Not Excited About the Silent Treatment? Here's a New Look at Digital Detox Getaways

“Walk down any street, stroll through any park, step into a bar or restaurant, you’ll see people glued to their mobile devices,” notes Tanya Goodin, author and founder of the digital detox movement.

She’s right. Our world is literally full of people who spend more time online than they do sleeping. In fact, we’ve become so immersed in our technology that many of us can’t imagine living without it.

Case in point. I went hiking yesterday for 6 miles only to find that I had left my phone somewhere on the trail. So, what did I do? What every sane person would do. I walked 6 more miles along that same trail to find it. I probably would have walked 20 more miles if I’d had to.

I know I am not alone. 

Today’s technology allows us to do some pretty incredible things. We can now take virtual yoga classes with experts across the world via zoom and automatically book ourselves into Pilates classes in a few simple clicks. We can instantly track how many steps we take each day, and how many hours of shut eye we get each night.

But technology is also driving many of us to the brink of sensory overload, putting unnatural stresses on our bodies and pushing many of us to question our wellbeing. This is what psychiatrist Dr Ross Goodwin has labeled, “techno-stress”. 

It’s the stress of moving too fast, doing too many things at once and feeling overwhelmed-that is leading many of us to worry more, sleep less and really crave a break away.

This is why digital detox holidays have become so welcome.

Today silent retreats or vipassana have become one of the fastest growing trends in wellness travel according to Caren Osten Gerszberg of the New York Times. And with good reason. The University of Cambridge found that one in three of us feels overwhelmed by technology today.

But silent retreats are not for everyone. And while many of us love yoga and meditation-we aren’t thrilled about having to spend 10 days alone with just our thoughts to keep us company.

“I thought about going on a silent retreat for a split second,” said Tim Morey, founder of Blue Forest Guild, who was recently looking for a month-long sabbatical away from the demands of his job as a CEO in Silicon Valley. But for Tim, a yogi and outdoor enthusiast, signing up for a silent retreat was simply one step too far.

 “I couldn’t imagine spending that much time giving myself the silent treatment, “says Tim “I wanted to get away, but I wanted to lose myself on a different type of holiday.”

Tim chose to go on a hiking retreat to Nepal to climb Lobuche East, Pokalde and Island Peaks for 4-weeks instead where he says he, “lost his mind and found his soul” (a la John Miur) out on the trails.

Tim is not alone. Many of us crave to get away in nature as a way to detox. And this has led to the emergence of a new type of detox retreat and holiday called Active Retreats or Active Adventures. These retreats and trips cater to runners, swimmers, surfers, rock climbers, cyclists and yogis alike.

Today there are over 621 million runners (Ask Wander, 2021) and 300 million people who do yoga (Modern Gentlemen, 2021). There are 23 million people who surf (Surfer Today, 2021) and millions more that hike, rock climb, swim, practice martial arts and do fitness

Many of these sports enthusiasts want to detox in the outdoors doing what they love. 

As Tim notes, “Some people find silence meditative. I find hiking and running does this for me.”

Sarah Keenan, an avid traveler and runner based out of Toronto, agrees. “I turn to running retreats when I want to detox. I tend to travel solo, so it’s a great way to meet people, get away from all the artificial stimulation and come back feeling refreshed.”

Detoxing is likely to become even more important as we move forward.

The tech bubble we have created for ourselves is likely only going to get bigger. ChatGBT and newer AI-based technologies are now serving up information in record-time, inundating us with more information than we can ever hope to process. And the lure of social media is stronger than ever, with 4.8B of us checking online daily.

Thankfully there is a little bit of light at the end of this Internet tunnel. 

We now have more options than ever to help people truly get away from all the noise and detox.

What’s more–they don’t all amount to sitting quietly for days on end. So, regardless of whether you opt for your own personal silent-treatment, a fully unplugged holiday off the grid or an active retreat that blends the outdoors, sports, and a little bit of zen–you are bound to come back feeling just a little bit better than when you left.