The first time I left the United States was this past May at the ripe age of 23. My roommate and I talked about going on a vacation together endlessly, but couldn’t decide where we wanted to go. Did we want to travel through Europe, cruise through the ocean, or lay on the beaches in the tropics?
One day, we did a bit of research on all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. It turns out, it is very cheap to take this vacation route if there are just two of you and you go during an off month.
Leading up to our trip, I couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful the resort was online, how perfect the weather was going to be, and how tan I was going to get. I explicitly told people to stay tuned to my Instagram so they could be super jealous of my trip while I was away. I knew I’d be swimming in crystal clear water, laying on white sand beaches, swimming with sting rays, and riding speed boats. I knew I wanted to capture those memories forever, and I knew I wanted to show them off to everyone so they could be part of my trip.
After all the hype, the day had finally arrived, and we landed in Punta Cana.
As we walked into the resort, they handed us a glass of champagne and some cookies while we did the routine paperwork. Within those few first minutes, I had snapped pictures of our glass, our bottles and even our butler (yes, we had a butler). Once we got escorted up to our room, I snapped a few more pictures of the room with the lush, large beds; fully stocked bar; and enormous shower.
Then we walked out to the patio where I proceeded to take a few pictures off the balcony, the workers below us waving to us, and then a shot of my feet up on the railing with the beach in the background (you know, because I was in chill-mode). Then I went on my social media, posted my pictures, and started to scroll through other people’s photos.
Here I was in sitting in paradise, contemplating my filter choices and scrolling through what my friends were doing. Then I flipped open my work email, and I started blurting out all the important meetings and projects I was missing. I was having massive FOMO and needed help desperately. My roommate then instilled the best vacation rule that I’ve ever heard:
Take a shot every time you look at your work email.
I am so consumed by media all the time that without this rule, I would have probably spent my whole vacation worrying about what I was missing, who was trying to communicate with me, and if at least 12 people liked my stunning Punta Cana pictures. Instead, I locked my phone away in the safe and only allowed myself to use it when we were changing for dinner. You know what happened after?
I missed nothing of importance.
My job was waiting there for me when I got back, my friends had stories about what happened while I was away, and I had a lifetime of memories ingrained in my head, rather than on a camera. While I literally now only have 5 pictures saved to my phone from that trip, I have the joy of having those memories unfiltered forever. I have those memories firsthand rather than through a camera screen.
I don’t care if anyone other than me can see what I saw in Punta Cana; those few pictures I took don’t even come close to the actual experience of being there. The sand in the picture doesn’t do justice for the warmth, softness, or the texture that it had in real life. The feeling of floating in the bath water of the ocean can’t be conveyed through the screen. The joy of immersing yourself wholly in learning from the locals working at the resort can't be sufficiently tweeted about. The freedom of being unaware of what’s happening back home is an unparalleled perk of leaving your phone behind.
You can’t wholly commit to relaxing when your phone is next to you, buzzing from a group chat that is inviting you to something you won’t be going to, or a work email that you can’t mediate until you’re in the office anyway.
My advice to absolutely everyone when traveling is to worry less about capturing the moment on your phone and capture it in your heart. Drop the barrier in between you and the experience.