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Our No-Cell-Phone Vacation
Mom with a View

Our No-Cell-Phone Vacation

I realized just how much interaction we lose on a daily basis due to our preoccupation with the phone.


We just took a family trip (family trip is actually NOT synonymous with vacation!) to Albion, a small town just south of Mendocino, on the northern California coast. Our friends have a home there and they kindly offered us the use of it.

We drove through the hilly vineyards of Sonoma Valley and the majestic redwood forests and came out onto spectacular coastline views.

We canoed and walked along the beach, visited lighthouses and watched the sun set over the water. It was truly beautiful. And a real break from routine.

But I learned a very important lesson. Wherever you go, whatever you do, do NOT take a teenager on a trip out of the range of cell phone service!

The price of all that majestic scenery was, yes, our cell phones did not work in the vacation house or its immediate environs. It required a trip into town to communicate with friends, to hear that irritating notification of text messages resound throughout the car. And to hear my children sigh in relief.

“Luckily,” to quote one of my daughters, “they recently installed Wi-Fi.” Otherwise, she would have left, she claims. Definitely an idle threat given the remoteness of our location, but certainly a sign of her attitude.

And I don’t believe my children are unusual (in that regard) or unrepresentative (in that regard).

If up against the wall, they will acknowledge that they had a very good time on the trip. It was all family bonding all the time – in part due to the lack of cell phone.

It freed everyone up to focus on each other, on conversation, on old-fashioned car games like Geography (and on what’s for dinner). It was actually perfect for a family trip.

And the contrast gave me an indication of how much we lose on a daily basis – how much interaction, discussion, joking around, creative play, expressions of caring, sharing of ideas and concerns – due to our preoccupation with our phone calls, and even worse, text messaging. How many important family moments no longer exist because we are all too busy on our cell phones?

This trip showed me how texting has come to dominate and diminish our lives.

It was illuminating and revealing. And how many of those texts are even important? What is their actual content? That’s another issue altogether.

We are fortunate (and grateful) that we are unplugged for Shabbos. But it’s not enough. This trip showed me how texting, despite its certain advantages (it’s easier to say “Where are you now?” and “Come home this instant!” via text) has come to dominate and diminish our lives.

Don’t tell my children but even though I didn’t plan it on purpose, I’m glad we went somewhere with no cell phone service. It made our trip more special. It made it what it was meant to be – a family experience. And without texting to distract us, it enabled us to create even more memories than usual, memories that will last long after those text messages have been deleted. I take back what I said earlier. What I learned on this trip was that you SHOULD take your teenagers on a family trip that is out of cell phone range!

August 18, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Batsheva, August 27, 2013 8:47 AM

Torah wisdom

Here in Israel, the Rabbis came out against cell phones years ago. A kosher phone is one with no internet access, no games and no text messages. At first we were pretty annoyed. It is so much easier to send a text, which won't disrupt my husband's learning but gets the message to him, instead of always trying to catch him right when he's leaving Yeshiva to ask for a bag of lettuce! But now it's all so clear! How fortunate we are to be living without SMS capability! iphones and smart phones and blackberries are all not kosher, so they are not a part of our lives. Some people think that's archaic, but I can assure you there are plenty of modern "advancements" we do better without.

(3) Mary, August 23, 2013 5:24 PM

no phones or digital devices

Reguardless of one's age, a trip taken with an electronic device is no holiday.

(2) scott, August 23, 2013 7:02 AM

It's really not that hard. But it is important.

Why can't you tell your kids to leave their cell phones at home? Is it that hard to be unpopular with your kids? Do they run your family? Do they really know better? Are you really second best to the rest of the world?

I hear these things all the time. The reason why kids don't unplug and focus on family time is that parents don't want to go through the stress of making them. It's not new. We had phones and friends when I was a kid and we missed that part of our life during family vacations and events. Heck, my sister and I never really liked each other most of the time, so being trapped in the back seat for a week was something that we tried our best to avoid.

But Mom and Dad made us. Family vacation or else. Someone covered our shifts at our summer jobs. We missed the mall and big trip to the beach and that great party or the boyfriend/girlfriend we would diiiiie without seeing every day.

Now all those friends are gone. All those jobs are over. I can't remember most of the beach trips and parties and shows I actually made in high school, let alone care about those I missed. I see the friends on facebook, but I don't know them anymore. I don't want to use my time that way.

Mom and Dad really did know better. It was worth the drama their demands caused. You see now all I have left from that time in my life is my parents and my sister (who I cherish now) and part of the glue that binds us is the memories of those family vacations. That quiet time. When we were a family, not a bunch of individuals slaving away at the work of the world.

And I can't wait to get together and unplug with them and their families again soon. Don't you want that for your kids? I want it for mine.

(1) Alan S., August 22, 2013 12:21 AM

It truly is sad that our kids can't seem to go 'cold turkey' and put down their smart phones. If they don't stay connected to their friends, they get withdrawal. They will likely be too old to realize the time they lost with their parents because they are on their smartphones while with their parents. And this of course is the same thing for the parents, ie., the parents not spending their uninterrupted time with their children because they are constantly looking at their smart phones. Too bad neither can appreciate their time together without the need to be connected to a third party.

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