A few weeks ago I had a conversation with some friends, how life used to be for a traveler when we had no social media. When I went backpacking in Australia 13 years ago (OMG – am I that old?) I brought my mobile phone, a Nokia 3310, and I sent a couple of text messages home each week to let everyone know I was OK. I went to an internet café occasionally to update the folks at home about my adventures and sent postcards and letters by old fashioned snail mail. As for pictures, I took one, maybe two, photos carefully of everything I wanted to capture and a week or two later I’d go to a store to have them developed. The originals I sent home and the negatives were carefully kept in my backpack for 5 months.
Those good old times …
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine traveling without your smartphone and/or your laptop. And without social media. On average, you can say that I’m a social media junkie. Have always been, will always be. The first social media hype within The Netherlands was Hyves. I don’t think that this even exists anymore, but I assume that it was launched at approximately the same time as Facebook. The difference was that Hyves was used in our country only and nobody had heard of Facebook. When my international friends started inviting me on FB, I quickly dropped my Hyves account and made a Facebook page. Within my circle of Dutch friends, this was strange, because everyone here was on Hyves, nobody was on Facebook, so I was the oddball. I was however amazed by the fact that I could just search for a name and add them to keep up with their daily lives. Ever since, I’ve been hooked on it. Some periods I used it a lot, some periods I got tired and didn’t use it, not to mention the mandatory FB breaks I pushed myself on. I especially liked using Facebook when traveling. From the other side of the world, you can easily let other people know about your adventures and those posts quickly became my favorite ones. Many people seemed to like them and I enjoyed sharing them.
We all know how important social media is nowadays. I can’t mention anyone, apart from my parents and grandma, who don’t have some some kind of social media channel. For a travel blogger, it’s almost impossible to travel without social media. Looking at the stats, almost 75% of our visitors, finds us on social media. When you go on a press trip or famtour, you are supposed to upload on social media, no escaping from that, unless you travel to the polar regions where there is no coverage.
Every now and then, it feels awesome to just unlplug and get away from social media and from the internet in general. Within Europe, we live in a luxury postion that there’s internet (either wifi or 3G) available pretty much everywhere. And if not, walk for 1km and you will find it. For me, that makes is pretty tempting to log on, especially now that I have an iPhone that downloads everything super quick. With one push, you’ve informed the whole world where you are, what you are up to and how amaaaaazing it is. Very tempting if you love social media, as many of you will recognize.
Somebody once asked me if by uploading pictures on social media (and then mostly, my personal Facebook) was meant to make people jealous. I was ready to punch that person in the face, such a narrowminded vision just needs no further words to it. However, it made me realize and also wonder why I upload. No, why we (the majority of the world) upload. I won’t give you an unlimited lecture about that because everybody has his/her own reasons but for me, the basic reason was perfectly put together in one sentence by one of my colleagues when I left the office to start my next journey last Friday.
“Bye Anto – have fun traveling, we’ll see the pictures on Facebook!” And then I had to tell her that this time I was going offline for the duration of the trip. Something that I had decided just that very morning when I packed my bag and decided not to bring my laptop (since I had to carry everything on my back for 3 days). I realized it had already been more than a year since my last “travels without social media” and it was about time to do another one. So when I stepped into the car that evening, I switched off my 3G and I was going offline for 72 hours.
72 Hours is nothing, I can hear you think. At least, those who don’t have a blog. Those who do have a blog, will probably disagree. When you have a succesful blog that is growing more and more each day, I took a risk by unplugging, the risk of losing visitors. However since it was the Easter weekend, it was a risk I gladly took.
How was it for the blog to unplug a couple of days?
Since our blog is growing each day (we’ve almost doubled the number of visitors over the past month, something I don’t believe will happen again next month…) it’s hard to make comparisons with the weeks before. The only thing I still did, was schedule Twitter for the whole weekend, so tweets with our links would occasionally still go out to attract visitors. Other than that, for 72 hours, there were no updates on any of my Facebook pages (Martijn did on his personal one), Instagram, Pinterest or any other kind of social media.
Saturday is usually our worst day for visitors. I assume it has to do with the fact that everyone is busy doing other things such as groceries, the household, going out with friends or taking kids to their football and gymnastics. Therefor I chose to never post a new blog on Saturday. If I look at the number of visitors of the Saturday I unplugged, there were only 9 visitors less than the week before, and 16 more than the week before that. So not much of a difference. Most of our visitors that day came from Pinterest (our biggest referral nowadays), followed by direct visitors and Google.
Sunday is generally the best day on our blog. I post something in the Sunday Social Travel Talk series then and somehow, these are always read very well. I know some of my colleagues only read these blogs and also know of some people who are actually waiting for the Sunday post to go online. My blogs about being fed up with social media as a travelblogger and Confessions of a Travel Blogger have been doing pretty well, so I was quite sure that not posting anything on Sunday was going to be painful. However, we only got about 100 visitors less than a normal Sunday so the difference wasn’t huge.
Monday can generally either be good or bad. We sometimes still do a Mountainous Monday then but it’s not generally a day we post a blog. Since it was Easter Monday (which is a official holiday here and in many other parts of Europe, too) I figured most people wouldn’t take time to read blogs anyway. Looking at the numbers, I got more than the week before, but less than the week before that. Not a significant change though.
So basically, apart from the 100 less visitors on Sunday, there hasn’t been any significant harm done to our blog being away for 72 hours. Ofcourse, I won’t say that it’s like this for all blogs (because let’s face it, we’re not THAT big) but if you are ever wondering, this might give you an idea.
How was it to be away from social media on a personal level?
Well, needless to say I loved it. Even though I am called a social junkie by many (a title I carry with pride!) I loved unplugging for a couple of days. I just walked, ate and slept. Walked, ate, slept. Walked, ate, slept. In that order, 3 days in a row. Oh wait, I did some reading in the meanwhile as well, by now I almost finished Norwegian Wood, one book I planned on reading for a loooong time (I ordered it in June of 2014 already …). I loved not posting pictures and feeling the need to post pictures. All I used my phone for was taking pictures and measuring the hiking distance with Runkeeper. Other than that, I didn’t use it. When Martijn went on the wifi in the evening, I just told him “let me know if something important has happened in the world”…
I don’t really think our readers cared that we unplugged for 3 days. Because basically, we are not important, we aren’t God or anything. Some say that unplugging isn’t done when you’re a blogger and will consider it of value to be online and available for your readers each day. Well, we are not.
The only funny thing happened on Monday morning … when plowing with our feet through the snow uphill, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. When I took it out, it turned out to be an sms message from my boss. At first I was like thing “WTF? Where is the emergency?” but then I realized he sent me a link to put on the company Facebook (which I take care of) … “Bisons have returned to Alaska after 100 years” it said …
So, what have I learned from this? Unplugging is imporant! In my case, I needed it to enjoy the silence of nature and to catch up on sleep. I slept for about 10 hours (!) each night and felt so good about it. I just need that every now and then. But what I also learned, is that your blog won’t die if you aren’t online, even if it may feel like that. People will understand that everyone needs a little break now and then… the world will keep on turning anyway.
It was a relief not having to think which picture I was going to post and from which angle and using which filter. On my trip to Lisbon with my girlfriends, a common question was “so, who’s going to post the picture on Facebook and tag me?” which wasn’t even the case last weekend. Awesome!
I have to confess though, that by the time we arrived home (and I still had to wait for one more hour until the 72 hrs were officially over) I was pretty anxious to log on again. To see if someone offered me a killer deal, if we reached a new record of visitors or if we reached a certain milepost on social media. Which we didn’t ofcourse because as I said, we aren’t God.
This was my third time to travel without social media since the start of the blog back in 2012. It was the shortest period of time, yet I’m considering going completely offline when on the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal later on this year. It will be 17 days though so a lot of careful planning will come with that. And I’m not much of a planner … we’ll see!
Have you ever done something similar? Unplugged for a while and leave it all behind? I’m curious!
For the previous episodes of Travel Without Social Media, go here, More Sunday social reads? You may like these:
– A traveller’s nightmare come true
– Confessions: Things I miss when I travel
– About my irrational fear of flying
Thanks for sharing and have a great Sunday everyone!