A stroke of serendipity.

It is very strange to me that the theft of my iPhone has brought so much joy to my life. A few days ago, I could never imagine living without it, let alone living in an unfamiliar city in a foreign country. But here I am, happier and less stressed now that I’m unplugged and unreachable during the day as I wander around Berlin.

Without my phone as a distraction, I’m conscious of everything around me. I explore my surroundings and wander instead of sticking to one path to reach a destination. I pay close attention to details as I can as I navigate through the streets, because if I don’t, I may not be able to find my way back home as easily.

Today I intended to visit a few hair salons hoping I could book an appointment for a trim. After getting lost a few times because German street names all sound the same to me, I stumbled upon a salon I hadn’t researched, chanced my luck and ended up meeting another wanderlusting Californian. He moved to Berlin from Los Angeles around 7 years ago after selling all of his belongings and does not plan on returning to the States. (Sounds a bit familiar, don’t you think?) Fortunately for me, his client cancelled this morning so he had time to squeeze me in.

None of this would have happened if I had my phone with me because Google Maps would have easily led me to the salons I researched beforehand.

Now that I can’t check my phone every few minutes, my days are more simple and streamlined. I realise how much of a distraction my phone was, and how addicted I was to checking social media apps and email. Instead of staring at my phone as I wait for the train, I observe the world around me. I like having this moment of peace as I wait. Instead of filling all my free time scrolling through social media apps, I take this time to appreciate what I see in front of me and reflect on how I feel.

A proper addiction.

Previously I was so hooked on Instagram and Facebook (and social media in general) that I checked these apps round the clock. Faced with a moment of inactivity, while waiting in line at the store, or as I rested on a park bench, I’d check my phone in case I missed a notification.

Why was I so addicted? One reason is that these notifications created a false sense of urgency. I received notifications every time someone commented on Instagram. Sometimes leaving these comments unanswered would stress me out, because I felt pressured to respond ASAP. In reality, nothing on Instagram qualifies as an emergency. These comments can wait. Now I spend next to no time on Instagram, and I like it! The desktop version of Instagram isn’t as effortless as scrolling through photos on my phone.

Another reason is that connecting with my friends and family 24/7 calms me, especially when I’m in a new place. While I do miss everyone and want to chat with them often, I’m better able to fully experience my day uninterrupted. I can always check in with my pals for a proper chat over my laptop once I’m settled in for the night.

Time for a detox.

I most likely won’t have a replacement phone until July 1st. These next few weeks will be a much-needed smartphone detox, and I’m looking forward to it!

When I do receive my new phone, I plan to use it differently:

  • I will turn off all notifications. I don’t really care to know every time someone comments on one of my photos on Instagram.
  • I won’t have as many apps on the phone, as I can access most social media sites and email on my laptop instead. This way I won’t be tempted to check them as often.
  • Instagram is the one exception as I can only upload photos from my phone. I hope to check this app once a day (at most).
  • I will still use apps like Google Maps and the Trail Wallet (to track my expenses) as these apps are very useful to me.

I hope to remain relatively unplugged from this point on. I may even dedicate a full day each week where I’m off the grid: no phone or laptop use at all. Being unplugged does present a problem, however, as I can’t communicate with my boyfriend 24/7. (Yup, another proper addiction, though this one is unavoidable!) The only real solution is that we travel together, that way we can communicate in person instead of texting. I’d rather have him by my side over a smartphone any day.

Sorry friends, you’ll just have to wait!

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