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Lessons from a tech-free getaway

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
July 2, 2012 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Who needs gadgets with Big Sur scenery?
Who needs gadgets with Big Sur scenery?
  • A tech-free getaway can give travelers a chance to reconnect with each other
  • Balance is key; going into seclusion for too long can get irritating
  • Have tips for unplugging? Share your comments

Big Sur, California (CNN) -- I wasn't sure my husband and I could last four days on vacation without our phones and fancy apps, but I was determined to find out.

We recently parked ourselves on an organic farm with no television or cell-phone reception in the mountains outside of Big Sur, California. That's right: no TV, no Internet, no smartphones.

From the moment we arrived at Country Flat Farm, navigating a narrow, winding dirt road all the way up the mountain, the stress of life back home began to melt away. I'm not going to lie, though. I was nervous.

It turns out a gadget-free vacation has its benefits. Here's what I learned:

Your husband will talk to you. Without the distractions of a TV or computer, my husband and I had meaningful conversations. Nothing can beat the memory of sitting in that mountainside cabin, sharing a bottle of wine and watching the sun set over the ocean while enjoying each other's company.

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Being in Big Sur didn't hurt. The nearby Santa Lucia Mountains and redwood forests gave us plenty to keep us occupied when we weren't swapping tales and gazing into each other's eyes. We would hike for hours and picnic among the redwoods, taking advantage of California's incredible local fare.

Make or break? Travel tests relationships

A change of scenery is good for a relationship. It's so refreshing to not worry about work or the kids and focus on your partner. We desperately needed this time alone, but we never would have set aside time like this back home. Dropping ourselves, deviceless, into the California countryside helped us share stories and entertain each other.

Don't go cold turkey. Let's be honest: You can be cooped up with your significant other -- or any one person -- for only so long before you two will want to kill each other.

After a day or two, we were ready to get out and see other faces. If you're addicted to your phones or TV, don't try to convince yourself that you can lock yourselves in a vacation rental for any prolonged period with no contact with the outside world.

You need an occasional out. A tech-free vacation can start to feel longer than it is, and you need to be realistic about how many days you can drop off the grid and still feel refreshed and relaxed about it. Rent a car so that you can give yourself a jolt of the outside world.

We drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway until we saw signs for Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Pfeiffer Big Sur state parks. We hiked among gorgeous waterfalls and gigantic redwoods with interesting people from all parts of the world. Going tech-free doesn't mean cutting yourself off from society. Just take a break from the things that occupy most of your time and energy.

Close connections: Love at the airport

You don't need a tourism checklist to have a great vacation. I am a Type A personality, so I always plan every detail of a vacation and try to pack my days with as many typical tourist activities as I can.

This time, we just looked at the map and picked a hiking spot. Sometimes, you just need a vacation with no agenda.

Have you tried the tech-free approach to vacationing? Or have you suffered though a getaway with a distracted technology addict? Share your tips and stories below.

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