I have two conflicting holiday memories. The first was the blissful realisation that at our little Spanish hotel, seemingly on the edge of the world, there was no WIFI. Only tapas, surfing and pan con tomate – our mornings were spent drizzling pulped tomato on garlicky bread watching the waves while afternoons were queuing for plump fresh prawns straight from the sea.

Jenny Oliver

Jenny Oliver

The second memory was a trip to the Dordogne when Instagram had just popped up on our radar. Total novices of the art of photo editing we posted every single photo we took – filtering to the max – delighted with our sepia selves. Half the holiday was spent checking our Likes.

I have a strange relationship with phones. Probably similar to most people’s. When I’m on mine I love it (unless I’ve fallen down a Twitter wormhole and can’t get out). When other people are on theirs, I hate phones! I hate the distracted answers, the hand hovering for the pick up and scroll, the ping over dinner that cuts short the chat.

Before cheap roaming bundles and ubiquitous WIFI, holidays brought a guaranteed break from all this. They brought moments of boredom where I’d make shell patterns in the sand (then seemingly photograph them to Instagram later which is slightly counter to my argument but hey ho) or evenings when Twitter and Facebook were replaced by card games and vino tinto.

Nowadays it’s a conscious decision to turn off my phone and a battle to persuade my partner to agree too. It’s hard to holiday with no phone alone – the other person still scrolling. I won’t deny, there are rows about it! Especially with current politics and its fascinating minute by minute developments but you soon realise these don’t lose their power bundled up in old-fashioned daily news. 

We went camping last year, survived without heating, lights, fridge, but of course there was still 4G. We were in the UK, about an hour away from home, so it seemed silly to turn our internet connection off but we did and it was amazing. My world contracted to my husband, toddler, the chickens we were in charge of and some beautiful English villages and pubs (we rolled our eyes at the tables of people at the mercy of their phones!)

We went to bed practically at sundown – no electric glow to keep us up – and the chickens woke us up at dawn. The day we left we turned our phones on and found we’d Brexited, it was back to reality with a bump. We had known the result was the day before we were due to leave but swore we wouldn’t check. If we had, that last night of holiday wouldn’t have been excitedly watching a thunderstorm approach, trying to salvage our sodden barbecue, relaxing as the sky cleared with almost-cold white wine. We weren’t hiding from the truth but just holding it at bay a moment longer. It was choosing to put our tiny world ahead of the great big one. And not just ahead of politics but ahead of everything – friends’ new shoes, strangers’ instaholidays and all those people I haven’t spoken to since school.

The digital detox used to happen all the time but, as connectivity improves, now it’s a conscious effort. Shamefully it’s harder than it looks, but the reward is worth it. It’s having nothing better to do than watch the ant crawl across the table in search of the dropped crisp, remembering how to play gin rummy, lying back and staring at the sky, having conversations that ebb and flow, reading books, finding endless time to let your mind drift. Who knew we would one day covet boredom!

It’s pretty easy to digital detox – just turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode so you can still use the camera. But here are some tips to bear in mind:

- Tell people you’re doing it! Otherwise they’ll wonder why all their WhatsApps are going unread.

- It’s no doubt better if it’s all or nothing but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you still need Google for this trip? So turn off all notifications and hide your everyday apps on the last page of your homepage.

- iPads are lifesavers with children on holiday - don’t deny yourself half and hour of peace. (Detox purists won’t like this tip.)

- Enjoy it and try not to cheat!

Happy (digital free) holidays x