with an exit strategy. Yes, it’s a shade Marie Antoinette, but at the same time, it’s in the vanguard of a travel boom: the luxury tech-free break.
The pervasive nature of mobile technology means that life has become an incessant stream of chatter. We need to escape properly, and the travel industry is stepping up to the mark.
“Everywhere I look, I see people choosing holidays that allow liberation from constant distraction,” says Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slow (Orion, £6.99). The German word freizietstress, or ‘stress in your free time’, has come into its own, he says.
Now more than ever, we need to reject freizietstress. “With apps, mobiles and travel seem to be connected at the hip,” says Vivian McCarthy of Acacia Adventure “But more people are seeking to completely escape.”
Finding tech solace
Some destinations default because they don’t have coverage, and others actively discourage mobiles. In the Caribbean, the Grenadines’ Palm Island beach resort has a ‘no mobile’ policy.
There are several one-off places offering tech solace, including Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge in Québec’s Gaspésie region. It offers ‘total detox’: complete freedom from the phone, mobile, internet and TV.
Then there are destinations, such as islands and ranches, so remote that tech-freedom is part of the product promise. For example, mobiles don’t work well if at all in certain areas in the South Atlantic, which is starting to attract more tourists. There are also activities where fiddling with a smart phone has become a bit of a faux pas for example taking your mobile on game drives on safari is becoming a real no-no.
Psychologist Sheila Keegan, a specialist in consumer behaviour, says we need respite from constant communication. “Demands on our time are increasing, and technology increases those demands enormously,” she says. “Constant access encourages constant contact, and the boundaries between different parts of our lives have become blurred.” It’s time to reclaim the capacity for reflection, she says.
“Rose Kennedy – President Kennedy’s mother – visited a religious retreat for two weeks each year during which even her children were not allowed to contact her. She claimed that it sustained her for the following year.”
This could be the era of technological sanctuary, when luxury means letting go.
Links to holidays
Hotel Furillen, Gotland, Sweden
Acacia Africa (020 7706 4700)
Ranch Rider riding holidays in America and Africa
The Grenadines’ Little Palm Island Resort with Kuoni
The Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge, Québec