Mobile-free zone – detox totales

Guest contribution by | 25.01.2020

I can’t really remember how I got my first mobile phone. But I know exactly how I got my first smartphone. I was 30. An acquaintance of mine was testing technology toys and at some point he put one in my hand. Probably because he was tired of not being able to reach me like his other friends. Since then I’m always online somehow. Before my year-end retreat in Portugal, I wondered if a week offline would be good for me. For better sleep and inner peace. The project seemed to me already very crazy, even unimaginable. But my fellow traveller Wibke liked the idea. Our hostess Michelle agreed to lock up my mobile phone and not to give it out even if I asked her. The closer the day of departure approached, the more nervous I got… And that’s how I experienced it:

Day Zero

Sunset in Ericeira, Portugal. Arriving at our retreat place, we stand on the terrace and enjoy the colour spectacle. Time to switch off the mobile phone. I take it in both hands and hand it over to Michelle like an Asian businessman hands over his business card – with a slight nod of the head. Take it! The sun sinks into the Atlantic Ocean and she asks, “Is this what you really want?” “YES!” I answer without hesitation. Behind Michele Gitu from Ireland reacts shocked: “Do we all have to give up our phones?” No, I’ m the only one who gives up the mobile phone. Besides coffee, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, fish and meat. For one week. Detox totales.

I feel immediate relief. Freed from the constant display check. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a watch with me. So from now on, I am timeless. Before dinner we take a walk together and I don’t have to take anything with me or think about anything. Great.

24 hours without my mobile phone

It’s going surprisingly well. I think about the phone much less than I expected. Too bad I never know what time it is. I try not to annoy my companion too much by asking what time it is. We are on vacation. But even here we are on a schedule. Even if it has nice things on it like food, massage, yoga, meditation. I like to be “in time”.

I wonder if someone has already written to me and is now waiting in vain for an answer. That’s what happens when I text someone. In the moment of sending I start waiting for an answer. With all the people I write to – even my mother. How exhausting. From the constant waiting position I wanted to take a break this week. And admit to myself: probably nobody will write me anyway. I have told the whole world that I am offline

Day Two

I find the time without a mobile phone relaxing. Can I perhaps also incorporate mobile-free times “in real life”? I still think: hardly possible. Also because I am slowly realising what I am doing with the phone. So there will be very few photos of this holiday. It is good that Ericeira is so small and that we find our way easily. The sea is beautiful and at the same time an orientation help when we move here and there in the afternoon in the sun.

I have started a list. Handwritten, not electronic. Things to google for later. Did Che Guevara actually have children? What is the art of Lucian Freud? What exactly is a tajine? Who’s John Friend? And is the new Succession series as good as everyone says? Well, just everything one needs to know.

Day Three

When I wake up I want to check my cell phone and the news. Just like I usually do it first thing in the morning to make sure there was no nuclear war overnight. I talk to myself: you always ring the bell so much that you might have preferred to spend it sleeping. Only I slept in tonight. I feel a little cut off from the world.

During the day, there’s so much to do that I can’t even get to think about the phone. Except up on the cliffs where we sit and enjoy the last rays of the year. A woman pushes herself carelessly into our view to make a selfie of herself and the sea. Somehow it always looks ridiculous from the outside. I’m worried that she will be one of those who ends up on the website with the unfortunate Selfie deaths, so close to the abyss. The young people on the stones next to us prefer their displays to the spectacle nature & man. I ask them how late it is. My inner clock was only ten minutes off. Time to go back and get ready for New Year’s Eve. We write down on small pieces of paper, which we later burn in the fireplace, what we want to leave behind in 2019. Mine has a dozen things written on it. Underneath it: cell phone addiction.

Day Four

I only think of the phone in the morning when Wibke’s father calls. He wishes her a Happy New Year.  On a New Year’s Day it is already sad without connection to friends, family and the connected world. In the afternoon I sit on the terrace and moan. Wibke talked to her loved ones on the phone last night and received many messages. I am eager to be a part of it. Without my own New Year’s greetings. I also had a mobile phone dream: I write to my ex and he doesn’t answer, answer, answer. Freud would have his fun. Well well, the sun is shining. The year is young. And I am free. From the phone. And from my ex.

Day Five

So far, so relaxed. It’s harder for me to do without coffee and cake on the beach in the afternoon than without the telephone. Instead freshly squeezed orange juice and an empty head. I do an extra round of meditation and look forward to 2020. I’m curious to see what it will be like to turn on the phone again and then use it more consciously. Michelle wants to give it to me tomorrow shortly before departure. I decide to turn it on the following day in Lisbon to give myself an extra day in digital freedom. In the evening I ask Ingrid from Belgium if she is on Facebook because I would like to stay in touch with her. She laughs and says that she sent me a friend request four days ago.

Day Six

It does not quite work with the extra day detox totales. In the morning I have to check in for the return flight. At Wibke’s notebook I just try to pick out the mail from TAP Air and miss the 375 mails in my inbox. Whew. Don’t think about it. After breakfast Michelle hands me my white little flat screen without many words. I say, “Thank you!” And I mean it. The device disappears in my backpack. The battery’s dead anyway.

On the bus to Lisbon I realise that my dear companion has many skills, just not navigational ones. Wibke gives me her phone so I can find our way to the hotel. It feels quite natural. After dropping off our suitcases, we meander through the streets and I at least try to remember where we are so that we don’t get lost. How did we do that in the past? In this city it is impossible to get along without Wibke’s navigation system.

Before the day is over, I’m done breaking up. The Portuguese custard is even tastier after a week without sugar. For the Galao, I pour sugar. For the fish dinner, we’re having port wine. Unbelievably good. In the hotel, TV in bed. What a miracle – in the end, I can’t fall asleep. The mobile phone is plugged into the nightstand and I know that it is already after midnight. The day when the digital detox is supposed to be over. So I turn it on. Wait. Until the Portuguese network fraternises with my German provider. The little red bubbles on the news channels are popping up. I’m back online. It feels at least as good as the afternoon sugar flash.

My digital resolutions

Based on my experiences in the last few days I have compiled a list. A list for better sleep and inner peace in the new year:

  • I will only use the smartphone from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.
  • The same applies to laptop and tablet.
  • During work I will leave my mobile phone in my pocket and only take it out during the lunch break.
  • I need a wristwatch.
  • My mobile phone disappears from the bedroom. The old alarm clock is revived.
  • I buy a notebook. And preferably a calendar as well.

I will continue to use the camera and navigation on my smartphone – both are really irreplaceable. 😉



Che Guevara had five children: Hilda, Aleida, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto.
Lucian Freund was one of the most important portrait painters of the 20th century.
In North African cuisine, a tajine denotes both a round, clay-baked stew pot with a convex or pointed lid and the dish cooked in it.
John Friend is an American yoga teacher and the inventor of Anusara Yoga.
Succession has a rating of 8.4 (out of 10 possible points) on IMDB, but whether the show is as good as everyone says is certainly a matter of taste.

Anne Wäschle
Anne Wäschle

Anne Wäschle studied sociology, media science and media technology and worked as a journalist and PR editor at various publishing companies in Hamburg, Moscow and Berlin. Today, as head of the editorial department, she creates publications for a large German health insurance company.