By Macey Hall
Updated Aug 19, 2018 @ 9:00 am
Credit: Rancho La Puerta

As a social media editor, my phone is my life. I’m not proud of it, but it’s an occupational hazard. The first thing I do in the morning is reach for it and check InStyle’s social platforms and make sure everything looks good. Next, I quickly scan emails for anything urgent — and this is all within 30 seconds of waking up. The same thing happens at night: a final scroll of Instagram before closing my eyes. My phone is surgically attached to my hand, with a barrage of emails, texts, tweets, and worst of all, Slacks, coming my way at all hours. In short — it’s an issue.

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I love my job, but the constant connection was starting to feel overwhelming, so a break was much-needed. I needed a place where I could do a digital detox and truly unplug. Enter Rancho La Puerta, a retreat, and spa in Tecate, Mexico. When I checked in on a Saturday afternoon, greeting me in my room was a little cloth pouch with “cell phone sleeping bag” adorably printed on it. It was time. I sent a “turning off my phone now!” text to my mother, and put my phone on airplane mode, powered it completely down, and tucked it in the sleeping bag for the week. This was it. I was fully unplugging.

The Ranch asks guests to refrain from using their cell phones in public areas, so even if I wanted to use it, it was frowned upon. Upon surrendering my phone, I immediately ran into two issues. First, I didn’t bring a watch. So, if I wanted to make my 9 a.m. Pilates class or 2 p.m. Sound Healing, I’d have to look at a real, old-school clock hanging on the walls (gasp). The second was meeting up with people. My Godmother, who traveled with me told me to “text her when I was heading to dinner,” so she could meet her there (needless to say, she wasn’t participating in the digital detox with me). When I reminded her that I was going phone-free she was a little dumbfounded and asked how she’d find me. We settled upon doing it the old-fashioned way of picking a time and place and sticking to it. She was dubious that it’d work out, but I, the phone-addicted millennial, was certain we’d make it happen.

Why is it that it’s so hard in 2018 for us to unplug? “Our society bombards us with distractions — the need to constantly check our phones, stay caught up on the latest TV shows and entertainment, respond to work emails...the list is endless,” Roberto Arjona, Chief Executive Officer at Rancho La Puerta told me. “When guests disconnect from their digital devices they make space to fully connect with themselves, nature, other guests, and the wellness activities we offer.”

Credit: Rancho La Puerta

If you’re looking to unplug, I’d recommend staying busy, like I did. Between hiking, tennis, circuit training, water aerobics, sound healing (who knew my chakras needed resetting?!), a cooking class, and spa treatments, I was fully living in the moment and loving it. There was so much to do in Mexico that I soon forgot about the outside world. Just once or twice I thought of a particular shoot that my coworkers were handling back in New York or a meeting that was taking place, but I was so busy I didn’t give it too much thought. Another added bonus: my hand, which constantly hurts from holding my phone (gross, I know), stopped hurting after just two days at The Ranch — score!

Credit: Rancho La Puerta

“Some guests are initially resistant to spend time without their phones but then are pleasantly surprised at how much peace unplugging provides,” Arjona told me. And he was right! The experience of not using my phone for an entire week brought me so much peace and I felt a sense of calm that I haven’t felt in so long. Even though I specifically went on my trip with the intention of doing a digital detox, I anticipated it still being a little hard to actually unplug. But it wasn’t at all! After I got over the first two hurdles of navigating without a watch and meeting up with people the old-fashioned way, it was smooth sailing, and I savored every minute. Usually I care about missing something on Instagram (I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence, but it’s the truth), but when I was at Rancho La Puerta, social media was the last thing from my mind. I was in such a state of bliss that I even considered deleting all my social media upon re-entry…and then I remembered it was my job.

A week without my phone was the best gift I could give myself and I can’t recommend it enough. Even if you do it on a small scale and not use it for a weekend, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more focused and engaged you are. I now plan to make it an annual ritual and take a week to fully unplug and detox from all things digital.