How to use social media on vacation and still stay present.

Vacations are a wonderful way to take a break from our everyday lives and experience something new and different. And, with the help of technology, we can now easily share our adventures with others from almost anywhere in the world. But at what point does our sharing detract from the richness of the experience we are seeking? Over the last few years, I think I finally reached that point.

I always take my camera with me when I go away so I was shocked to realize I’d forgotten to pack it when we went to Japan a couple of years ago. It turned out alright though, as I had my iPhone and the camera app did a fine job of capturing everything I wanted. Having all my photos on my smartphone made it so easy to share what we saw and did on social media throughout the day. It was great for keeping everyone up to date and I loved reading people’s reactions. Forgetting my camera turned out to be a blessing, I thought.

So when we went to China last year, I purposely left my camera behind. I like to travel light and it was one more thing I didn’t have to carry or worry about. But when I got home and looked back on those two trips, I noticed something had changed. I spent more time online, sharing in the moment, than on prior trips. As a result, my days of exploring were frequently interrupted when I was taking photos, writing posts, editing everything and looking for wifi. Plus, once I was online, I would often find myself being sucked into my social media feed and losing track of time.

When I considered the time and attention all this was taking, and the frequency with which I was doing it, it was clear that sharing was impacting the quality of my vacation. I wanted to spend more time being present so I could immerse myself deeper in the experience and soak up every detail of my time away. Something needed to change. I wanted to share my adventures but not at this price.

So when we went to Spain and Portugal recently, I came up with a plan. Once again, I took my iPhone and left my camera at home. The problem wasn’t the tools I was using - it was my behavior that needed to change. I still took photos when we ventured out each day but I stayed off social media. Then, every night or two, I would write an update and post it to Facebook, with a few of my favourite photos. I chose Facebook instead of other social channels I use because it‘s so quick and easy to post text and photos. At the same time, I would check comments from my last post and see what others were up to. A key point to note is that I kept my time online to an hour max. each evening. All this allowed me to share and stay connected, without taking away from what we were experiencing on our travels.

This approach provided additional benefits I hadn’t anticipated. My husband helped me write the re-cap, which gave us the opportunity to reflect on the day we’d had and what we took away from it - something we hadn’t done on past trips. And because I waited until we were back in our accommodations, I could take advantage of the free wifi. Also, since I have family or friends who aren’t on social media (shocking, I know, but it’s true), it was quick and easy to copy my updates from Facebook into an email to send them.

Part of me would just love to leave my iPhone at home when I travel so I could completely disconnect from the online world. But that’s getting harder and harder to do as everything migrates online. Not only that, everything is better and more convenient in its online form - maps, guidebooks, etc. However, having access to all that information in the palm of our hand can also be too convenient. It’s important that we remember why we take vacations in the first place – whether it’s for a change, for a break or for adventure. Smartphones are great tools but we can easily become absorbed by them if we don’t use them consciously. Remember that on your next vacation and make sure you use your phone mindfully. It should help with your travels, not diminish them.


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