I went on an Instagram detox in Bali:
Here’s how it went
A serial Instagrammer banned social media during a weekend away in Uluwatu. Did the digital detox leave her with withdrawal symptoms or more connected to her destination?
- November 2018
Holidays are starting to make me anxious. Like most millennials, I’ve been using Instagram opens in new window religiously since its early days. I’m strategic about what I post and when, capturing the “best moments” of my life in a curated feed. Whenever I travel though, with so much new and exotic material to share, things can get overwhelming. Knowing I won’t be back in that perfect spot and have only one chance to get the shot – the pressure is on. So challenging myself to an Instagram-free weekend away seemed like exactly what the doctor ordered. It was only 48 hours but c’mon people, baby steps...
It’s a tough job…
The area of Uluwatu is filled with picturesque spots begging to be ‘grammed but my rules were set – no social media and so I wouldn’t be tempted later, no photos at all. It was 2pm when I arrived at my home for the weekend, luxury resort The Edge opens in new window, and my fingers were itching right from the get-go. At their public day club Oneeighty opens in new window°, a couple in the glass-bottom pool – which juts out of the cliff 150 metres above the Indian Ocean – was posing for a paraglider floating past. I would’ve killed for those shots.
Then there was lunch – my mushroom and truffle oil pizza placed on the daybed with the sea in the background was Instagram catnip. But my villa was by far the hardest to resist. Its 18- by seven-metre wraparound pool, the marble-floored lounge and personal butler – all of it screamed #sorrynotsorry.
This was harder than I’d thought it would be, I was actually feeling annoyed I couldn’t Insta-boast about it all…
The only thing stopping me from reaching into the bottom of my bag where my phone was lying, cold and alone, was sheer willpower. Normally when I travel, it’s glued to my hand. However, hard as it was, I was committed to recapturing that carefree holiday spirit I had before the days of #travelgoals.
Getting into the groove
On my first evening in Uluwatu, I decided to check out Ulu Cliffhouse opens in new window beach club. Sitting with a chilled coconut on the Ocean Deck, which hovers halfway down the cliff face above the sea, I let my phone stay where it was. Usually, I’d be rushing to snap the swatches of pink and orange painting the skies at sunset – and then racking my brain to come up with a clever caption – but I just enjoyed the moment… and it felt pretty damn zen.
The next morning, after a butler-made breakfast in the villa, complete with a pastry-loaded tiered tray and caviar-sprinkled salmon – which I successfully managed to not post on Instagram – I headed to Uluwatu Temple. Set on a cliff 70 metres up, with waves crashing at its feet and pesky monkeys perched along its cliffwalk, this Balinese Hindu temple is captivating. A photo here would’ve given me that token #culture shot – essential to gaining travel ‘gramming cred. But I’d made it this far, why stop now?
Instead of hanging around waiting for the perfect temple photo, I soaked up the spiritual vibe then headed to Karma Beach Club opens in new window for a cool drink and a bite. Arriving at its clifftop (yep, another one) entrance, my jaw dropped at what was beyond. A rustic collection of beach shacks nestled in a tiny cove dotted with paddleboards, its shallow reef showcasing every shade of blue.
The steep cable car ride down to the beachfront provided highly covetable Insta photo-ops but I resisted. Instead, I simply delighted in the views. It was getting easier, taking in what was in front of me rather than carefully constructing a #breathtaking square shot in my head. I was beginning to see details instead of photo opportunities and that, in turn, made me feel a lot more present and relaxed than I had in a long time.
But all that mindfulness – and perhaps two Espresso Martinis and a cabana siesta – made me late for watching the sunset at seaside restaurant and bar Single Fin opens in new window, even though it’s an Uluwatu must-do.
Unfortunately, by the time the Go-JEK (Indonesia’s rideshare service) dropped me off at the restaurant, it was already dark and the sunset show was over. Normally, I would’ve been kicking myself for missing the money shot but this time I wasn’t fazed.
As I dug into a plate of nachos at a candlelit table on the bar’s outdoor deck, I felt a pang of isolation – no one knew where I was or what I was doing on this trip. Then that pang morphed into excitement and liberation: no one knew what I was doing.
Being Insta-free on holidays helped me experience Uluwatu more authentically than I have other destinations where I’ve spent the whole time stressing about snapping. I was reminded of how important it is to live in the moment and create and preserve real memories.
Will I go Insta-free on holiday again? I’m not sure. I quite like getting and giving my #travelinspo on Instagram. But will I get anxious about social media posting? Never again. Because this trip taught me that even though I didn’t ‘gram it, yes it did happen. And it was amazing.