Last week, I decided to take two weeks off after waiting for what felt like an eternity for the perfect time to do so. And guess what? It was during the holy Ramadan month! I wanted to try something new and challenging that I had not done in at least a decade, something unusual, especially with my geek passion and my profession throughout my career.
So, I decided to completely disconnect from all digital devices and tools – no mobile phone, iPad, Smart Watch, or laptops! I was determined to live this experience to the fullest and enjoy every moment of it. No notifications, vibrations, calls, screens, and social media.
I started my journey on Monday morning at 4:30 AM with no plans whatsoever—just me, my car, a notebook, and a pencil! And let me tell you, it was quite an adventure! I had no idea where I was headed or what I was going to do when I got there. But that is what made it so exciting!
As I drove down the road, I started to think, “What to listen to during my travel to ease the way?” I used to listen to my favorite tracks and podcasts to focus on what I liked. At this moment, I started to rethink this decision and the value of this experience. But then, as if by magic, I found a flash drive that contained some of my favorite tracks that I had downloaded years ago! It was like a sign telling me that everything was going to be okay.
So, I decided to visit a new place that I had never been to before – Damietta! It was already on my list of places to visit and now seemed like the perfect time to do so. The best part about this place was that I knew absolutely nothing about it! It was like going on an adventure without a map or compass – just pure excitement and adrenaline!
The bad news is that my car doesn’t have one of those fancy embedded navigation systems that all the cool cars have these days. So, I used to rely on my mobile phone for navigation.
Thanks to Google Maps applications, we used to enter our destination into the app and follow it blindly – even if we had been to the same place before! And let me tell you, sometimes it led us down some pretty strange paths! But hey, that’s all part of the adventure, right?
Anyway, now that I don’t have my mobile phone with me, I have no idea how to get to Damietta! So, I decided to use my imagination instead. I imagined the road as a city by the Mediterranean Sea, and I figured that if I took the road to Alexandria, I might find some traffic signs that would point me in the right direction.
In case I couldn’t find the road to Damietta, I would just head to Alexandria instead – which was about 300 KM away from my home! So, I continued down the road to Alexandria – hoping that I would eventually find some signs that would point me in the right direction.
As you can probably guess, I never did make it to Damietta 😊.
That’s okay! Because Alexandria is also a wonderful place that I love – especially during this current wonderful spring weather! I arrived in Alexandria at 7:30 AM – but almost everything was closed at that time of day. Which was great because it gave me some time to enjoy driving around the city streets before the rush hour traffic started.
Since I didn’t have any plans for my trip, I needed to book a hotel. But then I realized that I had left my mobile phone at home again! So, I decided to park at the last hotel that I had booked in Alexandria. This area contains more than 10 hotels between 3 to 5 stars – so I wanted to explore all of my options before making a decision.
I started walking around and exploring the last hotel first – but it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack! It was hard finding a suitable hotel that had availability, decent quality, and would accept an early check-in. So, I walked and walked for what felt like miles – probably more than 5KM! But then something amazing happened – while I was walking around, I remembered that if had my Apple smartwatch with me! And it would give me applause and close the activities ring for the next 2 days!
I booked my hotel at 10:30 AM, imagine 3 hours walking around and exploring all of the different hotels in the area. By the time I was done, I was feeling pretty tired – but I still had to go back and get my car since it was parked pretty far away from where I was staying.
So, I decided to take a taxi – which was the first time that I had taken a taxi in almost 10 years! Normally, when I need to get somewhere, I just book an Uber and head straight to my destination. But this time around, I had no idea how much I should pay the taxi driver – especially since the gauge meter wasn’t working properly.
In the end, I had to ask him how much he wanted me to pay him – which turned out to be a pretty good deal for him! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to validate the fare – which I’m pretty sure was overvalued.
Anyway, after all of that, I finally made it back to my car and drove back to my hotel. Once there, I checked in and decided to take some rest. The hotel had a magnificent sea view that literally took my breath away with its beauty! Even though I missed my phone at that moment (since I wanted to take some photos of the view), just looking out at the sea and the main sea road was enough to cool me down.
By this point, it was already about 12:30 PM – which meant that I still had about 6 hours left until it was time for me to break my fast. So, I decided to take a nap and wake up at least two hours before sunset.
I needed an alarm clock pretty badly – but unfortunately, there wasn’t one in my room! Luckily, I had brought my analog watch with me – which was definitely a lifesaver, but it does not have an alarm.
I tried looking for options on the TV to set a reminder – but unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that worked. I thought about calling reception to wake me up – but ultimately decided to just take a shower and hope that my subconscious would wake me up on time.
During Ramadan, knowing what time is especially important since it helps you know when to eat and when to hold off. Thankfully, everything is usually pretty organized during Ramadan – with most people eating at the same time. Time is also important for prayer times – which is why I was glad that I had brought my old classic watch with me.
I woke up at around 4:30 PM – which gave me about 2 hours and 15 minutes before it was time for Iftar. I started thinking about where and what to eat – but since I’m usually pretty picky about food and wanted something really nice, I wasn’t sure where to go.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of any good restaurants close by – so I decided to leave my car behind (to avoid rush hour traffic) and walk around to explore my options.
The biggest challenge during Ramadan is that most of the well-known restaurants are fully booked weeks in advance – which can make it really tough to find a good place to eat! Since I didn’t have my phone with me (and couldn’t book anything even if I wanted to), I ended up eating at one of the well-known fast-food restaurants instead.
I was really glad that I brought my notebook with me on this trip. I used it to write notes and even drafted this article on it so that I could remember all the details.
Normally, I would have just written everything down on my iPad – since it’s so much easier to write, draw, and mark up ideas there. But having a notebook and pencil was good enough for me this time around.
When I first started this experience, I was only planning on doing it for one day – but then I decided to extend it for a few more days. Even though it wasn’t as easy as having digital tools that could simplify my life, I really enjoyed having more time to think and read – and being able to engage with people physically. But this wasn’t the end of my journey – I decided to leave Alexandria and visit another city instead. The weather was amazing – with a mix of chilly spring weather and rain (which was really refreshing). I loved listening to the sound of the sea waves hitting the Corniche – and watching people go fishing.
So, I decided to visit another sea city – Port Said. I had been there before, so I knew the road pretty well. But while I was driving there, I saw signs for Damietta – and couldn’t resist passing through there first. Even though I had been to Port Said before, there were new roads and bridges there that made things a bit confusing. But when I started taking the route to Damietta, things got even harder – since the road wasn’t in great condition and it started raining heavily with strong winds.
If you haven’t seen these two governorates before, Port Said is surrounded by the sea – and the road between Port Said and Damietta goes over the sea. You can see the sea on both sides of the road – and one of the sides looks like many small lakes that are connected together (although they’re not small enough to see their end). Sometimes it was hard to understand the navigation – especially since things looked similar sometimes.
But I was really enjoying myself during this time – and some of you might be wondering what would happen if I got lost or faced an emergency without having any way to ask for help. Sometimes I believe we need to learn how to survive in these situations – since we can face them anytime.
During my life, I actually lived through a time when there was a revolution going on – and the mobile network and internet were shut down. But we still had to live and survive.
Anyway, back to the story – I reached Damietta and stayed there for 3 hours during sunrise – enjoying the weather, rain, and Nile River view. Then I continued my ride to Port Said where I stayed for another night before heading back home.
I spent 4 days from Monday to Thursday without any device – and I learned a lot during that time. I discovered that the more I was not using my phone, the more I started using and strengthening my mental and observational skills. I was observing things more, memorizing more, reading more, walking more, thinking more, wondering more, being independent more – and feeling life more.
Of course, I cannot deny that I missed my phone sometimes – and sometimes I got bored and wanted to check on my family (which was actually the main reason why I ended the experiment and went back).
Here is what I learned during those 4 days:
You can always achieve and do activities in different ways.
The easy way and the hard way. In the end, you will have what you want to achieve – but the difference is whether you will do it the hard way or the easy way.
For example, I did the hotel booking the hard way. Yes, I enjoyed walking and exploring as part of the experiment – but in the end, I lost almost 3 and a half hours doing something that I could have done using my mobile in just 3 minutes. And I could have used that time on other important things that amuse me more.
Sometimes we do not know that there are easier ways to finish things because we have not tried them yet – which can create some resistance to the unknown. While I did the opposite in this experiment, I would encourage you to find out how to do things personally or at your business in an easier, faster way.
Technology plays a magnificent role in that – but technology is just a tool. What matters is how you use it!
Technology creates new habits and replaces old ones.
I am old enough now to have witnessed lots of technologies that have appeared and disappeared over time.
I used to listen to music on tapes that producers would record and sell – then it became electronic where you could burn it to a CD or purchase it to download onto your flash drive. Now, tapes and CDs have almost vanished – no manufacturer sells you a car now with a tape player; it would be like a weird and unwanted feature. Now, we stream music and even love the streaming app to recommend music that matches our style and mood – with millions of records available anytime.
When we have these new habits, it is very hard to go back to the old ones. To achieve that, the new habits need to be better and more beneficial than the old ones – so people can adopt them and forget the old ones over time.
You do not have to throw/leave away your devices to disconnect.
it is important to control ourselves and how and when we use technology. “Water is good for a plant, but too much can kill it.”
Any technology can be used in a good or bad way – it does not make the technology bad, but the way it was used is bad and should be discouraged.
Create new habits to replace your old ones
While I enjoyed the experience of full disconnection, it was not easy. The idea was to get relaxed – but I made it the hard way. I used to live fully connected – always notified and informed, loved seeing updates, and was always aware of what was happening.
Any information can change my decisions and direction – for example, imagine knowing that the weather is going to be rainy and windy, and it may be dangerous to drive. This can change my plans not to travel and stay home. Another example: imagine that I found out that all hotels are fully booked due to a city event – so I can decide to go to another city.
Because we are used to having information accessible, we’re used to processing information and acting directly – which makes it very hard to step back and go back to an old habit. Oppositely, you will always imagine more advancements that can make things easier and faster.
Similarly, when we introduce innovative technology or a new way of working inside our organization, these kinds of changes face lots of resistance and fears of the unknown – but once we taste the impact, we’ll be hungry for more changes and innovation.
Sometimes we take things for granted because we are used to having them – but when we think more about it, we should consider how we can advance the experience that we have and how we can maintain it to make it sustainable.
Technology’s value is proven – but we also need to control how and when to use it. While it was not an easy experiment, I liked how I walked without carrying anything – that I didn’t have to check my mobile with every notification, that my arm was resting from haptic watch vibrations. I gave myself a truly clear focus time and consciousness about many things around me outside the digital world – time to really interact with people, not just connect with them; feel nature; live and breathe fresh air without distraction; be in the moment, not photographing the moment – just living without boundaries.
All images in this article were created by Bing Creator powered by DALL-E
Also published on Medium.