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female solo traveler
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Why Losing My Smartphone Was the Best Thing for My Vacation

Getting my phone pickpocketed in Pisa, Italy, seemed like the worst thing that could have happened to me as I was traveling alone to meet my brother in Galway, Ireland. Yet, it made for one of the most unforgettable trips, even though I have no pictures to show from it. Just like many 18-year-olds, I was, for lack of a better word, addicted to my iPhone. It had all my music, photos, and social media at the touch of a thumb print. I never left the house without it, and I couldn’t function without knowing it was in my back pocket.

Related: What to Do If Your Phone Is Lost or Stolen While Traveling

It didn’t take long for me to notice it was gone. Once it was swiped from my purse, I felt a sheer panic, like someone had cut off a limb. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe, walk or talk without it. I was missing a huge part of me. That’s how attached I was, and unfortunately that’s how most people are, but as with other things, they don’t realize its significance until it’s truly gone.

Meeting People and Making New Friends
friends socializing Photo credit: Saoirse Maguire

The first thing I noticed was the ability to make new friends and fall in love with strangers. I no longer had an excuse to plug myself in with music or scroll through a screen in the virtual world. With my phone gone, I actually became so much more social. I met three lovely Irish people on the plane, and they helped me get to where I was going. Then I sat next to a man who I talked to for the entirety of the plane ride. Usually I put on headphones and ignore my seat buddy. But having a conversation and getting to know someone was much more fun. When the plane landed, my new friends all helped me get off the plane first so that I could catch my bus. I couldn’t have done it without them, and without the loss of my phone. It made me a better person.

Asking for Directions and the Time

If there are two things that we absolutely depend on our phone for without realizing it, they're directions and the time. Because who wears a watch anymore unless it’s an Apple Watch or Fitbit? To be quite fair, I’m not sure if I even know how to read an analog anymore. They stopped teaching cursive to elementary school kids, and the next thing to go will be how to tell time. Usually when traveling, if something happens to your phone, it’s okay because the odds that your traveling companion will have one are very high. But my brother had school for the day, and I was stuck on my own once again. His apartment was a 30-minute walk to Galway’s city center. Any normal person probably would’ve waited around until he came back or gone straight to the Vodafone store to buy a new phone. Anything would have sufficed even if I went back in time to an early 2000s burner flip phone. But I was determined to carry on without one. Probably because I was cheap but also because I thought if I’ve made it this far, I’m determined to continue on without one. 

Once I left the apartment, I asked the nearest person how to get to the city center. Shocked to see someone ask for directions instead of using their phone (maybe she thought mine died), the woman politely pointed down a road and said it’s about 30 minutes that way. She was very nice and very concerned that I would be walking such a great distance alone. But I smiled, thanked her for the vague directions and went on my way. Everyone around me wore headphones and bent down at their phone screens while they walked. "Can’t be good for your posture," I thought. The walk went by quicker than expected, and soon enough I was in the midst of the lovely city. 

Without a phone or map, I walked aimlessly getting lost in the city. But for some reason, I wasn’t afraid at all. In fact, it was more exciting than scary. I was never so free, never so off the grid. I would ask people for the time, and they would give me some weird answer as they looked down at their watch or pulled out their phones like “Yes… it’s umm … 8 minutes past 2.” I found it so amusing how they couldn’t have just said it was 2:08. Must be an Irish thing. As I got lost around the city, I felt free from social media, with no urge to stop and take pictures. I would instead stop for myself and breathe in the moment. I didn’t look like a tourist but more of a lost wanderer. I thought, I’m doing this for me and only me. This isn’t for the likes or attention, or validation of anyone else to see my online stories. This is for my eyes and my eyes only, and the privacy of knowing that all made life more thrilling. Living off the grid free from texts and alerts ultimately made me more happy. And ironically feeling less lonely than I ever did before.

Nightlife in the Moment

Finally, time to go out without a phone. In the past, I have gone out to the bars and clubs with my phone, and it always becomes more of a problem than a solution, considering the amount of times I’ve dropped my phone and paid hundreds of dollars fixing it, or that friend who can’t leave the bar until she’s found her phone, which was in her pocket the whole time. Or you wake up to see the dozens of drunk texts you sent him/her or the pictures and videos you drunkenly posted on your Facebook or Instagram story. Overall, the idea of going out with a phone is absurd and should be stopped. It’s a much better time for everyone without it. When my brother and I went out for pints with his friends in Ireland, it was an unforgettable experience.

ireland pubPhoto credit: Saoirse Maguire
There was never a dull moment. There are only a couple of pictures taken from the nights we went out from my brother's phone, but that was really all we needed. Taking a picture was no longer some game, but rather it felt like a special occasion. Instead of scrolling through 30 pictures, we had just a couple that were perfect. For the first time in forever, I was going out for the right reasons. Once again, not to show it off and boast about how great the Guiness here is, but to truly socialize and live in the moment. At one point, we all left the table and danced to the live band playing. The lead singer actually grabbed my hand while he sang and normally I’d have my phone out recording the whole thing, but thank God I was phoneless because the night and that moment was a million times better.

Saoirse Maguire, BA Media Studies, is a sophomore at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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