My family started taking a tech-free vacation years ago. The first time, I persuaded my family it would be fun to hike to the top of the Smoky Mountains and stay at Le Conte lodge. (That’s a view from the top above. We are above the clouds.)
There are no roads going up to the lodge. The only way to get there is to hike. And itâ€™s a long hike â€“ anywhere from a steep six hours to an almost-as-steep eight hours. All the food for the lodge is carried up by Llamas. My crew agreed, somewhat reluctantly, especially when they learned about the lack of technology â€“ no power, no cell phone service — at the lodge.
When we got there last year, my (then) angry teenager, Cole, trotted to the top, taking the six-hour hike in about three. The rest of us staggered along after him, dragging ourselves into camp hours later. And we found him changed. He was happy, helpful, chatting with strangers and standing up straighter. He had checked us in and thoughtfully turned the heat on in our cabin. He had even walked partway back down the trail when he got word weâ€™d been spotted to carry my pack the last mile for me. While sprinting up that mountain, he had discovered something about himself: He is young, strong, likes a challenge, and is willing to rise to it. Finally all that male energy had room to feel alive.
The rest of us felt it, too, of course. But for him it was important.
The next year, when I asked my kids if they wanted to go again, both of their hands shot up without hesitation. And when we all sat down to discuss which trail to take, the kids lobbied for the hardest one. â€œWe choose to do this not because it is easy,â€ Cole said, paraphrasing JFKâ€™s famous speech about the decision to go to the moon, when my husband suggested a trail that might be easier. â€œWe do it because it is hard.â€
And this time, there was no reluctance to leave the technology behind. In fact, they both told me that the complete vacation from all technology â€“ texting, Facebook, video games, power â€“ is the best part of this trip.
This year, we didn’t get a spot at LeConte. (It’s a lottery and you have to put your name in early, which we failed to do.) Â But we certainly plan to take a tech-free vacation somehow. Â For us, it’s a tradition. It’s also become a movement that is rapidly gaining momentum. I love technology, as you know. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to intentionally go off the grid sometimes. For an hour, for a day, even — as in our tech-free vacations– for a weekend or longer. Check out life insurance providerÂ Foresters‘Â Â Tech Timeout PledgeÂ , like the Tech TimeOut Facebook page, watch the humorous video (above). And then plan your tech-free vacation. You — and your kids — will enjoy it.