Alaska’s Inside Passage: Can I digital detox for a week?

by Chris on September 7, 2011

In which I try – and fail – to digital detox for a week.

Alaska, digital detox for a week

 My biggest challenge on my InnerSea Discoveries expedition cruise in Alaska wasn’t the extensive kayaking or glacier hiking or even fishing (which I did for the first time in Wrangell). No, I knew I’d have the most trouble with unplugging, in what was about to become a weeklong digital detox.

Alaska, digital detox for a week

 The InnerSea Discoveries website makes it clear that the ship spends most of its time outside of cell range on its Inside Passage cruises. And it also reminds passengers that there’s no Internet on board. In case of emergencies, passengers can access the ship’s satellite phone, for a hefty $5 a minute fee.

So I prepped myself for a week without Internet. I downloaded books onto my iPad and scheduled blog posts in advance. I warned friends and family that they wouldn’t hear from me for a while (7 whole days! On my post-collegiate backpacking trip through Europe, I didn’t speak to people for months). I vowed to spend time gazing outside instead of glancing at my phone.

And it all worked….for a few days.

Alaska, digital detox for a week

As our ship pulled away from remote Thomas Bay, I heard the alert sound coming from my iPhone, relegated to my backpack. I dug it out, and found that my email had downloaded. “We have service!” I exulted to Don, who could have cared less (his Internet addiction is less severe than mine). Within 10 minutes, it was gone – but my sickness had resurfaced. Detox was essentially over.

The only thing worse than *no* Internet is *random* Internet. I found myself checking my phone more often to see if I had bars, just like a crazed lab rat that pounds the control panel searching for a food pellet. On the few times I did get service, I tweeted photos that I had taken and frantically read as much mail as I could. Don shook his head. Sad. Very sad.

Alaska, digital detox for a week

So can I unplug – really turn everything off and leave the Internet alone – for a week? The answer, based on our Alaska experience, seems to be no. Yet the experience has taught me that I need to regulate my social media activity a little more judiciously. I’m now making a conscious effort to put down the computer at night, and go for a walk instead. I still carry the iPhone with me, but I’m listening to more music and reading books on Kindle, rather than mindlessly surfing.

It’s a start.


| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jade September 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

We have the same problem- while we were in Mexico we couldn’t check everything as often and I think the biggest lesson was that- shocker- life goes on, and everything was fine! It’s hard to commit to that though when I have internet so easy at home!


Gene Bowker September 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

It’s hard on me to be without a connection for 24 hours. That was why I got a cell-modem for those times it is too hard to find a wi-fi connection. Guess I’m an addict…


Don Faust September 7, 2011 at 11:55 am

Gene – we were without cellular also (until we passed a nearby town, but for the most part, it was totally dead)


Angie Orth September 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

I can’t do it either! Have tried and tried all year, but it only seems to be getting worse. I think I need to switch tactics and embrace the addiction…


Kent @ No Vacation Required September 7, 2011 at 11:22 am

That first picture is KILLER!

We know what you mean about the Internet. It’s actually easier for us to have no access. Spotty access makes us crazed and constantly checking.


Don Faust September 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Thanks Kent! The light that night from the boat was very intense, and I like the way the mountains on the right side of the photo gradually get lighter and take on the purple tone.


Angela September 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

Isn’t it great to stay without the Internet for a while?? I was off signal for almost two entire weeks when I went to India in May, it was wonderful, but I admit I was slightly worried because I knew some editors were emailing me, and when I got back home I worked day and night for two weeks to catch up with the backlog! But I loved it 😀


Gene Bowker September 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

WOW.. wonder how much a satellite phone runs these days??? Can you do internet with them…


Don Faust September 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Gene – we had a SPOT satellite device with us that interfaces with an iPhone, but we didn’t use it. We might have used it if we NEVER cruised by a town to get a moment of cellular reception. It only allows 44 characters of text to Twitter, Facebook or other phones, which is a little limiting, but it was a backup anyway.


nod 'n' smile September 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I love when I’m forced to “digital detox,” sometimes I feel I’m lifting my head up and seeing the world around me for the first time in a while. But I literally have to be forced. Just telling myself to do it, doesn’t work- no self control at all.


Kirsten September 8, 2011 at 6:00 am

Being unplugged is never easy for me. But once I can settle into the reality of it, I am usually more happy and stress-free. I live a life bounded by technology and only when I forced out of those bounds do I ever feel thankful for the break.


Abby September 8, 2011 at 6:07 am

In a word: no. (Unless I suddenly became independently wealthy; I’m not holding my breath.) I did go months without a phone, and a year without TV or a car. But the internet? A must!


Sherry September 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Gorgeous vistas for me are not a fair exchange for no internet. I recently spent one week on various beautiful locations on the WA coast but I had no signal (internet and phone). I can safely say I was not enjoying it, at least for the first few days. It felt almost like withdrawals. The last few days I learn to accept it. In hindsight, to a certain degree, being disconnected was a good thing. But now I’m back, I don’t how I can live without the internet all over again. It’s just a hard thing to give up, even with such beauty all around.


Chris September 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, y’all for sharing your own Internet addiction stories. I don’t feel like such a freak now! 🙂


Cailin September 13, 2011 at 9:10 am

I think I am definitely in need of a mega digital detox. However that is easier said than done, if only emails and social media weren’t the current means of communication for every person I interact with socially and work with day to day it would be easy! But unfortunately no detox is coming for me any day soon. I would of been just like you Chris! haha 🙂


Kara @ The Vacation Gals September 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Indeed NO cell service, NO wi-fi is easier than “Oh, maybe if you stand in the middle of this campground to the right of those pine trees you can get some bars.” Discovered that on recent trip to Yellowstone. Should have just turned everything OFF for four days. (But, oh my, is that hard.)


Theodora September 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

I don’t carry a smartphone for precisely those reasons. If you have an addictive personality, you’re online constantly — especially if you make your living online.


Emily @travelated September 28, 2011 at 9:50 am

I am completely Internet addicted, and I wish I wasn’t. I freak out if I can’t check my email for an extended period of time… this isn’t healthy!


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