Cultural Experience | Resources

Freedom from Your Phone

Reasons to leave your smart phone at home while abroad.

Smart phones are incredible devices that we, although no one wants to admit it, sometimes become a little too dependent on. Studying abroad might be the perfect opportunity to grow independent from your phone once again. It may seem like the perfect companion for traveling, but it can also be quite hindering at times. Here are a few tips for ditching that smart phone and enjoying every second of your time abroad:

1. Revert to your flip phone days: It is way cheaper and less risky to invest in an older model, not-so-smart phone when you arrive in your study abroad destination. Look for a pay as you go phone plan, and you’ll only be paying for minutes and text messages. It also won’t be life shattering if this phone is lost, stolen or broken throughout your travels.

2. Learn to read a real map: By stashing that smart phone, you’ve also given up your ability to Google map every landmark, restaurant, coffee shop and hotel around you. Though this might seem like a paralyzing move at first, try grabbing an old-fashioned paper map before heading out on your next adventure. I found that by relying totally on step-by-step directions filtered through my smart phone, I failed to pay attention to where I was really going. This lack of awareness could lead to tricky situations if your phone eventually dies or loses service. Learning how to read a map and planning out your trip gives you a one hundred percent reliable source of directions throughout your whole journey and will possibly even improve your overall sense of direction.

Paper maps image

3. Save the social media for later: By having a mini computer at your fingertips at all times, you’re often tempted to post every second of your trip to every form of social media you subscribe to. This ability creates a wall between you and where you are in the moment. Social media is a wonderful way to stay connected with those around you as well as friends and family back home, but you can always wait to post that day’s awesome pictures and share everything you’ve done until you’re back at your hotel, apartment, host family’s house, etc. As a photography student, I have nothing against capturing the moment, but you can do so without the need for the whole world to see it at that instant. If your smart phone is your camera, turn the data and service off and bring it along!

4. Eternal battery life: Okay those flip phone batteries might not last forever, but they come pretty darn close. If you’re a regular smart phone user, you’ll be shocked to find your flip phone lasting for days before it begins to die. Longer battery life can be a blessing if you’re traveling for days at a time or if you study somewhere where electricity availability is not always reliable. You won’t have to worry as much about keeping your phone alive to be able to contact anyone if you get lost or encounter any emergencies.

5. Where’s the Wi-Fi: Depending on where you’re traveling, Wi-Fi might not be readily available across towns and campuses. Find local internet cafes or school buildings that have reliable wireless internet access, and visit these places to plan trips, catch up with friends and family, and do homework. I put my smart phone service on seasonable standby, but took it along to use when I had access to Wi-Fi

So make your smart phone your back up plan for your next trip abroad, and leave it behind as much as you can. Though it should come as no surprise, breaking down the wall it creates in our lives will allow you to be a part of your destination on a much more intimate level as well as increase your independence.

Picnic Stellenbosch South Africa sunset image

Turn your smart phone off. You won’t forget your experiences even if you don’t post them all on Snapchat. You will survive, I promise.

Note: In some places, paying for data might be cheaper than paying for text messages, and many students might use messaging apps to communicate rather than texting. If this is the case in your study abroad destination and you’re staying for a relatively extended period of time, bringing your smart phone might be a good idea. However, you don’t need the data for all 50+ of your apps to be turned on at once. Turn on what you need to communicate with friends and other students there, but try to cut your use back as much as possible.


Alexandria Polanosky

Ohio University | 8 stories

Alexandria attends Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and is currently studying Photojournalism with a specialization in Environmental Studies. Alexandria is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After recently studying for a semester in South Africa, Alexandria's horizons have expanded and she has come to find there is so much more to the world than the small, cozy college town of Athens. Though her experience abroad was wonderful, she strives to acknowledge the beauty that can be found every day no matter where you find yourself. You can find her travel blog at

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