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Low-Tech Ways to Make a Long Trip Feel Shorter

Grace Lower | Jun 8, 2017

low tech travel

Whether you’re traveling across the state or overseas, there’s a good chance you’ll have your phone on you. Phones are an amazing travel tool, especially given the fantastic apps you can use to simplify your trip. But, for better or for worse, technology is a tremendous source of distraction. As much as I enjoy taking in the scenery when traveling to a new destination, I often find myself absentmindedly scrolling through social media rather than admiring the beauty around me. My passive phone use distracts me from the joy of travel—and it doesn’t contribute much to my experience. After all, my apps always look the same, no matter where I am physically.

If you’re like me, and want to take a break from your phone when you’re on the road, acknowledging your problem is the first step. From there, it helps to find alternative activities to keep your mind active while you’re traveling. Here are six low-tech ways to make a full day of travel feel a little more manageable.


1. Journal

During my senior year of college, I had an English professor who frequently emphasized the benefits of journaling. I learned that journaling is more than a means of organizing your thoughts and documenting experiences—it also offers a significant source of stress relief. 

There are a number of ways you can bring journaling into your travel routine. One popular option is free-writing: taking five or ten minutes to write down anything that crosses your mind. With free-writing, you don’t have to worry about writing in full, coherent sentences. Unless you’re planning on sharing your journal with an audience, what you write is yours alone. Another popular journaling method is using a template. This could be as simple as beginning each entry by listing three things you’re grateful for, or creating a series of goals for your day. No matter how you choose to journal, putting your thoughts on paper can help de-clutter your mind, so you can enjoy the journey ahead.


2. Learn a new skill

In an effort to curb my own phone use, I’ve taken up cross-stitching as a way to pass the time. As it turns out, low-tech hobbies aren’t just for grandmothers. Studies show that activities that require light focus and precision have numerous mental health benefits. From sketching to Sudoku, and coloring to crochet, there are countless hobbies that can keep your mind at ease during a long trip.

If you’re interested in picking up a new craft during your travels, make sure your materials are appropriate for various forms of transportation. While knitting needles and crochet hooks are technically permitted on planes, it’s best to stick with wooden and plastic tools, just to be safe. And for more intense hobbies like welding or fencing? It’s definitely advised to leave your flamethrowers and rapiers at home.


3. Play a game

Games are a simple and effective way to pass the time when you’re traveling in a group. Whether you’re trying to entertain rambunctious kids, or just keep spirits high among a group of adults, there are countless games that are bound to bring plenty of laughs without disturbing fellow passengers or drivers.

Road trip classics like I-Spy and 20 Questions are classics, but to shake things up, try looking up game ideas that would best suit your travel group. My favorite resource is Buzzfeed’s list of 14 Road Trip Games Adults Will Actually Enjoy.


4. Tell stories

As a former English major, I have a soft spot for a good story. I’ve found that storytelling offers a way to make connections and discover shared experiences. When a long day of travel hits a particularly dull point, try offering a story prompt to your companions. Here are a few of my favorite conversation starters:

  • What’s your best memory from college?
  • What is the worst thing that’s happened to you while traveling?
  • What clique were you part of in high school? (Jock, prep, nerd, hipster, etc.)
  • What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
  • If you could throw a pie at one celebrity without any consequences, who would it be and why?


5. Read

I almost hesitate to add this item to the list, since reading is such a classic pastime. That said, if you’re looking for an excuse to go low-tech during your travels, there’s nothing like a good book to keep your mind off of your push notifications. I always recommend packing two books when you travel: one book that you want to read, and one book that you should read.  On my last long trip, I packed David Sedaris’s hilarious collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, along with a significantly less hilarious copy of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The balance of lighthearted and serious subject matter kept me engrossed in my readings, no matter my mood.


6. Do nothing

Sometimes, the best way to enjoy a long day on the road is to simply sit back and relax. Whether you’re on a plane or driving solo, there’s a great deal of peace that can be found when you’re alone with your thoughts. Take some time to admire the scenery, think about everything you’ll do when you arrive at your destination, or simply let your mind go blank for a while. The beauty of travel is that it takes you out of your everyday routine—if you’re already planning to enjoy your destination, you may as well enjoy the journey itself.

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

Read more of Grace’s blogs

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