Due to the late arrival of the incoming plane –it’s always the same song- I have spent two hours at the Zurich airport lounge. That’s two hours of working on the iPad; on the quarterly report, on cleaning-up my inbox and on making some calls. While boarding, I got two more calls. Once seated, my best and loyal friend Blackberry reminded me of the outstanding survey request; due in half an hour. So back to the iPad, completed the questionnaire and pushed the send button just when the steward gave me my second warning to turn off all devices. While we were ready for take-off, I got another reminder from my BB friend; clearly I forgot to put that device on flight mode. Also the review of the social responsibility report was due that day; ‘I’ll send that through immediately after landing in Miami’.
Deprived during take-off from any electronic device and from any digital stimulus, I started scrolling through the Swiss Airlines magazine. My attention went to a picture of a beautiful beach resort somewhere in Thailand. One of the hotel’s packages really sounded like heaven on earth to me; a ‘digital detox week’. And that comes inclusive of: no wifi in the room, no tele, no iPod docking station. On top of that, once you arrive, your mobile and any other digital devices are locked away in the safe of the hotel.
Once back from the States, I started digging deeper into this new kind of holidays and quickly found out it’s the new trend for 2013. Digital detox holidays and tech-free hotels are popping-up all over the world. In return for surrendering all your devices, the hotels offer real and sometimes back-to-basics stress-free activities. And that’s more than just the traditional swimming, beach volleyball or surfing (in this context on real waves; not the web). There are forest walking tours, old-fashioned board games, cooking lessons, tree planting activities and so much more hassle and tech free activities.
Digital addiction (these days the most severe and most common dependency) and today’s practice in corporate life to be contactable 24/24 and 7/7, give birth to this new trend of stress free holidays. I reckon this to become a booming industry given the ever growing iGeneration. As research shows, 18% of British students are considered pathological internet users; in Europe and the USA, the general prevalence rate of internet addiction ranges up to 8%. In the US, 80% of young adults sleep with their smartphone next to them; like with a teddy bear. 20% of us check their phone every ten minutes. In business life, every day millions of emails are distributed with a request to reply ‘asap’ or ‘by close of business’; and if you don’t respond on time you’ll get a reminder on your smartphone.
And if you keep running this addictive rat-race, you get -free of charge- a non-digital but emotional and physical burn-out.
Ages ago, Carl Jung wrote ‘Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.’ I am confident that today he would add ‘rat-racing’ and ‘smartphones’. Now, it may sound sarcastic, but I am really hopeful that soon we all get addicted to digital detox holidays.