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08 June 2022

No-phone road trips

A couple of years ago, around Christmas, a friend and I were planning a three-day trip to the Texas Hill Country. At the time, we lived on different continents and both had jobs that involved at least eight hours in front of a screen every day. Our goal for the trip was to disconnect from our digital lives and reconnect with each other and the world around us.

With this in mind, we decided to take a no-phone road trip. The idea was simple: make a short list of places that seemed interesting and drive around to visit them. But we wouldn’t use our phones, or any other kind of computer, for the entire journey.

Soon after we took off, we left our initial hit list by the wayside. We explored whatever caught our fancy or was at the other end of a wrong turn. Wandering around in this way, without a strict itinerary or too much information, bore fruit: a rainy drive down the Devil’s Backbone, the spiciest bloody mary I’ve ever had, a street of brilliant Christmas lights against a black country night.

Not having our phones also forced us to rely on strangers any time we needed directions or advice. When we told people what we were doing, they were surprisingly supportive. Chance conversations led us to a barbecue lunch I still think about and a town where the only buildings are a post office, a general store, and a nine-pin bowling alley. On our last night, we bowled at a different spot – ten-pin, unfortunately – and were invited to join the birthday celebrations of the family in the next lane.

The trip was a huge success, in large part because of its format. We didn’t look at a phone screen once, except at the very end. We asked our waitress the best route back to the highway to start our drive home – she pulled out an iPhone to check.

If you’re interested in organizing an NPRT of your own, it’s really simple. You just need a car, a little spontaneity, and no phone. But here are some tips that might make the experience better: