Unplugging In Africa: 4 Things I Learned After Ditching My Phone

by Maryanna Arundel

Living in America, almost everyone is permanently attached to his or her smartphone. Our phones are the easiest way to connect to people halfway around the world. While walking the streets of Soho, it’s concerning to see everyone looking like zombies, walking and dodging other phone addicts.

With apps like Instagram and Snapchat constantly grabbing our attention, it’s easy to become phone dependent. But I recently relearned it’s better to put down your phone and appreciate everything that is around you.

A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Swaziland, a very small country next to South Africa. I only had my American phone, so when I touched down, I lost all connection to the outside world.

After 20 minutes of holding my phone to the sky, walking around desperately and clinging to the limited free WiFi from the airport, I retreated to my car and gave up the search for Internet.

Here are the four lessons I learned from my disconnect:

1. Sometimes, real memories are more important than iPhone memories.

When I usually take photos, it’s to share the coolest moments of my life with my friends. With out my phone, I learned it’s more important to cherish these moments in my memory.

The occasional photo is okay. But when you look back on the best moments of your life, you want to remember staring at the sunsets and the beaches with your own eyes, not with your cameras.

2. It’s easier to connect with the people around you than people thousands of miles away.

Constantly using our phones puts a wall up around us. By putting my phone down, I was able to have real and meaningful conversations with everyone, even strangers.

I know a lot of people use their phones to avoid social contact, but we can’t let ourselves to go so deep into technology that we loathe human contact. I was able to make new friends and learn new things by having real-life conversations, as opposed to Internet ones.

3. The less you use your phone, the more you can see.

The world is full of amazing things, but only a few people will ever be able to notice them. During the few days of no Internet, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the plants, animals and local people around me.

Even a blooming flower would bring a smile to my face. By putting my phone down, I was able to notice small, beautiful things I would have definitely not seen if I had been checking Kylie Jenner's Instagram.

4. You don’t have to share everything.

I’m one of the many millions of iPhone or Android users who is guilty of the classic Internet crime: over sharing. Funny moment with my friends? Taking a Snap. Cool building? Instagraming it.

I’ve even shared photos as dumb as coffee cups and traffic signs. Every time I saw something remotely cool, I had the instinct to pull out my phone and take a picture. After the sixth time of this happening, I realized how many insignificant things I felt the need to share.

The less Internet I had, the more I realized I needed to share less.

Although I went into a market and bought myself a phone plan after four days, I learned how to appreciate everything the world has to offer, sans phone.

I challenge all of you to try to go without your phones — even if it's just for an hour — and notice what surrounds you.