Inner Circle

Time Out Challenge

Will I survive? Well, if I don’t, it’s off to an island for me, says Yeoh Siew Hoon

Time Out Challenge
The rules are to live life as it was pre-Internet – no emails, no smartphones, no Internet access – and see if we can survive.

Sometime in the next month, I will undergo an experiment, from which I am not sure I will recover. I will attempt to go “unplugged” for 48 hours, as part of a project I am launching with Discovery Channel Magazine.

Called “Unplugged 480”, we are asking 10 people who are self-professed technology addicts to go cold turkey for two working days and record their feelings in a journal. They will be encouraged to draw, paint, doodle or do whatever it is we did before computers came into our lives. The rules are to live life as it was pre-Internet – no emails, no smartphones, no Internet access – and see if we can survive. Incidentally, I was surprised by how easy it was to get volunteers for this.

I decided to launch this when my goddaughter told me that when she was asked to give up two of three things during a “hunger awareness” event at her school. She gave up food and furniture, but hung on to technology. It made me realise how addicted we have become to our devices, and I wondered what life without would be like, and how we would cope?

Without a doubt, the Internet and technology has made travel easier. It allows us to plan our own holidays, search for the best airfares and choose the hotels best suited for us. On the ground, armed with our smartphones, we don’t get lost (well not too often) and we can find the best places to eat, shop and visit, based on the opinions of other travellers.While in some ways, reviews have taken some of the surprise element out of travel, they encourage more of us to step outside our comfort zone, and venture further than we would have done after reading a review on a little local eatery that serves the most amazing fish head curry.

Smartphones are the biggest game-changer for travellers. Shangri-La’s new iPhone app, for instance, gives us access to instant information and availability. And particularly in Asia, the growth of smartphones is staggering. In China, rural communities are getting onto the web with hand-held devices, as opposed to laptops, creating a new kind of traveller who demands information on-the-go. At the same time, this technology creates another kind of traveller who simply wishes to escape all that information.

I recently decided to hop over to Bintan in Indonesia’s Riau Province for a day. My destination was the private island resort Nikoi Island. To get there, you take the ferry from Singapore to Bintan, then a car ride to the other side of the island, where a boat whisks you off to a Robinson Crusoe-esque island.It’s blindingly beautiful, this white spit of sand in the middle of the vast ocean. There are only 20 houses or so, all of which have no doors or windows, so you can leave all your worries behind. There’s also no menu, so you just eat what they cook for you.

I liked the simplicity of it, the fact that I didn’t have to think. And because I didn’t have to think, I didn’t even consider switching on any of my devices – even though there was wireless on the island. This is why island resorts like Shangri-La has in places like Boracay, the Maldives or Fiji will become ever more in demand, as the world becomes increasingly high-tech and devices overtake our lives. So wish me luck with my little experiment. I reckon I will be so stressed that I will need to escape to an island resort somewhere just to recover! 

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