Turkey: Log out, turn off, tune in

By Andrew Potter

Andrew Potter uses a holiday to Turkey to take an app-y break from his smartphone and other electronic devices

Andrew Potter and Joanna Partridge Sailing towards Gocek, Turkey. Photo / Andrew Potter
Andrew Potter and Joanna Partridge Sailing towards Gocek, Turkey. Photo / Andrew Potter

The first step to fighting addiction is admitting you're an addict.

I know this because I looked it up on my mobile phone. And that's my problem.

I've developed a dangerous digital dependence. I check my phone dozens of times a day and have minor panic attacks if we're separated or if the battery runs out.

Friends have started murmuring so, before they stage an intervention, I took action myself. For a recent holiday, I went off the grid and had a complete digital detox, going cold turkey in Turkey on a week-long sailing trip.

Before leaving I drew up some rules. I'd still take my phone with me in case of emergency, but I aimed to leave it switched off. I've become convinced our ability to digitally document our every move is making us enjoy those moves less, so my digital camera stayed home, with an old-fashioned disposable film camera in its place.

My flight was delayed by three hours, which proves a welcome stay of execution, my fingers stabbing at the screen in a frenzy, treating each tweet and text as my last.

My partner, Joanna, and I are flying on a budget carrier and there's no inflight entertainment so I take my iPad to watch a film but once we get there it's also prohibited.

We touch down at Dalaman, in Turkey's south-west, and the self-imposed digital rehab begins. I've buried my phone in my bag to resist temptation, but before even reaching passport control I am fidgeting for it. I'd arranged a taxi to take us to a marina in Kas to meet friends and their yacht.

Trouble is I'd booked my taxi online and the confirmation email is in one place only, my phone. A few steps on to Turkish soil and my experiment is already looking doomed.

Joanna shows no mercy as I fish around to find my phone - she ridicules my lack of resolve.

The phone takes an age to boot up, as if punishing me for thinking I could do without it. The taxi problem sorted, I start over - back on the digital-detox wagon.

After meeting our friends we set sail on the Mediterranean heading west. The scenery is breathtaking and I'm immediately frustrated. There are great Instagram pictures I could be taking. The disposable camera has 37 shots to last the holiday, a frugal allowance. I often blow that number snapping the cat next door.

The forced separation from my phone puts me in reflective mood, and I think back to the wonderment of receiving my first text message many years ago.

These days, I'm connected in more ways than I'm really comfortable with. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Skype, Tumblr, iMessage and WhatsApp all compete for my attention making what was once a liberating communication tool a highly addictive electronic crack pipe.

It's becoming a big problem in the developed world. The South Korean Government reckons 20 per cent of the country's students are addicted to smartphones, and offers state-funded counselling for phone junkies of all ages.

My digital withdrawal symptoms last most of the first day, but I wake up the following morning feeling less distracted. I have the occasional burst of anxiety, wondering if there are any vital emails or calls I'm missing but, for the most part, I relish having the mental freedom to enjoy bobbing along the Turkish coastline.

We drop anchor at Kalkan, in Turkey, a gorgeous port town, and here I fall off the wagon.

After looking at his own smartphone, one of my shipmates tells me the America's Cup final is on that evening, but we can't find anywhere showing the race, so I crumble and dig my iPad out from the bottom of my bag so we can watch the race on YouTube via WiFi in a bar.

Like Team New Zealand, I'm left feeling defeated.

After this low point, I surprise myself. All my devices remain off for the rest of the holiday.

The chirping, beeping and buzzing of my phone has been replaced by the flapping of the sails and slapping of the ocean against the hull of our yacht as we glide through the Med. So, this is peace and quiet - I think I could get used to it.

In Gocek, when we tie up for the final time, I'm not thinking about them at all.

We return to Heathrow airport and after touchdown I flick on my phone. It beeps and buzzes for a full minute as hundreds of notifications tumble through. It takes me ages to clear them, but guess what: most are not essential reading anyway.

Getting the film developed is a nostalgic treat, and the grainy quality gives my snaps a charm of their own.

Don't get me wrong, having a phone on holiday is a real convenience, especially with apps like TripAdvisor to teach you the best restaurants and hotels. But if you're feeling like the phone you bought now owns you, give it a try.

You'll get more from your break, too.

- NZ Herald

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