Life unplugged: Disconnecting in the Caribbean
“I’m not going for a run,” my partner sighed. “If it’s not on Strava, it just doesn’t count.” I laughed. We had travelled to the private island resort of Petit St. Vincent in St Vincent and the Grenadines for a short break after a week in Orlando. Specifically, for a break from technology.
I find it difficult to switch off – especially from work emails, even when four and a half thousand miles away – while my partner records every move he makes on apps and can’t start his day without scrolling through the headlines for at least 10 minutes. Everything we have is digital and it’s come to the point where he seems to pack more gadgets and wires for a holiday than he does t-shirts.
There are wireless noise-cancelling headphones, which for some reason need two cables – one for charging, the other for audio when bluetooth isn’t working – a speaker, phones (he has two), laptops, a tablet, a Kindle, fitbits, back-up batteries for when plugs aren’t immediately accessible, and my digital camera. We’re a walking Dixons.
So when I booked three nights on Petit St. Vincent, I didn’t tell him about the lack of Wi-Fi on the island. He probably wouldn’t have come. Granted, he could plug in all of his gadgets, but he couldn’t get the valuable connectivity he needed to use them – aside from a small 10-metre radius found just outside reception, which was made less attractive by the slightly hilly walk away from our villa in the heat.
The first day, the lack of connectivity was brought up more than a couple of times – Strava just being one in a list of many, many things he couldn’t use that had become part of everyday life. But slowly, he conceded.
The comments had started to subside fairly early on as we were shown our villa – a beautiful, spacious and incredibly private luxury bungalow sat on a quiet hilltop overlooking the ocean. By the time we’d located a hammock on the beach just metres from the sea that provided plenty of shade and a to-the-hammock butler service, the complaints had all but ceased.
We spent the first day adjusting to being unplugged. I read an actual book and realised how much I missed the physicality of turning pages, and the musty, earthy smell of the paper. Suddenly our little time out on a tiny island in the Caribbean began to feel much more like a holiday.
Our time on PSV, as it is affectionately called, was spent walking, eating, lazing on the sand and relaxing in our fabulous hillside villa gazing out over the Atlantic and listening to the sounds of nature, rather than the soundtrack of music, traffic and commuters that usually accompanies our everyday lives.
Everything we could possibly need was there for us – including attentive butlers that would bring us anything we desired with the simple raising of a flag. We were completely spoiled – a feeling that felt so foreign it took a little while to adjust.
With no gym on the island and no Strava, a run never did happen, but it was substituted with plenty of swimming and snorkelling. We even went for our first dive, getting up for an early breakfast before heading down to the dive centre for 8am.
Dan ran through the basics with us, showed us the rather comical safety video involving a raccoon – a common sighting on any dive – and lead us out from the beach for our first foray below the waves. After proving ourselves not duffers, we were allowed to branch out. We hopped on the hotel’s boat and travelled out to a local dive spot for another shallow adventure.
Focussing on our breathing and not bumping into coral made us far more aware of our environment and our physicality than we had been for a long time. I lost all sense of time amid the fish and the coral – I must have spent 15 minutes just gazing at a seahorse that barely moved – but it didn’t matter. I had nowhere to be. As we came up, what I thought had been a 30-minute jaunt underwater turned out to have been well over an hour, and my chilly, wrinkled skin paid testament to this.
As the days progressed, it became apparent just how much technology has been intigrated into our lives and I was surprised by how much time I spent on it on a daily basis. But I found that I didn’t miss my digital life at all and the world unsurprisingly went on without me checking up on it every half an hour.
On the last day of our stay I headed for the hilltop spa and a signature Balinese massage. Lying in a bamboo hut with my talented therapist Ketut working her magic, listening to the breeze in the trees and the sound of the ocean beyond, I realised that I hadn’t felt this relaxed in years. As I descended the steps, I felt blissful and almost euphoric. I’d successfully broken my digital tethers.
But while I revelled in the new-found freedom, my partner felt his lack of connection from the outside world far more keenly. We spent an increasing amount of time before dinner in the circle of Wi-Fi reception and the lack of news in the midst of Theresa May’s struggles finally broke him. On the last day, he caved and paid £6 for a day of 4G. Apparently a digital detox isn’t for everyone, but for those brief few days, it was nice to remember what life was like unplugged.
A stay at Petit St. Vincent starts from $1,200 (£870) per room per night, based on two sharing a one-bedroom cottage in low season. Includes three meals daily, all non-alcoholic beverages, non-motorised water sports and all facilities at the resort. Villas do not have televisions, telephones or Wi-Fi.
Read the full review: Petit St. Vincent