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Why It’s OK To Travel Without Wifi.

By 5 May 2015 August 17th, 2019 11 Comments

In this age where everything is accessible online, from where to go to what to eat, the Internet is setting us up to be digitally obese.

wifi cafe europe london uk

We’ve all heard why it’s good to be away from technology and immerse fully in the local travelling experience, but nobody talks about how to cope with the fear of living without it.

For us digital natives, it is almost second nature to dig out our phones when we are lost/ bored/ lonely/ restless. We use our phones to curb the fear of feeling lonely, to quash the fear of getting lost, to dispel the fear of having nothing to do. It’s disastrous, isn’t it?

“We are in an endless lock-in at the all-you-can-eat big-byte buffet and we’ve eaten the key. We are becoming increasingly immobilised by our mobile selves, screeching to a halt mid stride, sentence or sleep to answer the seductive vibration and ping of another digital missive. We are increasingly crippled by the devices sitting in front of us, paralysed by the mere thought of losing power or connection. More and more of us are quietly and invisibly suffocating under the sheer weight of multiple personas, accounts, passwords, profiles and screen devices. For some, digital citizenship is crushing, both physically and spiritually.”

– Julian Borra, here

I had an encounter with a friend who’s petrified of leaving his comfort zone to a foreign country over the weekend. Not because he’s leaving his comfort zone, but because he fears living without an Internet connection. During my first days of entering my residence when the internet connection had not yet been set up, I’ve had friends flipping the table and desperately looking for any way possible to fire up wifi.

In the times when I’ve lived without any phone plan or wifi, I was proud to say I was thankful for those erstwhile moments. My life quietened. It became simpler, clearer. I felt like my soul was being rid of dust specks. It was being cleansed.

I could make time to do the things I want to but always never found time to.

pink notebook doodle journal Cannes France

I could write in my journal.
I could read.
I could organize my life.
I could watch the sun set without rushing it.
I could sleep.

Most of all, I could hear my thoughts, loud and clear and uninterrupted.

These days, I catch myself hearing my thoughts before I sleep, when I wake up, on a train (when I’m not plugged in), these solitude moments when I don’t have to worry about which stop to get off, about being late for school/ appointments, when I’m wandering with no agenda in mind.

In Singapore, I don’t have the luxury of time because there would always be something to do, something to work on, something to research about, appointments to meet… There’s always something to work towards, because the society demands that you not rest on your laurels.

When was the last time you let your thoughts wander?

The best thing about travelling without Wifi? It’s getting lost.

With getting lost, you never know what to expect. Without expectations, everything in front of you becomes a sight to behold, a memory to be etched.

In my first days in Paris while exploring alone and not knowing a clue where I was going, I blindly turned a corner and caught the grandest sight – the Eiffel Tower in its glittering lights across the River Seine, GLOWING in front of my very eyes.

It was the first time I set my eyes on the Eiffel Tower, and to catch it by pure chance in a backdrop of red hues, it’s a memory you’ll never forget.

It’s like how your first love will always hold a special place in your heart.

eiffel tower night, paris arrondissements map, best places to visit in paris

Eiffel tower at night – mesmerizing!

You face your fears, and do it anyway.

I remember recalling this quote when I was in the crossroads in a forest in Stroud. No wifi, no map. Only my gut.

And when you’ve found what you were looking for at the end of the road, that is a celebration of your own little life’s achievements.

Isn’t this the perfect metaphor for life?

In your teenage life’s crisis, you have to decide on major decisions – what subjects to take, what schools to choose, what course to select.

In your post-uni life crisis, you have to decide on which jobs to take up – for money and fame or for interest and passion? Instead of looking at all the external determinants (which is the lucrative industry, which path has better career prospects, which is the popular choice), my best and simplest bet is to trust your gut.

If you would only listen to yourself, you’ll find that there’s a compass pointing in the direction you’ve somehow failed to notice, because of all the other distractions that life throws at you.

After all, everyone seeks happiness and fulfilment in their lives ultimately. The best choices are the ones that make you so.

With getting lost, you open yourself to approaching locals to ask for directions.

I’ve always harboured this (maybe naive) thought that a stranger can turn into someone who would have an impact in your life. Well, I haven’t exactly found or encountered that someone yet, but I haven’t given up hope (Update: I have, and I’ve documented it all here: Thank you, Stranger!).

I once heard about an experiment from a French friend I met in Nice, France about conducting this human experiment: go to a bar alone, order a drink, sit for 30 minutes, and wait to see if you’ll be approached by anyone within that 30 minutes.

This stranger I spoke to in Cannes, France, when I talked about how I haven’t met much French people to form an impression about them, said I needed to venture outside my comfort zone (and in to bars) and start talking to people.

I scoffed. Well, if one day I’m too deprived of company/ bored with life/ have enough gusto, maybe I might think about giving this experiment a try.

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.


  • Such a great post about our dependants on the Internet and social media. How nice it is to take a break and focus on ourselves and those around us. It can be scary at first but the payoff is worth it. I remember times before Internet and feel like I experienced life more.

  • Chris says:

    The need to be connected is almost addictive for some these days.

    I have a lot of time for hostels that have wi-fi blackout periods, which essentially force guests to interact as humans!

  • A very good topic. Was traveling more adventurous and romantic before the WIFI age? Let me say there were more surprises, good and bad ones. Now, we google every step of the way. We can even walk to our hotel with street view. Everything is planned month upfront: train, plane, hotels and museums. That’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing romantic about being lost in a foreign city. Or finding a closed hotel door.
    This year I walked the Camino and I decided to google as little as possible. I wanted to walk into the unknown. I only used WIFI to give little Facebook updates, so friends and family knew my whereabouts. I talked to other pilgrims instead. And went to see real places. It was just great.
    cheers – TT

  • Good points here, we could all unplug more often…I know I get stressed when I’m somewhere and cant get internet….just crazy…not a good recipe for relaxing!


  • It’s such a weird feeling when you’re not connected 24/7 when traveling. I really like to be able to in case I get lost or want to check in with loved ones, but it does help you really enjoy the moment where you are!

  • I love the human experiment … I have done a few times and never more than a few minutes passes once you put yourself out there. I hate travelling with a sim card as being disconnected opens up doors I find. You ask locals questions, you chat to the person at the table next to you, you get utterly lost…Saying that however I do love to have an offline map and the news loaded (for those boring metro journeys where its taboo to even look at someone else XD)

  • Yes, “getting lost” can be a treat! I’m afraid I fall into the “digitally obese” category. I feel so strange without connection! Thanks for your encouraging words.

  • Back when I used to travel, WIFI wasn’t everywhere like it is now. I could travel unconnected if I had to, but I’d rather know I had the option if I needed it

  • Cassandra says:

    I loved this. Those times when I quiet my life and power down my phone and computer are when my mind is clearest. I’d love to take a trip completely without wifi one day.

  • loveyoumoretoo says:

    When I leave the country, I love that I disconnect. Event though I have full internet access, I still like to unplug on vacations. Love this!

  • It’s great to disconnect once in a while, The peace of having the world to yourself is a great feeling.

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