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08 June 2022

No-phone road trips

A couple of years ago, a friend and I took a three-day road trip to the Texas Hill Country. We lived on different continents at the time, and we both had jobs that involved at least eight hours a day in front of a screen. Our goal was to reconnect with each other and the non-digital world around us.

We decided to ditch our phones and all internet-connected devices. We left Austin in a borrowed Mazda 3 with a map, a list of places that seemed interesting, and some mixtape CDs.

Our place list quickly fell by the wayside. We pursued whatever could be found at the other end of a wrong turn. Wandering this way 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 forced us to rely on strangers when we needed directions or advice. Everyone we met was 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 – and were invited to join the birthday celebrations of the family in the next lane.

Just before starting home, we visited a cafe to reflect on our phone-free journey. We asked our waitress the best route back to the highway. She pulled out her iPhone to check.

Our trip was a huge success, in large part because of its format. Here are some tips for organizing a no-phone road trip of your own: