The sun sets on the horizon of Kuta Beach. Clouds in all forms decorate the sky in changing colors. Waves recede as the sound of the ocean fills the air. And at the captivating hour, a hundred phone screens are held aloft by selfie sticks, their owners with thumbs ready to press record so they don’t “miss” the beautiful view.
In our digital era, the social media phenomenon has made its way into all aspects of our lives. A pleasant dish is captured before it is eaten, a concert is recorded before it is enjoyed and in travel, blissful moments are uploaded, shared and hashtagged #bliss before they are felt.
Bali is a paradise island, and people from all over the world come here just to get a taste of that bliss. But with phone screens blocking my sunset view, fashion bloggers taking up every decorated corner and tourists defiling the sacred temples with their group selfies, the island has become an Instagram hunting ground.
A recent study from Intrepid Travel found that 74 percent of people admit that their phones are never more than three feet away from them on vacation. Author of Generation Me and psychology professor Jean Twenge Ph.D., said, “live-documenting your trip can change the experience by turning it into a performance.”
Travel and vacationing are made to fulfill our need for a getaway, yet social media ties us to the idea that our experiences must be seen by others to become valid.
From trendy cafés to nature’s gift, Bali has plenty to offer. But if we spend more time updating our social media profiles and less time genuinely immersing ourselves in the enriching experiences of travel, we are actually missing more than we realize.
Social media, like many other things, is best used in moderation. To make the trip more enjoyable, some of these clear boundaries can be placed.
Bring a real camera
It is tempting to rely on our smartphone when it contains everything we need (a translator, a calculator, a camera.) But bringing a physical camera helps us set our phones aside and better appreciate our surroundings. We can now take travel photographs unfiltered and notification-free.
Bali has plenty of iconic panoramic scenes the eye can capture better than the screen. Try the beaches of Jimbaran, Tanah Lot temple or Mount Batur, Bali’s second-tallest volcano.
Temporarily delete “toxic” apps
If the whole “digital detox” sounds too extreme, simply delete the apps that take up too much of your attention. That way you’re disconnected from the virtual world, but can still make use of your gadget for emergency calls, navigation and any other features you might need on the trip.
Do fun, engaging activities
There’s more to Bali than just the comfort of your hotel room. The island is brimming with activities that will make you forget you even had a phone. It’s time to find them.
For starters, try taking a bike tour through the areas of Tabanan or Kintamani. Or find a local tour guide and purposely leave your phone behind (if you can confidently trust your own navigating skills.)
More adventurous travelers can opt for water sports in Tanjung Benoa or take a Rip Curl School of Surf class. Otherwise, you can join a yoga class in Seminyak’s Prana Spa and treat yourself with a massage afterwards.
Meet with locals or other tourists
One of the joys of traveling, which we forget about when we have our eyes fixed on our smartphones, is meeting new people.
It’s always worth trying to strike up a conversation with the waiter at the table, chat with a fellow foreigner or ask the locals for some places they’d recommend visiting.
For the social scene, Seminyak has you covered. Try Motel Mexicola, a refreshing spot for tourists who are looking to enjoy a refreshing beer in the Bali heat. In the same area, you can also find Barbacoa and Saigon Street, two of Bali’s finest eateries.
Post your photos once you get home
You come home, and you did it; a refreshing Bali vacation, social-media-free. Yet somehow, you’re still thirsty to see those likes and envious comments from friends.
Social media is such an instant medium that we forget we don’t have to share moments immediately. Publishing photos and videos once we’re finished with our vacation is always an option.
It’s important to distance ourselves from a virtual, addictive reality. Small changes like these challenge us to enjoy the essence of travel – world exploration, self-discovery and learning experiences – without feeling obliged to leave “digital footprints” as proof.
Put things in perspective. You might have spent 20 minutes trying to get the perfect shot of your feet dangling over Ubud’s picturesque rice paddies, but honestly, your friends might only see it for two seconds.
And a photo of you enjoying a coconut drink by the beach while you’re in Bali? Not as groundbreaking as you think.
And be advised; most people on the internet have probably already seen a fire dance show somewhere.
Unless it’s you doing it. (Then, by all means, boast away.)
Joanne Amarisa Pangkey is a design student currently studying in RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. You can find her writing, taking photos or sketching random sceneries. Most of her work can be viewed in her blog (www.withrisa.com) and Instagram (@joanneamarisa).